Can Art Therapy Affect Your Physical and Mental Well-being?

You may have heard about art therapy through your friends dealing with mental health issues, family members in retirement homes, hospitals, and rehabilitation facilities. At first, hearing the phrase may not entirely make sense to you because you may question or wonder about the therapeutic effects or healing wonders of art. Do these even exist? Well, we have established in our several blog posts backed by actual scientific research and other evidence that art therapy is powerful, healing, and very effective. Part of your questions may include “what is art therapy?” and what it can do for you, we are here to answer your questions. So, in this article, let’s discuss all art therapy, its therapeutic benefits, and how it can affect your mental health. If you’re interested, continue reading to find out more!

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Throughout human history and since the time humans coexisted with art, people have relied on the arts for interaction, self-expression, and relaxation. However, art therapy did not become a structured system until the 1940s. Art therapy gives individuals suffering physical, emotional, and cognitive issues fresh avenues toward learning and understanding self, much as a painting or a piece of music may convey in different ways that defy words.

What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a practice based on the belief that artistic expression may promote healing and improvement of mental health. Based on the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is a type of therapeutic intervention that incorporates psychological health and social services through "active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience." Everyone can benefit from this type of intervention including children, teenagers, adults, and elders going through different hardships in life.

Thus, art therapy helps in engaging the mind, body, and spirit in ways that are distinct from verbal expression alone through interdisciplinary approaches. Body movements, perceptions, cognitive, and artistic abilities encourage other modalities of expressive and receptive dialogue that can work around language's limits. Accordingly, individual, social, and societal transformation are promoted through the use of visual and symbolic expression which is practiced in art therapy.

A multi colored painting of a pair of stretched hands

The Therapeutic Benefits of Art Therapy in Your Physical and Mental Health

Art therapy's primary purpose is to use the creative process to assist people explore the benefits of self-expression and, as a result, discover new methods to obtain personal insight and create new coping mechanisms that can help them ease their physical pain or mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression. Below are some of the benefits of art therapy:

    1.  It aids in diminishing physical pain:

Having to deal with a serious and life-threatening disease can be very painful and difficult, which often leads to despair and a lack of hope. Art therapy can help you deal with the effects of the illness on your life. Instead of focusing on the pain, creating art distracts you from it because you're busy creating artworks instead that give you a sense of joy, fulfillment, and meaning.  It can assist you in identifying your goals and provide you with the opportunity to define what is essential to you. It also allows you to reflect on how your sickness may have altered your perspective of the world positively and the things that are important to you.

A photo showing a completed blue painting of a butterfly on a white paper with paintbrushes tube paints color palette and other art materials on a table

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    2.  Immersing in arts improve self-esteem and confidence:

Art therapy may give you a lot of voice to express your emotions, sentiments, and ideas. By creating artwork, you can begin to recognize your talents by evaluating your inner self and the circumstances that have molded you. This leads to a sense of confidence in yourself which can also help in providing you with a more optimistic outlook on life. 

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    3.  May help in reducing stress and anxiety on a daily basis: 

Based on a 2016 research published by the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, immersing oneself in arts, even just for less than an hour of creative work, regardless of artistic experience or aptitude, can help in reducing stress which leads to the improvement of a person's mental health. Hence, try creating simple artworks daily so that your stress and anxiety can be reduced daily. 

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    4.  Art therapy can help in addressing trauma and other issues:

People who have suffered from eating disorders, emotional and psychological trauma, physical abuse, domestic abuse, anxiety, despair, or other mental health difficulties might benefit from creative and artistic expression. According to a 2018 study, art therapy was found to greatly decrease symptoms of trauma and levels of sadness in individuals who had suffered trauma, helping them to resolve their traumatic expressions in small steps at a time through art.

A flat lay photograph of various art materials with a petaled green and yellow flower and an opened art book

    5.  It helps in managing emotions and controlling impulses:

Art therapy may provide a secure environment and safe space for people to examine their behavior and choices and reflect on previous decisions, allowing them to practice alternate attitudes and behaviors to make better decisions in the future. People can also learn to manage their emotional impulses and responses via artistic expression with the help of a competent art therapist, to help them practice the art of self-control with confidence.

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Art Therapy through Art Journaling 

As mentioned, immersing in arts daily improves your stress and anxiety levels which leads to better physical and mental well-being. Therefore, you need to try to put it into practice so that you can live a better, more optimistic, meaningful, and happy life.

One way to practice art therapy inside your home is art journaling. Similar to a journal, art journaling is the creative expression of one’s thoughts, ideas, and emotions through visual arts. Instead of working on a canvas, however, you put your artwork in a journal notebook and it can be a safe space for you to voice out your sentiments because it is private. Instead of putting plain words, you can incorporate drawings, collages, magazine cutouts, put your texts in a ransom notes style or hand lettering, create a mini painting, and so much more.

A person holding an open two sided paged book with a photo of a lady on one page and writings on the other page

If you feel like creating this is not your thing, try to do other art forms such as dancing, singing, making sculptures, photography, and so forth.

Final Insights

We hope that answering the question, “what is art therapy?” and how it can affect your physical and mental health helps you find ease and comfort in the daily stress of life. We also hope that this post boosts your motivation to become immersed in the arts. Whatever that artistic pursuit may be, we wish you luck and lots of fun! Don’t forget to inspire other people to do the same by sharing your experiences and artistic journey to help them recover from their difficult circumstances.

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