Lifestyle

Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow.” And while artists and kids with a new box of crayons have always felt the benefit of art in their souls, the rest of us should join in, too. The scientific community has begun to study these benefits, as well. The field of art therapy is growing. It’s becoming a popular non-medical, non-pharmaceutical treatment in nursing homes and senior centers. Researchers are studying the benefits of art on older adults, and they’ve found that creative art activities may be a key to successful aging. Here are six of the top therapeutic benefits of art. 

1. Art Improves Quality Of Life

Creating art lets the us express anxieties and release tensions, which boosts our sense of well-being. The process of creating art also promotes “here and now” experiences, letting us enjoy the present instead of focusing on the past or the future. Viewing works of art and talking about them remind us of the beauty and possibility in the world.

2. Art Encourages Self-Expression and Strengthens Identity

Even when we share it with others, art is very personal. What we create represents us. It can even help us discover who we are. Creating art boosts self-esteem. While some hobbies may be hard to pick up later in life, you can discover wellsprings of creativity and hidden artistic talents at any age. Life review, a common art therapy project in senior centers and nursing homes, prompts reflection on the artist’s past, and encourages them to translate memories into art. This techniques honors artists’ experiences and may help them become aware of their life’s meaning.

3. Art Improves Mental Health

Making art – especially with calming colors like pastel tones – enhances the mood, relieves anxiety, and reduces stress. This is backed by research. In 2013, researchers studied older adults in Florida who were taking part in art therapy sessions. They found that artistic activities like coloring mandalas and creating collages that represent happy memories significantly improved the artists’ mood. Another study found that after creating art, subjects used fewer negative emotion words and more positive ones.

4. Art Builds Strong Relationships

Sharing art helps form meaningful relationships, which is especially important to seniors who may be at risk for social isolation. Participating in art classes or group art therapy sessions helps people stay active and engaged. Creating art as a group promotes healthy competition and sparks interesting conversations. Art therapist Raquel Stephenson has noted that she sees friendships begin in art classes – “friendships and a support network that lived on beyond the confines of the group.” Stephenson notes that, in addition to joining each other for social activities, friends checked on each other when they were sick and visited each other in the hospital.

5. Art Provides Sensory Stimulation

For Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, especially, the benefits of art are huge: working with art materials, in fact, provides mental stimulation. People with diminished verbal skills, like someone with memory issues who may not be able to enjoy a movie or a book, can enjoy the sensory experience of creating art. Art may even provide a way to communicate. 

6. Art Keeps Brains Active

Art is great for the brain. Research has shown it improves cognitive performance of older adults, in the same way that puzzles and brain exercises do. Art encourages your mind to find meaning in images, sometimes referred to as symbolic thinking. We must interpret art, not just view it, which is great exercise for your brain.