Can Art Reduce Anxiety and Depression?

Art as therapy

Can art reduce anxiety and depression? Guest writer Katlyn Green believes so. This is her take on the matter, backed up by some credible evidence! Do share your thoughts on the subject by tweeting @RWABristol

 

Art as therapy

The benefits of art have been backed up by science for a long time now, and as such, art therapy is currently being used across healthcare to help people with a range of different conditions and health needs, and in particular for those that need mental health support. Research shows that both creating and viewing art can help alleviate depression and anxiety, and this article will seek to explore how and why art can be so beneficial to mental health.

The mood enhancing effects of art

Anything capable of inspiring feelings of wander and awe in us, from a beautiful scene in nature, to a walk round an art gallery, has a positive impact on our mood. Research shows that beautiful scenes in nature triggers the release of powerful mood-enhancing chemicals in our brain, and the same can be said for beautiful works of art that have the capacity to greatly move us, as well as motivate and inspire. According to psychologists “Awe has many important implications for our well-being… Experiencing awe can give us a sense of hope and provide a feeling of fulfilment.”

Immersion in the creative process

When someone is immersed in the creative process, as is this case when making art, it has a positive impact on our well-being by reducing stress and helping to calm and focus the mind, it is also a very enjoyable and rewarding activity, that helps to increase feelings of self-appreciation as well as give people a sense of purpose. 

Getting into the habit of creating art for 30 minutes a day, whether it be drawing, painting or textiles, can have a huge impact on mental health. Research shows that being in this state for long periods, which is actually very similar to meditation and mindfulness, can help train the mind to be more still and focused, increase attention span, and reverse brain patterns associated with mind wandering.

Art can help us learn to be more present

When considered from this angle, art can be conceived as an antidote to anxiety and depression, given the power of art to root us into the present moment and calm the mind. Whereas in the case of anxiety and depression, the mind is often over worked with anxious and worried thoughts or feelings of sadness relating either to events in the past or anticipated events in the future. Depression can also demotivate someone, whereas art can help to give someone meaning and purpose as well as start feeling better about themselves.

Art therapy is having a big impact

Arts and Minds, the well-known arts and mental health charity has been running workshops on a weekly basis for people with depression and anxiety since 2017. Studies conducted by the charity have shown that 71% of people attending the workshops experienced a fall in feelings of anxiety and 73% experiences a fall in feelings of depression. One study participant commented saying: “I feel so much better having made the time and space to do some art. It makes such a difference”. These outstanding results are really testament to the power of art to support our mental health.

 

Thank you to writer Katlyn Green for contributing to our blog.