This blog post is the fourth of a four-part series collaboration between Inspiration Fine Arts & Magnify Wellness.
Written by: Mikaela Brewer & Sandhya Maddali
Over the past few weeks, we’ve explored the intricate connections between mental health, mental illness, creative expression, psychology, and art therapy. Notably, the use of artistic, emotional, and spiritual expression in healing enhances biomedical views rather than contradicting them. In many medical settings, patients focus on their illness, symptoms, and identity with illness. Creative work enables them to broaden their relationship with the entirety of the experience and healing process through imagination and sense-making.
The American Art Therapy Association defines art therapy as (2013),
“an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.”
Art has the power to heal — it can be used to improve self-esteem, promote insight, reduce conflict, improve sensory-motor function, enhance social skills, improve cognition, cultivate emotional resilience, and foster self-awareness.
Importantly, art practice isn’t considered art therapy unless it is designed by an art therapist, who is uniquely licensed to craft therapy pathways alongside complementary therapy, psychology, psychiatry, and other clinical methods. With that said, building a mindful art practice can be immensely beneficial because it can encompass any form of creativity — you can shape it to map your needs.
In our final piece of this series, we hope to outline a few ways that you can incorporate creative practices into your mental wellness routines. Visual arts, music, movement-based creative expression, and expressive writing have been clinically and researched-backed, and we will explore each in more detail below.
Visual arts can be beneficial toward mental health in a wide variety of ways. They promote increased creativity and provide a cathartic outlet for strong emotions. By providing a way to express these feelings, visual arts can help understand and deal with the feelings more effectively. Visual arts can also help improve brain function and have been linked to a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s and dementia. We’ve listed some forms of visual art below:
Music is also an effective outlet. It can function as a general mood-booster because listening to happy, upbeat songs can improve one’s mood. Similarly, making music can provide a cathartic release for any negative emotions. Music has also been found to significantly reduce anxiety and stress. Playing an instrument can also improve focus, memory, and general cognitive function. Check out some examples of musical activities below:
Similar to the previous forms of art mentioned, movement-based creative expression like dance and drama provide a cathartic release for negative emotions and a general output for strong emotions. Arts that are more physical like these can also generate endorphins, which trigger positive feelings in the brain and relieve stress. We’ve listed two prominent forms of movement-based creative expression below:
Expressive writing has many similar benefits to other forms of art because it also promotes creativity and emotional expression. Writing forms like journaling can help release negative emotions and reinforce positive ones. It can also help with reflection and understanding oneself better. Creative writing and poetry are wonderful ways to work through feelings or channel certain emotions into something more productive. Below are some examples of expressive writing:
Of course, although this is a plentiful list of viable artistic expressions to implement, we know it is challenging to find time to do so. If any of these forms of expression speak to you, your healing, or your mental health journey, we encourage you to prioritize them — though it might be stressful to set aside some extra time away from tasks, these practices have the potential to not only relieve stress, anxiety, and depression, but boost your productivity and performance in work, school, and life. Please do not hesitate to explore the sources below for more information, specific practices, and research.
Thank you for reading and learning with us!