Understanding the Relationship Between Art and the Brain

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Have you ever noticed that art museums are relaxing, wonderful places to be? If you took an art class in school, did you find that you calmer and happier when you left the class than when you went in? The simple fact is that art makes us happy, but why?

The relationship between art and the brain is a powerful one that has more of a positive impact on our lives than we realize. Engaging with art can make us more sympathetic, better at solving problems, and more accepting of ourselves. Read on to learn more about this connection and how something as simple as a coloring book can have a major impact on your life.

Relieve Stress

One of the easiest art effects to see is a reduction in your stress levels. Whether you create full-scale oil paintings or color adult coloring books, you’ve probably noticed that you zone out for a while. Everything sort of fades away and you’re just focused on this piece of art you’re creating. 

This effect of being in the flow in the present moment, not worrying about the past or the future or anything else is called mindfulness. It’s one of the primary benefits of meditation, yoga, and, of course, art therapy. Taking a break from carrying around all the worries you normally do, even for a few minutes a day, can be helpful in processing emotions and reducing stress. 

Encourage Creative Thinking

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that engaging with art encourages creative thinking. Creativity is a skill like any other, and the more you practice it, the better you become. Art is a great way to practice being creative in a no-stakes situation.

If you’re trying to come up with a creative solution to a problem at work, you’re dealing with a lot of pressure to do so. But when you’re coloring or drawing, there’s no risk to choosing an unusual color for something. Having that training being creative when there’s no pressure to make the right choice can help you think more creatively when you are in a situation where the stakes matter.

Boost Self-Esteem

It may seem strange to think that drawing a picture can help you have better self-esteem. After all, what impact could art have on how you feel about your success, your looks, or your accomplishments?

But when you create art, no matter what, at the end of it, you’ve succeeded. That success triggers a release of dopamine and increases your sense of accomplishment. And the more you practice, the better you’ll get, which can help you start seeing yourself as talented, another important step in the self-love journey.

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Increase Brain Plasticity

Brain plasticity is the ability of your brain to grow and change over time. This can help you learn new skills, maintain flexibility of thinking into your old age, and maintain a high IQ. Given the level of creative thinking art requires it should come as no surprise that creating art on a regular basis can increase your brain plasticity. 

Think of your brain like a glob of silly putty (a great image, we know). The more you stretch and mold that silly putty, the more flexible it will stay; if you leave it sitting out for too long, it can become rigid and brittle. Your brain is the same way – the more you get it engaged and trying new creative things, the more flexible it will stay.

Because every piece of art is different, creating art on a regular basis can help your brain get in the habit of trying new things, which will keep it limber.

Become a Better Student

Kids who create art when they’re young become better students for life. Art therapy and music therapy programs seem to have similar benefits for brain development, especially during early life. Students who engage in these creative pursuits gain benefits that last their whole lives.

Kids who make art tend to be less impulsive, better behaved, and more attentive. They have higher IQs and other test scores than kids who are not engaged in creative pursuits. Given the enormous benefits creative programs can have, it’s even more of a tragedy that more and more schools are cutting funding for the arts.

Increase Empathy

One of the other effects of art is increased empathy. And interestingly enough, this benefit can come from either creating or observing art. This effect is a result of the surge of dopamine that happens in your brain when you look at art and the human reaction to seeing a face. 

In shortest terms, observing art is a little like falling in love. You’re looking into this face while your brain releases neurotransmitters that make you happy. This positive engagement with other “people,” even painted ones, can make you feel more connected with the real people around you.

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Improve Health 

Engaging with art can improve your mental and physical health in a variety of ways. On the physical side of things, a reduction in stress levels can mitigate a number of health dangers. It can also help reduce pain, especially in chronically ill patients.

Art can provide a number of mental health benefits aside from the ones we’ve already discussed. Studies have shown that dementia patients who make art are happier, more social, and less depressed. Art can also help improve symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and more. 

Learn More About Art and the Brain

Many of us think of art as something we did when we were kids and maybe something we might go look at in a gallery once a decade. But many studies have shown that the relationship between art and the brain is a powerful one that can transform your life. You don’t have to become Michelangelo to reap the benefits; just pick up a crayon and some paper and get creative.

If you’d like to discover more ways to improve your mental health, reach out to us at Solara Mental Health. We provide therapy and mental health treatment services for various conditions. Contact us today to start feeling and living better.

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