In 2010, the American Journal of Public Health published a review titled, The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health. You can find it here.
In that article, researchers analyzed more than 100 studies about the impact of art on your health and your ability to heal yourself. The studies included everything from music and writing to dance and the visual arts.
As an example, here are the findings from five visual arts studies mentioned in that review (visual arts includes things like painting, drawing, photography, pottery, and textiles). Each study examined more than 30 patients who were battling chronic illness and cancer.
The Benefits of Art
Here's how the researchers described the impact that visual art activities had on the patients…
- “Art filled occupational voids, distracted thoughts of illness”
- “Improved well–being by decreasing negative emotions and increasing positive ones”
- “Improved medical outcomes, trends toward reduced depression”
- “Reductions in stress and anxiety; increases in positive emotions”
- “Reductions in distress and negative emotions”
- “Improvements in flow and spontaneity, expression of grief, positive identity, and social networks”
I don't know about you, but I think the benefits listed above sound like they would be great not just for patients in hospitals, but for everyone. Who wouldn't want to reduce stress and anxiety, increase positive emotions, and reduce the likelihood of depression?
Furthermore, the benefits of art aren't merely “in your head.”
The impact of art, music, and writing can be seen in your physical body as well. In fact, this study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine used writing as a treatment for HIV patients found that writing resulted in “improvements of CD4+ lymphocyte counts.”
That's the fancy way of saying: the act of writing actually impacted the cells inside the patient's body and improved their immune system.
In other words, the process of creating art doesn't just make you feel better, it also creates real, physical changes inside your body.
Create More Than You Consume
The moral of this story is that the process of making art — whether that be writing, painting, singing, dancing, or anything in between — is good for you.
There are both physical and mental benefits of art and creativity, expressing yourself in a tangible way, and sharing something with the world. I'm trying to do more of it each week, and I'd encourage you to do the same.
In our always-on, always-connected world of television, social media, and on–demand everything, it can be stupidly easy to spend your entire day consuming information and simply responding to all of the inputs that bombard your life.
Art offers an outlet and a release from all of that. Take a minute to ignore all of the incoming signals and create an outgoing one instead. Produce something. Express yourself in some way. As long as you contribute rather than consume, anything you do can be a work of art.
Open a blank document and start typing. Put pen to paper and sketch a drawing. Grab your camera and take a picture. Turn up the music and dance. Start a conversation and make it a good one.
Build something. Share something. Craft something. Make more art. Your health and happiness will improve and we'll all be better off for it.