Artfully Improving Your Health

The theme for February is “Carve” which of course refers to the beautiful way we carve the snow with our skis and snowboards here in the Valley but it also made me think about sculpture and art and the impact that art in all forms (creating, participating in, appreciating) can have on your health. 

Art is defined by Oxford as “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power” however a more modern definition broadly includes “something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful,” which is the definition we will work with for today’s purposes. Art and beauty are both subject to interpretation and when we are speaking about the potential benefits to your health, what is important is the way it impacts you and your brain. There is no such thing as “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to art (or beauty). 

We talk about art for its entertainment value, consumption, and just plain beauty of it but not often do we think about how enriching it can be. We often seem to actually undervalue art as it is not typically considered to be a core part of education and tends to be the first to go when budgets need to be cut. Unfortunately, art is not only extremely good for your health, but it is especially beneficial to young, growing brains and can even be used as a tool to aid learning of other subjects (even Math). 

What are the benefits of art? Well, when it comes to art, there are two aspects to consider: creation and consumption. Most of the health benefits we see come as a result of producing art, regardless of the outcome. Here are the benefits of art in three different populations: 

The benefits of creating art for children of all ages are numerous and include promoting creativity, allowing them to analyze and interpret, learning problem-solving tools, building fine motor skills, improve self-esteem, and promote self-expression. It can also help them to develop communication skills, understanding and interpreting the world around them. Overall, art will help children develop cognitive, creative, social, and emotional skills. It is especially useful to hand over complete creative control to your child and let them fly (with guidance, of course) and to incorporate art into other subjects, including science and math, to better enable consolidated learning. Creating art is also just really fun and it’s one area where there is not one right answer so is such a good opportunity for discovery. 

In adults, creating art primarily benefits mental health. It can be used as a daily tool at home for just enjoyment, relaxation or stress-reduction but will also help to manage anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Therapists often utilize art in treating a wide array of disorders. Art can also promote an increased sense of well-being in people who don’t have any mental health concerns and it can improve your memory and overall cognition.

Older Adults
In older adults, as well as for those with chronic degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, the inclusion of art on a regular basis reduces depression and anxiety, offers sensory stimulation, improves cognition, improves communication, and increases self-esteem. It is an essential component to creating a sense of self-worth in a population that is frequently seen struggling to find purpose and meaning in their lives. 

Creating art clearly has benefits at any age and so does simply enjoying art. It doesn’t have to be something complex like completing a painting to be enjoyed at an art exhibit or creating a piece of music that gets produced and widely distributed for all to hear, but can be something simple like doodling a little sketch, colouring in a book (I have a mandala colouring book), or even writing down a journal entry. It can really be anything that allows freedom of expression and it doesn’t have to take long. Even spending 15 minutes a day (or even 3-4 times a week) will help give your brain a little boost and believe me, 11 months into a pandemic and varying degrees of physical distancing, we all need the help. Stay strong, and stay healthy!