The Therapeutic Benefits of Art on Mental Health

Close-up of Red Table- Cocoweb

Many assume that most artists get involved in art merely because they are good at it or because they enjoy it. However, many artists often partake in art because it is soothing for their mental health or highly-stressful lifestyle outside of the art world.

If you don’t believe that art can have therapeutic effects on the mind, then this article will be interesting for you as you’ll discover that it absolutely can provide such benefits.

Art Can Help Regulate Emotions, Control Impulse, and Boost Self-esteem

Emotions, impulse, self-esteem, and thus, one’s interactions and behaviors all play hand in hand. As an example, one with low self-esteem may be more likely to bully others or avoid relationships for fear that they themselves aren’t good enough. Someone who is depressed may react more negatively than their non-depressed counterparts and may have difficult progressing in life based on their emotional state.

However, through creating or involving oneself in art, they can become more self-aware of their current situation and learn how to problem solve in appropriate manners, according to The Ontario Art Therapy Association.

Making, viewing, or even interpreting art can assist someone who is emotionally-distant in feeling emotions they may initially be suppressing or having trouble expressing (e.g., love, positivity, happiness). It can also help a person control anger and impulses based on the patience that is practiced in creating or interpreting art. In terms of self-esteem, creating art can help someone realize that even when they make mistakes, they can fix them and that the initial struggles do not define them personally. This aspect can translate into other areas of their life as well (e.g., school, work, other hobbies, etc.).

It Can Boost One’s Level of Concentration

As everyone knows, both creating and interpreting art requires patience and in-depth thinking. Based on this, art can help improve one’s concentration not just in the moment but generally with time.

The beauty of art is that you can think as deeply as you’d like when producing or viewing artwork. One can think more on-the-surface, can get emotionally in-depth, or can even use their imagination to finish the rest of the story or message provided before them.

Woman in Brown Scoop-neck Long-sleeved Blouse Painting- Cocoweb

Considering the latter points, it becomes obvious that working with art is something that one can do at their own pace, and they can open up and heal through art when they are personally ready. Someone who doesn’t like to express positive emotions can slowly do so through art whereas another individual on the same boat as them may be quicker to express such emotions. It is incredible how versatile and patient art can be for somebody.

Engaging in Art Can Help Self Expression and Interpret Powerful Stimuli 

Of course, creating art can also allow one to express and release both emotions and thoughts. Maybe someone is stuck on a traumatic event that happened to them in the distant past, but they haven’t been able to properly open up about it and release it in a positive way. Through art, they can do that.

By viewing other works of art, one can see that they are not alone and that millions of artists across the world have different ways of telling a story, saying who they are, and sending a message to others.

Art interpretation can also teach those with mental illness that the intended message is only part of what makes art, art and that how one personally interprets a piece of art is that much more powerful. One may find that when they look at a piece that they feel a variety of emotions and come up with endless suggestions for what they piece may mean. The conflicting and confusing emotions one feels while looking at artwork can allow them to see that they can either see a piece (or any other stimuli) in positive light or through a negative scope depending on how they see it at that point in time.

Through getting involved in creating art themselves, one can learn how to express themselves in their own personal way, allowing them to learn better about who they are as a person distinct from their problems. They will soon realize that their mental illness is not them but a part of them and that they have considerable control over what they send through visual art.

Art Can Take One’s Mind Off Their Current Worries

Art in all forms can help redirect one’s mind onto something else when they are having difficulty coping with their current thoughts or are having repetitive thoughts they can’t seem to put an end to on their own.

One study discovered that art can also help successfully distract one from their own illness on a broad level. Someone with an anxiety disorder may find that by involving themselves in art and focusing on self-expression that they begin to forget that they are anxious in the moment being.

The way one strokes paint onto a canvas, mixes colors to their liking, and the like are all cognitively powerful enough to physically switch the brain’s gears in terms of the thoughts that currently encompasses it.

Woman Standing Infront of a Wall Mount Painting- Cocoweb

It Can Improve an Individual’s Communication Skills

Because art makes use of color, lines, and other elements with the intent to express emotions and thoughts, tell stories, and present a message – as we mentioned – art can also help with one’s communication skills both with visually presenting something themselves and through understanding what others are saying through their own visual work.

It is believed that art can be a great method of intervention for individuals with social anxiety, extreme shyness, and autism spectrum disorders in terms of developing emotional sensitivity and regulation along with nonverbal communication. Emotions and general communication skills are strongly related which makes sense why art could be one adequate source for individuals lacking communication. Once nonverbal communication is developed, verbal communication can become easier. Interestingly, one source mentioned that scientists believe some of the earliest artists may have been autistic.

As stated before, art is versatile and patient. Art allows one to work at a pace that is comfortable for them and push forward via baby steps, which is why art therapy has such successful results for many. Art can be vulnerable for some, but the idea behind it is that it isn’t something that is so forceful that it causes a suffer to shut down even more.

Art Can Help One Understand Their Own Mental Health

Most importantly, art can help someone understand their own mental illness in that it can teach them what they lack, where they are improving, and what they are capable of. As someone involving themselves in art sees that it is helping them with their mental state, they may have a better time understanding the intensity of their current mental health and how far they have gone to improve it.

Portrait of Young Woman over White Background- Cocoweb

The thing with mental illness is that even though one is often aware of what their problems are compared to what is deemed “normal,” many symptoms are hidden or appear distinct from their mental illness. Many aren’t aware that individuals with anxiety often suffer with mood swings and that someone with depression may be quick to become irritable. Through healing, that is often when one realizes that what they’ve been experiencing all along is related to their mental illness, encouraging them to continue pushing forward.

Once one is better acquainted with their mental illness, they will become stronger, more confident, and less afraid of what they are dealing with – thus, may be more likely to direct their energy to help others struggling in the future as well.

Conclusion

Art is a phenomenal way to help one accept, learn about, and even reduce the intensity of their mental health state. Art is often used in conjunction with mental illness therapy and has had wonderful results for many. Even if one believes art is not for them, there are a plethora of types of art and ways to approach forms that can tend to the needs, wants, and interests of someone struggling with grief, life setbacks, or general mental health complications. One should find what works best for them and stick with it to see what benefits art can truly provide for them and their current state.

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