Understanding the Relationship Between Art and the Brain

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 creating.

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

Understanding the Power of Music: How Music Affects the Brain

Have you ever been in a foul mood and then heard a song you loved on the radio? We’re betting by the end of that song, you were feeling a little more upbeat. The power of music to transform our mood and our lives goes deeper than many people realize.

Music has a tremendous impact on our brains, affecting everything from our mood to our memory function. Read on to learn more about the power of music and how it can positively impact your life.

Healthier Brains

Studies of musicians’ brains have shown that those who have music as a regular part of their lives actually have healthier brains. Their brains are bigger, better connected, and more sensitive than the non-musical. They are also more symmetrical, and when musicians listen to music, their brains respond symmetrically.

Part of the reason for this symmetry may be that musicians tend to have a larger corpus callosum, the band of tissue that connects the left and right sides of your brain. Musicians also tend to have better memory, flexibility of thought, and auditory skills. Even if you don’t play an instrument or sing, you can benefit from the effects of music by listening on a regular basis.

Improved Mood

You may have noticed before that listening to music makes you feel better when you’re in a lousy mood. Even those of us who have never heard of music therapy before know that listening to upbeat music can lift you out of a funk, and few things are more cathartic when you’re angry than listening to some angry tunes. And if you’re dealing with heartbreak, hearing the things that you’re feeling sung back to you can make you feel better in a way. 

Part of the reason this works is that when you listen to music, your brain releases dopamine. This is a neurotransmitter that gives you a boost of pleasure – it’s the same one that gets released when you eat chocolate, go on a long run, or have sex. And whether you realize it or not, you’re familiar with this boost – that little jolt of happiness that you get when your favorite song comes up on a shuffled playlist is dopamine at work.

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Greater Productivity

Depending on the task you’re working on, listening to music can make you more productive. If you’re working on something that requires a high degree of focus, music can serve as a distraction. But if you’re working on a mundane or repetitive task (say, doing the dishes or folding laundry), listening to music can help you get it done faster.

The basic reason this works is that music lowers your stress levels and makes you happier. As many companies have discovered in recent years, happy people do better work than miserable ones. So if you feel like you’re zipping through your work when your favorite playlist is on, you’re reaping the benefits of music effects on your brain.

More Empathy

Have you ever shared a favorite song with someone and felt more connected to them afterward? This is more than just a statement on what our taste in music says about us as people (though it is that, too). This is another facet of the question, “How can music affect the brain?”

For one thing, studies have shown that when people play music together, their brains release oxytocin, a neurotransmitter that creates trust and empathy with other people. But listening to positive lyrics can act as a sort of subliminal messaging for your brain. Listening to music can make you more generous, more social, and more willing to cooperate with and help those around you.

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Benefits for Young Brains

If you’ve ever seen a pregnant woman playing classical music for her belly, she isn’t going crazy. Some studies have shown that babies who have listened to music smiled more, communicated better, and had more sophisticated brain responses to music. It can also make children better students, raise their IQ, and improve their language skills, spatial intelligence, and test scores.

While listening to music is helpful for kids, taking music lessons is even more beneficial. Children who take music lessons for even a little while early in life tend to have better brain plasticity, the ability of the brain to grow and change. The effects of these lessons can be seen even decades after the lessons have ended.

Benefits for Older Brains

You’re never too old to benefit from music either. One major risk of aging today is memory loss and dementia. But music helps fight that and can help seniors maintain better cognitive function and mental flexibility.

Older adults who have backgrounds in music tend to score higher on memory tests and show more flexible thinking. And if an older adult in your life has already started to show signs of dementia, starting to listen to music may help improve their memory. If possible, they should get involved playing an instrument; this helps fight memory loss even better than just listening to music.

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Benefits for Mental Illness

If you’ve ever asked the question, “What is music therapy?” read on. Music therapy may sound like hippie nonsense, but in reality, it is a powerful way to handle mental illness. It can improve quality of life for those suffering with everything from ADHD to Parkinson’s.

Music has been shown to improve the symptoms of anxiety, depression, insomnia, PTSD, schizophrenia, and more. This is due in part to some of the neurotransmitter releases we mentioned earlier, but it also has to do with our emotional connection to music. Even if you’re in a place with your mental illness where you can’t find anything to be joyful about, listening to a song that used to make you happy can help you remember what it felt like to be happy and help you find a way back there.

Discover the Power of Music

Music is amazing and can improve anyone’s life, young or old, sick or well. The power of music can bring back people lost to Alzheimer’s and shine a light in on people fighting depression. It can make us more productive, happier, healthier, more connected people, so turn on the radio or your favorite playlist and start improving your life.

If you’d like to find more ways to improve your mental health, reach out to us at Solara Mental Health. We have expert medical and clinical treatment and can help you with everything from therapy to in-residence treatment programs. Contact us today and start living your best life.


How To Heal Your Inner Child In Seven Steps

Today, self-care is more frequently discussed than ever before- and for good reason. Healthcare providers and therapists alike are sharing ways to reduce calm, alleviate anxiety, and make the present moment as peaceful as possible.

Yet, what do you do when your fears, trauma, and hurt run far deeper than the current events you’re experiencing? How can you initiate healing when it’s your inner child that’s screaming out for love, acceptance, and comfort?

Learning how to face the past without letting it control your present and future can be a challenging step to take, but it is possible. Today, we’re sharing seven ways you can combat the issue that cost you your innocence and start rebuilding the life you deserve.

1. Acknowledge Your Inner Child

Before you can start down the path toward restoration, you must acknowledge that your inner child exists. Though it might feel silly at first, talk to him or her if they were right beside you. 

Giving this person a real identity can help you work through the issues you faced together. Start by speaking statements of affirmation such as “I love you” and “I see you” in the mirror, or even visualize saying this to your younger, wounded self. 

You might find it easier to communicate these feelings to your past self through journaling. If this is the case, write letters to your inner child that cover the same sentiments. The goal is to give that child the feelings of validation and affirmation that were absent for so long. 

2. Validate What Happened

Pushing issues down or shoving them under the rug will only work for so long. If you’ve suffered abuse, neglect, or any form of trauma as a child, it’s necessary to be realistic about what happened.

With your inner child beside you, take the time to understand what happened fully. This might mean going over the events in detail, or it might mean revisiting a persistent feeling of shame or guilt. As such, it’s best to complete this step with a trained specialist who can offer coping techniques as you take that painful trip down memory lane.

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3. Identify The Form Of Neglect You Experienced

Even children who grew up in an idyllic environment can have wounds that originated decades ago. After you’ve identified a specific area of hurt, consider the bigger picture surrounding that event or series of events.

At the core of much trauma lies some form of neglect. This can range from a lack of love to a lack of protection, and anything in between. You might have wished you had more resources, more guidance, or more freedom. Allow yourself to feel that void again, and recognize it for what it is.

4. Embrace Your Emotions

Not all inner child work will bring up feelings of resentment or anger, though some might. For instance, you may feel remorse at your parents or furious at a friend or family member. Rather than trying to move past those emotions, go ahead and sit with them. 

This might mean experiencing rage, sadness, emptiness or embarrassment all over again. Talk to a therapist as these emotions travel up to the surface. Often, the only way to move past them and find true healing is to face them head-first. 

That said, be easy on yourself. You might not work through everything in one day or one visit, and that’s OK. Give yourself space and time to process the journey. Take breaks and seek support and guidance from trusted friends, counselors, and coaches.

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5. Identify Current Manifestations of Past Hurts

Do you find yourself engaging in self-sabotaging patterns that stem from past childhood hurts? For instance, if you felt abandoned when you were younger, you might now engage in toxic relationships with partners you know will abandon you down the road. 

Or, you might project emotions of distrust and suspicion on people who genuinely want to be in your life, afraid to let them get too close for fear that you’ll wind up alone again. Whatever the way these past hurts manifest themselves today, it’s important to be honest with yourself and identify them. Acknowledgment is the first step toward moving forward and making the shift toward healthier habits.

6. Take Steps to Fill the Gap

When you’re younger, you fall victim to your circumstances because you are unable to rise against them. As an adult, you can take proactive steps to provide for yourself the things you wish you’d had as a child. 

For instance, if you were in a cycle of poverty in your youth, you can take steps to improve your current financial outlook. Partner with an expert who can teach you how to budget, save for the future, and maximize your income. Or, if you felt neglected and invisible as a child, seek relationships with people who cherish their time with you and make time to keep those friendships alive.

In other words, give yourself what you wish your parents or guardians would have given you years ago and allow yourself to enjoy the freedom that comes with that reward.

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7. Mend the Hurt By Helping Others

Research shows that child abuse, neglect and mistreatment is a global issue, affecting millions of children each year. While you can’t go back in time and change your past, there are plenty of ways you can help change the future for someone who’s now in your shoes. 

From volunteering at a children’s home to serving meals at a homeless shelter, look for opportunities in your community where you can give back, especially if it means making a difference in the life of a young boy or girl. Even just lending a listening, empathetic ear to a friend or acquaintance in need can be your form of service. 

Understand that at first, these kinds of interactions might be triggering for you if they remind you of past abuse. However, over time, you should find that altruism and healing go hand-in-hand.

Heal and Release Your Inner Child

You’ve heard it before, but it’s time to believe it. Your past doesn’t define you.

However hurt your inner child might feel, there are resources available to help you address and work through that pain. 

If you’ve been abusing drugs or alcohol to help self-treat the pain, we’re here to show you a better way.

We’re an internationally accredited and licensed rehabilitation facility dedicated to providing expert medical and clinical care to our patients.

Call now to speak to a childhood trauma treatment specialist and let’s take this next step forward together. 



Should Mental Health Be A General Practitioner’s Job?

The landscape of healthcare has frequently been changing – especially in its mental health division. The rate of mental illnesses has reached an all-time high in recent times, putting pressure on the healthcare industry to deliver proper treatment to sufferers of these disorders.

For example, certain statistics explain that, as of 2019, over 43.8 million people will experience a mental illness in any given year. Luckily, awareness is also growing in mental health struggles. Therefore, reaching out for help without shame is becoming easier for those who would have previously struggled in silence with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or other mental health disorders. 

Under scrutinizing debate is the controversial topic of whether primary care physicians should be treating their patients for mental health concerns. It’s a fairly common phenomenon that, when people begin suffering from alarming mental health irregularities, their first course of action is to seek out a family care doctor. 

This decision is, perhaps, because people don’t know where to turn at first. This choice is likely the smartest and most proper course of action when someone is experiencing abnormal psychological symptoms. However, sometimes, patients make their stop at a family doctor and then go no further.

Psychiatrists Vs. Family Physicians

For multiple reasons, a specialized psychiatric medical doctor must be sought out for concerns specifically regarding mental health. Sometimes, it’s even necessary to seek a reputable in-residence mental health care center to stabilize a patient before they begin routinely visiting a psychiatrist.

General practitioners are trained excessively to treat a broad range of illnesses, but psychiatry is as delicate a branch of healthcare as any other specialty. Therefore, it requires a comprehensive initial assessment and thorough follow-ups. 

The human mind is complex and still being studied for all of its mysteries. Although family doctors are highly-trained professionals, MDs who are explicitly trained in psychiatry ought to be sought out for long-term treatment considering their career-long focus on the human brain. 

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What Exactly Makes Psychiatry Essential In Treating Mental Illness?

Doctors of psychiatry, or psychiatrists, have gotten some bad raps in the past. However, it’s important to remember that psychiatrists nowadays are regulated heavily by statewide professional entities called boards of psychiatry. 

The board of psychiatry in each state exists solely to monitor professionals that practice in the psychiatric industry heavily. They enforce proper ethics and ensure that no improper or illegal actions take place.

Psychiatrists are required to renew their licenses in psychiatry frequently. Besides this, these particular MDs devote their entire days and research time to the human mind. Often, they’re to work closely and in conjunction with clinical psychologists (therapists), thus providing a more specific and integrative treatment plan for clients seeking help for their mental illness.

Thorough Initial Examinations And Consistent, Specific Follow-ups

We encourage those who need mental health services to pursue assistance specifically from psychiatrists that will do a thorough initial assessment of a clients’ life and mind.

Initial psychiatric assessments serve a specific purpose: gather sufficient information to make an educated diagnosis. Initial psychiatric evaluations are typically:

  • Hour-long appointments used to collect well-rounded details of any particular client’s life and mental health history
  • The standard first step in establishing an outpatient treatment plan for psychiatric patients
  • An important way for a doctor to attain a much higher level of insight on a patient’s mental disorder than a quick check-in with a family physician

With an overall shorter amount of face-to-face time with patients, family care physicians and general practitioners are unable to draw extensively-accurate conclusions of a patient’s proper diagnosis (or diagnoses). Improper diagnoses have the potential to cause pervasive damage to those with mental disorders, considering that inadequate treatment may inevitably follow as a consequence. 

Individuals in need of mental health help deserve to have the proper time, diagnosis, and treatment provided to them so that they can reach a sustainable headspace.

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Expertise In Medication

Although many general practitioners are not hesitant to divvy out psychiatric medications, this is probably a better task to leave to a specialist. Sometimes patients visit general practitioners for immediate or urgent help, and it is necessary to treat them quickly with a temporary medication until they can make an appointment with a psychiatrist. However, even in these cases, it may be best to seek a reputable mental health treatment center instead.  

Psychiatrists spend lengthy amounts of time studying the effects of SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) and other mental health medications that are frequently prescribed. These specialists have the most knowledge possible of any type of doctor, including general practitioners. 

Often, these medications are able to work wonders for patients who have been correctly diagnosed and who do not have any adverse side effects. Psychiatrists have the capabilities necessary to closely monitor their patients and watch for any negative reactions until optimal mental stabilization is achieved.

Although a quick visit to a general practitioner regarding mental health isn’t awful, it’s still necessary to follow up on this appointment with a visit to a psychiatric specialist. An ethical, professional, and comprehensive psychiatric treatment plan has the potential to change one’s quality of life entirely and indefinitely. With a proper diagnosis and a well-rounded treatment plan, patients who seek assistance for their mental illnesses are – more frequently than not – able to alter their lives and minds forever.


Attachment and Psychopathology Workshop

Attachment and Psychopathology Workshop

We are excited to announce that we are co-sponsoring “Attachment and Psychopathology” a three-day continuing education training February 18-20, 2019.

This unique training focuses on the development, prevention and treatment of psychological disorder. It weaves together theory, human development, assessment, case examples and treatment applications to reframe maladaptive behavior in terms of strategies for self-protection. The course covers development from infancy to adulthood, emphasizing the process of adaptation and developmental pathways that carry risk for psychopathology.

Not only is this training of particular importance to the clinical community, but Solara staff members have a personal connection to the event. This event is being held in honor of Benjamin Inouye, a fellow clinician who passed unexpectedly this year. Ben was a dearly loved and respected member of the San Diego therapy community, and we feel privileged that Solara is able to support Ben’s passion for prevention of adult psychopathology.

To register for this event please go to trieft.org/attachment-crittenden