Art: A Surprise Weapon Against Stress


Art: A Surprise Weapon Against Stress
Next week sees the start of the annual Mental Health Awareness Week. You can find out more details of it here.
This year the focus is on stress (specifically in the workplace) and strategies to deal with it. We’ll do a blog post about this initiative next week as, at The Art House, we feel that wellbeing is an issue for everyone and it certainly lies at the heart of much of what we offer.
We’re a creative space in the very centre of Sheffield and, in preparation for thinking about strategies for dealing with stress, we thought it an appropriate time to look at what art can bring to the table. You may well be surprised:
Current studies show that art does miraculous things to your mind and your body:
It lowers stress levels: even visiting an art space saw a reduction in levels of cortisol – the stress hormone. Participating in making art saw the biggest drops. And at the same time, it increases levels of dopamine – the pleasure hormone. (Scientists say that in many ways it replicates the effects of meditation and stimulates the areas of the brain connected to contemplation.)
Like meditation it also increases participants feelings of empathy and connectedness. (Participants in a study who did an hour of art reported that they felt more tolerant and loving.)
It doesn’t even seem to matter what creative pursuit you do or how good you are at it: studies show creativity doesn’t do labels – knitting, drawing, colouring, pottery and many more pursuits all bring positive benefits. And people who created masterpieces saw the same results as people who just participated and had fun.
Simple colouring exercises have helped sufferers of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and the hobby of therapeutic colouring books for adults continue to grow.
Creativity has been shown to encourage creative thinking and problem solving. (Studies think this is because doing things which are creative encourage brain connectivity to help it function as a whole.) So, the next time you’re stuck why not pull out the pencil crayons and doodle.
Doing something arty boosts self esteem and brings with it a sense of accomplishment. Plus, it seems to encourage the type of psychological resilience that helps us to better deal with stress when it occurs.
And as the benefits don’t just work for adults, children who engage in art make better students because of all the above.
Also, it seems to improve the quality of life for dementia patients and for those with chronic health issues.
This is the current verdict of many recent studies by scientists, but we see these benefits every day in our space. We see the power of art in our pottery classes, our art classes and our many wellbeing groups and we appreciate the support of the city.
Sheffield is a creative space and together we can look at harnessing the positive benefits of available art for everyone. It may not be THE answer to modern stressful living, but it can be part of the answer.