How art can reduce anxiety and depression

How art can reduce anxiety and depression
By: Kaitlyn Proctor

The benefits of both making and viewing art have been known for a long time. Studies have repeatedly shown that art can help support mental health, improve the quality of life for dementia patients and even aid with the social and emotional development of people with developmental disorders such as Autism and ADHD. 

More uses for art therapy are still being found, but as it stands there are already a wide range of applications for it and it is helping improve the quality of life for many people. This article will look at how and why art therapy is considered to be so effective at reducing feelings of anxiety and depression.

Viewing art boosts our mood

Even just looking at art, let alone creating it, does wonders for our mood. In fact, anything that has the potential to elicit a sense of wonder and awe, whether it be a beautiful scene of nature or a great work of art, triggers the release of powerful mood enhancing neurochemicals in our brain. 

And it makes sense, given that both art and the natural world are two of the greatest sources of inspiration and motivation for people, particularly when it comes to creative pursuits. 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.”  

Creating art is a meditative process

When immersed in the creative process the mind is much more clear and calm. Needing to pay close attention to detail, as is the case when creating art, helps someone to learn to be more mindful of the present moment. In this sense, art can be viewed as a form of meditation, and much like regular meditation practice, creating art regularly has the effect of training the mind to be more calm, still and focused, and research chows that it can even help increase attention span and reverse the propensity of the mind to wander.

Creation, not destruction

When someone is anxious or depressed, the mind can enter into destructive cycles of worry, fear and negative emotion, which is often related to events that happened in the past or things that could happen in the future. The process of creation however is the antithesis to these destructive tendencies, giving the mind something positive to focus on, and rooting someone in the present moment as opposed to being carried away with unhelpful thoughts and troubling emotions. 

The healing powers of art

Creating art can also help increase motivation and give someone a sense of purpose, it is a rewarding and enjoyable activity that helps to increase feelings of self-appreciation and feelings of self-worth. Any form of art can have these affects, whether it be painting, drawing, textiles or sculpture. However, research shows that moulding objects out of clay is particularly beneficial for people who have suffered trauma or abuse. The physicality and tactility involved in this art form helps to provide release on a physical as well as emotional level. There is no doubt that both creating and viewing art holds great potential for helping people to heal.