How art can help you improve your state of mind

Visual arts do more than just offering a feast to your eyes; they are also good for your mental health. Here, we explore the benefits of art therapy for mental health with insights from an expert!
Colouring books for adults
Unleash your creativity with colouring books. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Purvi Kalra Published: 16 Sep 2023, 14:30 pm IST
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When you appreciate or engage with a piece of visual art, what kind of emotions start flushing in? Invariably, you feel a mix of enjoyment, pleasure and and encouragement just by observing a masterpiece. Imagine the amount of mental and physical boost one can get by expressing oneself through art! A study of cancer patients found that engaging the patients in creative art (drawing) exercises enhanced their mental and emotional well-being by lowering the impact of negative emotions and replacing them with positive ones. So, we can easily give in to the fact that art therapy of any kind has a positive impact on the mental health of the ones performing it.

Health Shots got in touch with Suruchi Shah, Mental Health Counsellor, art-based therapist, transformation coach and author, to understand the benefits of art therapy for mental health.

What is art therapy?

Art therapy is a type of psychotherapy that helps give vent to the emotions and experiences that words can sometimes fail to express. It is not about acing or getting the perfect final product; it is about healing your inner wounds through the process of making art.

art therapy
You can engage in art therapy sessions, a type of psychotherapy, for a happier you!. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

As per the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is an integrative mental health and human services profession that helps better the overall well-being of an individual through the creative process of active art-making performed in a psychotherapy setting.

How does art work help mental health?

Art therapy is a powerful medium because it facilitates creative expression to address psychological and emotional challenges in the following ways as per the expert.

1. Art help to communicate complex feelings

“It helps the individuals to express complex emotions and feelings that verbal language fails to articulate, offering a safe outlet for catharsis. Through symbols and metaphors, clients can explore their inner world, gaining insights into their thoughts and emotions,” says the expert.

2. Art paves a pathway towards self-growth

The act of creating art fosters empowerment, self-reflection, and personal growth. It provides a non-judgmental space for healing and building trust in therapeutic relationships.

3. Art helps to reduce stress while promoting emotional healing

The calming and meditative qualities of art reduce stress, while its holistic engagement of mind and body promotes overall well-being. This makes art therapy a versatile and impactful tool for emotional healing and self-discovery.

Also read: Study suggests that anti-inflammatory therapy can prevent heart problems in the elderly

4. Art helps people with depression

The expert adds, “Art therapy can benefit individuals with depression by providing a non-verbal outlet to express emotions, helping them explore and process their feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or guilt. Creating art can improve self-esteem, offering a sense of accomplishment and purpose”.

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Moreover, for cancer patients, art therapy aids in managing the emotional distress associated with the illness. It fosters coping strategies, reduces anxiety, and enhances overall quality of life by promoting self-expression and a sense of control amidst medical challenges. Art can help them develop an overall positive and balanced outlook towards life and not focus only on cancer. Both groups can find solace in art’s therapeutic effects, ultimately supporting their emotional well-being and resilience in the face of adversity.

art therapy
People with chronic mental or physical illnesses show signs of improvement with art therapy. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What kind of art helps mental health?

As per the expert, some common art therapy techniques that can be used:

1. Journaling

“This is not simple stringing of feelings into words, yet it is a combination of writing with visual art, often in the form of an art journal, to explore thoughts and emotions,” says the expert.

2. Collage

Creating artwork by arranging cut-out images or materials, can help people symbolically represent their feelings or experiences.

3. Sculpture

The expert says, “This involves working with clay, wire, or other materials to curate three-dimensional representations that represent inner emotions or experiences”.

4. Mask-Making

This employs the technique of using masks as a metaphor for hiding or revealing aspects of one’s identity and emotions.

5. Mandala Creation

Mandala, as the name suggests, is designing circular patterns or drawings as a meditative and self-reflective practice.

Art therapy techniques can be tailored to address specific therapeutic goals and are guided by the expertise and training of the therapist. The creative process allows individuals to access and express their inner thoughts and emotions, promoting self-exploration and psychological healing.

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About the Author

After testing her skill-set in the field of management and marketing, Purvi Kalra is exploring the world of turning thoughts to words. Her penchant for writing stems for being an avid reader all her life. Her work drives her to be better every day. ...Read More

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