The BASScare Art and Craft group has long been a great place to socialise and have a chat while indulging that creative side we all have. Mounting evidence is also showing that the long term mental and physical benefits of art therapy are not to be taken lightly.
Turns out that doodling on a notepad isn’t quite the waste of time it seems. A growing body of research is giving weight to what many of us have instinctively felt for a long time: getting creative is good for the soul. Improved brain function, decreased anxiety, better physical health. It may sound too good to be true, but all of this is happening when we draw on the creative parts of our brain to write, knit, strum or shape clay (to name a few).
We’ve spoken before about the benefits of reading, watching movies and listening to informative talks. There’s no doubting the good these activities can do for us, but being the creator instead of the consumer offers something else altogether.
Yes, getting creative makes you happier, which is probably the biggest benefit of all. It’s all about getting in the ‘flow’, a term used to describe the state you enter when completely absorbed in a creative task. When we achieve this, our anxiety drops, our mood lifts and our heart rate can even slow.
The wonderful thing about being creative is that it generally leads to, well, creation. When we succeed at making something – no matter its perceived quality – we get a hit of a wonderful little chemical called dopamine, which makes us feel good and provides motivation.
Traumatic events are hard for us to talk about, even for the most articulate. However, there is now strong evidence to show that creativity can help us deal with and process negative emotions. Painting and drawing allow us to express traumatic or painful experiences we find too difficult to put into words. This is also a brilliant method of therapy for those who no longer have the power of speech.
Art can also be a powerful tool for those going through difficult times, such as approaching the end of our time here. The creative process is about expressing ourselves in alternate ways in safe environments, allowing us to move calmly through the stages of life. Some people journal, some make videos to memorialise their experiences, some create gifts to pass on to loved ones.
Immune-boosting Art Therapy
Physical exercise isn’t the only way to make our bodies stronger. Research is showing that those who journal frequently – that is, write about their experiences – have stronger immune systems. It may sound far-fetched, and researchers are yet to understand how, but writing has been shown to increase levels of CD4+ lymphocyte, a key to our immune system.
Art that involves the use of arms and fingers in light, consistent movements can also promote increased blood flow and improved dexterity. This is especially important for those suffering from arthritis and hypertension. Art can also prove a distraction from the constant discomfort.
Every time you pick up an instrument and strike a note (no matter your skill level), you’re uniting the two hemispheres of your brain. This is happening because the left side of your brain is responsible for motor functions and the right side of your brain focuses on melody. When these two halves of grey matter talk to each other, your cognitive function improves. And you don’t have to be Yo-Yo Ma to get this benefit.
Join the BASScare Art and Therapy Group
The evidence is in (not that we ever needed it), so what are you waiting for? It doesn’t matter what your skill level is, our craft and pottery groups will make you happy, healthy and wise.