Painting, dancing, writing and playing music have been used throughout history to promote wellness. Chanting is a part of several therapeutic rituals. Drawing has been shown to lower blood pressure. Journaling is an often-prescribed therapy tool. With growing research into the cognitive effects of making art, more discoveries and techniques are showing the positive effects of creativity.
“My coloring is not judged by anyone other than me,” says Vivica, a busy local high schooler. Adult coloring has become extremely popular in recent years for its calming effects. “I find it very soothing, and it lowers my stress,” she confirms. “Junior year is one of the hardest, and whether it is schoolwork, sports or college prep, my other stuff is graded or measured. Therefore I like doing something mindless that I don’t have to think about but rather just have hand movement and an end result.” Plus, Vivica reminisces, “It reminds me of being carefree and creative in my childhood.”
Professionally, art and music therapists collaborate with patients through creative practices that facilitate wellness and healing. Often being creative can help with emotional and physical issues and boost self-confidence. Through art, both the mind and body are engaged to help change a person’s perspective about their environment in a way that is both comforting and safe.
“It makes me feel centered,” states Raquel, describing why she finds painting so calming. As a graduate student from Rochester, she says, “I turn to painting to help me process what I am feeling, as well as allow me to engage in something mindful and soothing. It allows me to relax.” She describes, “Since my painting is more of a hobby and coping strategy, I do not feel anxious by a blank canvas. I don’t know if I would describe it as inspiring either, though. I feel like it’s the only activity that I approach at ease and without great expectation. I also like listening to music when I paint.”
“Music is so accessible that we almost take it for granted,” states Jenny Kruse of Music Care Therapy. Their motto is “use music to learn real life skills.” Kruse says her clients develop or gain functional skills through the use of music. “Music therapy can help many, including children with developmental disabilities, people with neurological disorders and hospice patients,” she explains. Art can help people with depression, anxiety and other emotional ailments. Generally, participating in the arts has shown improved reasoning and resilience.
“Within the field of music therapy, we work on non-musical objectives,” Kruse adds. “Studies show that since music is processed in the entire brain, trained and certified music therapists can use it to efficiently help others develop or regain functional skills like walking, communicating and improving attention and memory skills.”
Bridget Skyhawk, a trauma and integrative psychotherapist at AMAR Wellness Services, also indicates the arts help with healing. “Utilizing expressive arts in therapy is effective because it helps to provide a sense of safety. The arts allow individuals to share their experiences without having to utilize language, which is often affected by trauma.” She adds, “Expressive arts are helpful for everyone since all repetitive and patterned movements are calming to the nervous system.” Art supports strengths, promotes positivity and is just plain fun.
“Our brains like to play,” Skyhawk stresses. “Play is natural, and it is really helpful when adults make time for it. The arts allow individuals to play and take control of their own narrative.” She emphasizes, “No art form is better and no masterpieces are expected.”