Random acts of artistic expression are common among children, but most adults have long grown out of the habit. In fact, it’s quite likely you haven’t made any art in years. However, there are some compelling reasons why you should consider reinvigorating that creative spirit.
At least two different studies have examined the effect of art therapy by evaluating the symptoms of cancer patients. Those who participated in the art projects showed a significant reduction in symptoms, including pain and nausea.
Patients also reported reduced emotional distress and a higher quality of life. Another study examined the effects of art therapy on family members caring for cancer patients. The caregivers reported decreased stress and anxiety, and they experienced increased positive emotions.
It’s clear that art can have a significant positive effect on your mental and emotional state, but it can be difficult to know where to start. Here are a few ideas to help you get those creative juices flowing.
1. Molding Clay
Not only does clay allow you to express ideas in three dimensions, it can also enhance your experience by providing tactile feedback. Using colored clay gives you even more freedom to give your ideas form. When a project is finished, you can choose to keep it around or to dismantle it. The ability to reuse the same blocks of clay also makes this a low-cost option on the long run.
2. Finger Painting
Although most commonly associated with preschool and kindergarten, finger painting can provide a more natural and relaxing experience than using brushes. Using such crude tools can help you focus less on accuracy and more on expression. The movement of your hands and fingers can easily be used to create abstract shapes, and you can create your own meaning through color and form.
3. Coloring Books
Coloring in a drawing requires the cooperation of several different mental functions. Vision and image processing, for example, figure out what the drawing is supposed to represent. Then you use logic to determine what colors a certain thing might be in real life. You also use creativity for things like making patterns and mixing and matching colors.
Finally, you take advantage of your fine motor skills to color in the drawing without going outside the lines. By recruiting so many parts of your brain, you take your focus away from the source of your stress and completing a picture gives you a sense of satisfaction.
Cutting out pieces of colorful construction paper makes it easy to create abstract shapes. The scissors’ straight edge can make sharp, jagged angles, while turning the paper creates flowing curves.
Layering different colors and shapes on top of one another can create an effect that’s difficult to achieve by other means. It can also prevent you from knowing what your art is going to look like when it’s finished. That makes it easier to go with the flow rather than planning exactly what you want to make.
Origami is more adept at engaging the left side of the brain than most other forms of artistic expression, which rely primarily on the more creative right hemisphere. It requires precision to perform correctly, which helps keep you intensely focused on the task. By the time you finish, you may not even remember what you were so stressed about in the first place.
Although making a complicated design takes patience, that only makes it all the more satisfying when you complete the final fold.
Whichever type of art you choose to pursue, remember that it’s about expression, not imitation. Try to let go of the desire to make something lifelike, and instead focus on creating something to represent your thoughts and feelings.
Setting aside just a few minutes each week for art not only reduces your stress but also leads to a happier and healthier life.