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  • Writer's pictureDarya

Amazing Ways Art Helps Reduce Stress and Heal

In the labyrinth of life, where stress and responsibilities pursue us daily, we yearn for an oasis of tranquility, a sanctuary to unwind and embrace our true selves. Amidst the day-to-day humdrum, creating art emerges as a shimmering beacon, offering us not just respite, but a transformative journey of self-discovery and boundless creativity. Art and the act of creative expression has the power to reduce stress, rejuvenate, and heal psychological and physical wounds. Let us embark on an inspirational journey to discover ways that art can help us heal and thrive.


Contemplating art connects us with the suffering of others and nurtures resilience


Madonna in a pink dress and blue shawl, holding baby jesus. Inspring and Spritiual art has been used for healing thorughout hte ages.
Spritual and inspiriational art has been used for healing the soul for centuries

Ancient people from all over the world believed in the healing power of art. Artistic expression is a part of the healing rituals and religious practices of many cultures. For millennia, scriptural art has been a critical part of the human healing process. Depictions of Mary and child Jesus have been gazed upon by expecting mothers, who drew strength, inspiration, and calm from the divine vision of motherhood. Those who have lost their loved ones and were mourning, came to gaze at statues of Mary mourning her son, deriving solace from the depth of expression and compassion for their experience. Many more have traveled long distances to gaze upon ancient architectural wonders as a part of their pilgrimage, and many believed that the experience of seeing them healed them. Author and Pastor, Trevor Sutton, writes that contemplating specific paintings has helped him and his wife deal with both personal tragedy and mourn for those who've died violent deaths in his community (Sutton, 2023). Today, artwork appreciation has been shown to considerably alleviate anxiety and depression connected with cancer (Lee et al., 2017).


Art practiced for physical and psychological healing in modern times

Modern day science has also investigated the power of art to help with grieving, chronic illness, and reducing stress. One way that art reduces stress is that it refocuses our mind on positive experiences, giving us relief from intruding negative thoughts and preoccupations. By focusing on beauty, aesthetics, and the act of creation we can see a path forward through our troubles.

Pink flowers stamped and watercolored onto whtite paper. Simple sketch to relax and reduce stress.
Simple sketches and coloring can significantly reduce stress and create a sense of peace and flow.

In one study at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, doctors observed that patients who received an art therapy intervention had significantly better sleep, lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels and even improved vital signs (Stuckey, et al., 2010.) Several investigations of patients fighting cancer (Stuckey, et al., 2010) found that art therapy improved the patient's sense of well-being and involvement in social activities. For patients in the midst of treatment, regularly drawing lowered anxiety and sadness, and lessen their feelings of stress. It's significant that art therapy continues to benefit cancer patients long after the treatment has ended.


Mandala art, another practice that dates from ancient times, has been researched for its particular effect on mindfulness and positivity. Just coloring a mandala improved mood and created a deep sense of spirituality (Wei, M., MD. 2020).


Amazing Ways Art Heals Communities

Art also has the power to build be a friendships and community. We can come together around art to share stories, attend art events, and participate in community art projects, such as building sand-sculptures or painting murals. The Art Project Houston is an organization that facilitates the transition of homeless men and women through art therapy. They believe that through art they have been able to help homeless people finding meaning and purpose in their lives, make more conscious choices and decisions as they regain power over their lives, define and implement life changes, and enrich their relationships with others and themselves through the power of an art-based community (Art Project Houston.) Art is a bridge transcending differences and enables us to communicate our emotions through colors and shapes.


Three Art Exercises to Reduce Stress

But you don’t have to be an experienced artist to get started. There are many guided exercises to help you explore art without worrying about your skill level. Here's a few free resources for getting started with art to help us heal and thrive:


Mandala Coloring to help you relax and achieve a sense of flow: https://www.therapistaid.com/worksheets/mandalas


Draw Your Heart exercise to help you express what you're feeling through color: https://swhelper.org/2013/10/14/feelings-heart-art-therapy-exercise-kids/


Simplify through abstraction, a great exercise to reduce stress and see the essence of what you're dealing with: https://artclasscurator.com/abstract-art-lesson/


Reduce Stress and Thrive Through Art

Life is a canvas often splashed with unexpected challenges and hardships. However, art equips us with a powerful tool: realization of our own creative potential. As we face the blank canvas or the empty page, we encounter the unknown, stepping into uncharted territories of our creativity. Art teaches us to embrace imperfections, to learn from mistakes, and to grow stronger in the face of adversity. When stress, busyness, or trauma threaten to overwhelm us, we can stay resilient and thrive through artistic expression.


Sources:

(1) Sutton, A. T. (2023, April 4). In Times of Tragedy, I Find Solace in Scriptural Art. ChristianityToday.com. https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2023/march-web-only/nashville-mass-shooting-tragedy-healing-religious-arts.html

(2) Stuckey, H. L., & Nobel, J. (2010). The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature. American Journal of Public Health, 100(2), 254–263. https://doi.org/10.2105/ajph.2008.156497

(3) Wei, M., MD. (2020, December 21). New Research Shows Mandala Drawing Promotes Positivity. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/urban-survival/202012/new-research-shows-mandala-drawing-promotes-positivity

(4) Our Story. (n.d.). The Art Project Houston. http://www.theartprojecthouston.org/our-story.html

(5) Hu, J., Zhang, J., Hu, L., Yu, H., & Xu, J. (2021). Art Therapy: A Complementary Treatment for Mental Disorders. Frontiers in Psychology, 12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.686005

(6) Lee, J., Choi, M. R., Kim, Y. J., Tong, J., Park, E. C., Kim, J., Kang, M., & Koom, W. S. (2017). Art therapy based on appreciation of famous paintings and its effect on distress among cancer patients. Quality of Life Research, 26(3), 707–715. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11136-016-1473-5



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