Can art be used as a weapon to combat stress and anxiety?
As many as one in six people in South Africa are battling anxiety, depression, or substance abuse problems and stress – which is also prevalent – can be a trigger for these issues. In addition, many physical conditions can be linked to stress, including cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and obesity. If you have a high-stress job or you notice that you have been more stressed than usual, complementary therapies like art can be of aid. Read on to discover how it can help you achieve a happier, healthier state and a better sense of wellbeing.
Art Reduces Levels of Stress Hormone, Cortisol
When present at chronically high levels, the stress hormone cortisol is linked to everything from high blood pressure to heart disease and even osteoporosis. The good news is that simply taking time to make art can significantly lower cortisol levels, as G Kaimal and colleagues found in a 2016 study. The scientists found that even people who are absolute beginners to art benefit as much as seasoned artists. If you have never tried your hand at art before, an excellent way to begin is by relying on simple online guides and videos until you hone aspects such as perspective, light, and proportion.
Instead of drawing an entire person, why not start with just one part of the body – such as the hands or eyes? Despite the eyes being the window to the soul, it’s pretty easy to draw them. All it takes is a couple of half curved lines joined together, topped with another short, curved line to represent the eyelid and two short curved lines for the inner corner. Likewise, the iris is easy to draw, as are lashes and ‘points of light’ within the eye.
Art Therapy Can Reduce Stress-Related Headaches
A 2019 study by University of Washington researchers found that art-based mindfulness sessions at school significantly reduced headaches, a common side-effect of stress in adolescent girls. In the study, children participated in an array of mindful art activities, using oil pastels and completing different art therapy projects. As a result, the students who did art said they felt better at that moment and thought that they could handle any vicissitudes they might face later in the day with greater aplomb.
The Power of Contemplating Art
Many studies have been carried out on the power of art to help soothe depression, anxiety, and even PTSD, but simply contemplating art can be wondrous in itself. For example, a 2015 study by the University of California – Berkeley researchers found that viewing beautiful artworks (such as you might find in the Sistine Chapel) and listening to stunning music (such as Schubert’s Ave Maria) can boost the body’s defence system. It produces positive feelings and enables the immune system to work more efficiently.
Many studies have shown that art-making and therapy can help battle stress and the problems it can trigger. It is the case for people of all ages and artists of all abilities. Of course, art can also perform its magic when viewed, but to make the most of its healing properties, why not take a pencil to a sketching pad and feel the beauty of getting into ‘the Zone’and losing yourself in the beautiful moment of creation?
Examples of 7 types of art:
Music / Literature / Painting / Sculpture / Theatre / Cinema / Architecture
Types of art you can consider doing:
Card making – thank you or birthday cards
Collages ( cut and paste together items for various sources like paper, dried flowers)
Colouring mandalas with or colouring pencils or pens
Create a wind chime
Create motivational digital messages
Drawing – simple pencil drawings
Grow a bonsai tree
Sand or pebble art
Sculptures – from clay, wood, wire or paper mache
Watercolour or acrylic painting
Article by: Kylie Ryers
Main image: Pixabay
All other images: Pixabay
Eye drawing image: Unsplash