The Health Benefits of the Creative Arts

Everyone has the ability to be creative. Whether it is writing, dancing, painting, singing, or playing a musical instrument, the process of making art is good for you, both mentally and physically. The Art Therapy Association, which focuses its research on veterans, at-risk youth, persons with mental illness or cancer, individuals on the autism spectrum, and the elderly, indicating that art therapy helped reduce pain, decreased symptoms of stress and improved the quality of life in adult cancer patients. Additionally, it decreased anxiety in children with asthma and cancer and stimulated mental functioning in older adults with dementia.

In 2010, The American Journal of Public Health published an analysis entitled “The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature.” This was a critical examination of more than 100 studies about the impact of art on your health and your ability to heal yourself. The review, which includes everything from music and writing to dance and the visual arts, focused on studies that examined more than 30 patients who were battling some type of chronic illness. The visual arts mentioned in the studies include painting, drawing, photography, pottery, and textiles.

And with the visual art activities, researchers described a great impact on patients, stating that art:

  • “Filled occupational voids and distracted thoughts of illness”
  • “Improved well-being by decreasing negative emotions and increasing positive ones”
  • “Improved medical outcomes and reduced depression”
  • “Reduced stress and anxiety and increased positive emotions”
  • “Improved flow and spontaneity, expression of grief”
  • “Improved positive identity and increased social networks”

If you’re looking for some ways to get the creative juices flowing, improve your overall mental and physical health, and boost your quality of life, we have some ideas for beginning artists.

Adult Coloring Books. Remember how much fun it was to break open a brand new box of 64 Crayola crayons and begin coloring within the thick black lines? Adult coloring has been around for decades but has just garnered mainstream popularity. Shown to alleviate the stresses of “adulting” all day long, coloring books come in many shapes and sizes. From intricate designs to art nouveau animal designs to tattoos inspired coloring, there is something for everyone among the best adult coloring books. Adult coloring includes not only traditional crayons but also colored pencils, sharpie markers, and jelly pens.

Digital Art. Maybe you’re more of a techie and interested in producing digitized art through Adobe software. Illustrated lettering, digital painting, and vector illustrations are just a few of the many things you can do in Adobe. Adobe Photoshop is a graphics editing program that can be used by regular consumers to create images from scratch or to alter existing images. Adobe Illustrator helps you build your artwork with simple shapes and edit them with easy-to-use controls. You can add color and polished typography to make your work unique. Online tutorials, lessons, and skill sharing can help you explore the many types of digital art activities available.

Diamond Painting. Diamond painting is an easy and enjoyable activity for both the young and the old. Based on the concepts of mosaics and paint-by-number, diamond painting uses tiny “diamond”-like facets to create colorful designs, pictures, and patterns that, when completed, sparkle. The application process is a simple three-step undertaking that is both meditative and relaxing. Most diamond kits come with a fabric with a printed design chart, colorful diamonds, an applicator tool, and a tub of wax. Diamond painting kits are available in a wide range of sizes and styles, allowing crafters of all skill levels and ages to find a project that can complete and enjoy.

Rock Painting. While painting rock has a history dating all the way back to prehistoric times, the revival of rocks started in 1975 with the advent of the pet rock craze. Founded by Gary Ross Dahl, the smooth stoned pet rock came complete with an instruction pamphlet for care and training inside a cardboard box featuring air holes for breathing purposes.

In recent years, with the Kindness Rocks project in full swing, rock painting groups have sprung up all over the US. All you have to do is find a rock, and decorate it with combinations of paint, markers, and embellishments. As part of the project, you distribute these paint rocks around your neighborhood, hiding them where they will be found to put a smile on the face of the finder. Not only do you benefit from the creative artwork itself, but you can connect with others who are sharing the activity with their families.

What are some creative visual art activities that beginners can enjoy? Feel free to share your ideas here.