“Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.” Pablo Picasso
Rummaging around in my attic I came across an old black portfolio case. Safeguarded inside were art notes and sketches, ideas to be pursued at a later time. I hadn’t looked at the neglected collection in ages. After dusting off the case I carried it downstairs to see what it was I put away 20 or 30 years ago. Inside; long forgotten images, drafts of imagination, a wordless journal capturing a few years in time…to be continued later…sometime…maybe.
There is an undeniable sense of pleasure that comes from creating something with one’s own hands. Whether or not the piece turns out like we hoped it would, there is still enjoyment in the process. The great thing about art is that you don’t have to be talented to enjoy the benefits it provides.
Art can improve your quality of life and have a positive impact on your mental health and well being, no matter if you have talent or not. Exposing ourselves to paintings, sculptures and photographs can lead to healthier mental states. People often choose to display art in their homes for aesthetic reasons, but recent studies have shown that engaging in the visual arts can actually improve memory, lower stress and increase empathy whether by viewing art or creating it.
When people engage in complex activities the brain creates new connections between brain cells, it also stimulates communication between the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Your brain’s ability to grow connections and change over time is called brain plasticity or neuroplasticity. Creating art has proven to increase this plasticity and aid in psychological and emotional resistance to stress.
In the journal Art Therapy, researchers found that after just 45 minutes of art making, levels of cortisol – which is associated with stress – where reduced in participants, regardless of prior skill levels.
Studies have shown that creating art increases the level of dopamine in your brain, which helps to ward off sadness and depression. It can also provide you with a boost to your self esteem.
One 2014 study published in Plos One found that making visual art can improve connections throughout the brain known as the Default Mode Network. This system is associated with the brains state during wakeful rest, like daydreaming, but it’s also active when we’re focusing on internal thoughts or future plans.
Similar to meditation, art draws people’s attention to details and the environment, which creates a distraction from day to day thoughts.
Art is good for wellness:
- It stimulates imagination. By engaging in artistic endeavors you are learning to see the world around you in a new light, and you are more present in the moment. Your only limit is your imagination.
- You become more observant. You learn to see what’s around you by concentrating on details, lighting, colors, shapes and much more.
- Stress reduction. Whenever you immerse yourself in an artistic endeavor, your mind temporarily forgets all of your worries since your hands and brain are busy crafting.
- You enhance your problem solving skills. Being creative and making art shows us there is more than one solution to the same problem. It encourages open ended thinking.
- Self esteem builder. Especially for youth but all ages can use an occasional boost.
Crafting hobbies of all kinds – knitting, quilting, sewing, drawing, photography, woodworking and DIY repair – increase dopamine, ward off depression and protect the brain from aging.
If you don’t have time for it, you can visit a local art exhibit and view someone else’s art as it will also have a positive impact on your creativity.
Self expression doesn’t require talent – the purpose of art is to express our ideas and emotions freely.
I’m motivated and inspired to take out some pencils and watercolors to rework and expand on the ideas held in this old diary of sketches.