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Why Art?

It’s not just enjoyable for a select few. Studies show visual art is actually good for your emotional health.

Paintings, drawings, sculptures, ceramics, photography, and films are all types of visual art. More than likely, you’re exposed to some sort of visual art each day. Whether in your home, place of employment, or community, you see expressions of creativity, imagination, and skill everywhere you look. And that’s a good thing. After all, a life without the visual arts would be empty and dull. Imagine walls without paintings, shelves without photographs, parks without sculptures, and life before movies.

Much of great art is created for its beauty or the emotional power it elicits. You may not realize the effect art has on you, but research clearly shows the visual arts, whether you make it yourself or view the work of others, can have a positive impact on your mental health.

Evoke Emotions

Maybe you feel like crying when you see someone else cry. Perhaps hearing another person laugh makes you laugh too. Art can bring on that same emotional response. Seeing a dark, angry picture of someone can make you feel fearful, looking at a bright painting of a cheerful scene can make you feel happy, or seeing a beautiful ocean sunset can make you feel at peace. These emotional responses happen because of the emotional cues you’ve learned over the years. That said we don’t all respond to certain cues. Because of individual and cultural differences, not everyone will have the same emotional response.

Even the use of certain colors and symbols elicit emotional responses. Red is a color of aggression, blue a color of calmness, and purple may signify romance. Jagged, random lines may make the viewer feel a sense of uncertainty, while smooth, curved lines may elicit a feeling of peace. MRI scans confirm these findings. Areas of the brain responsible for emotions light up when a person looks at beautiful art.

So don’t underestimate the value of the visual arts. Viewing aesthetically pleasing art can have a positive impact on your mental health. Want to elicit certain positive emotions on a regular basis? Invest in quality art that you enjoy looking at. Surround yourself with art that makes you feel happy, peaceful, or thankful. You may also appreciate art that reminds you of pleasant memories, loved ones, or your family’s values.

Art Therapy

You might not be a great artist, but it’s fine to create your own art just because you enjoy the process. Art, in its various forms, is a favorite hobby of many people. Art therapy can be used by anyone to improve mental health. It’s also an effective form of treatment for various mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, phobias, addictions, eating disorders, grief, trauma, and post-traumatic stress disorder. You may not be able to talk about what’s going on in your mind, but art provides a non-verbal way of expressing your feelings to find relief. Whether with a trained therapist or in the comfort of your own home, whether done by yourself or with a group, you can reap the benefits of art therapy through drawing, painting, sculpting, or any other medium.

Art therapy is a safe way to help you understand your subconscious feelings, to build self-esteem as you create and finish works of art, to express your pent-up emotions that are hard to express with words, and to relieve stress.

When life is bearing down on you and the stress is piling up, turn to art. It will increase your brain’s production of dopamine, the chemical that makes you feel happier, less anxious, and less stressed.