15 Mar How Creativity is Linked to Better Health
by Colleen Fisher Tully
No longer just indulgent pastimes, creative pursuits are gaining a reputation as solid wellness practices.
Making time for creative expression may be as vital to your health as regular exercise and a balanced diet. Whether you love to draw or dance in the kitchen, research suggests both physical and mental healing take place when the mind is able to freely create and express itself.
Analyzing over 100 scientific studies of art therapy and its effect on healing, researchers Stuckey and Noble found that four distinct therapies emerged with the greatest impact: music, visual arts, movement and writing.
Healing with music
It’s no surprise that listening to music calms the brain, which thereby reduces anxiety and strengthens the immune system. But music was also found to reduce pain levels in cancer patients and lower respiratory rates in adults with heart disease. Interestingly, cardiac patients also experienced higher body temperatures in their hands and feet.
Visual arts, whether painting, drawing or molding clay, is broadly found to diminish negative emotions. Art therapy can also lessen physical and mental distress during cancer treatments, and even improve albumin levels in hemodialysis patients. Art is also an effective therapy for caregivers who quietly carry their own stress and anxieties.
Dancing and movement
Dancing gave breast cancer survivors better quality of life through improved shoulder range and a more positive body image. Expressive movement through tai chi helped with various physical symptoms for elderly patients, while theatre training outperformed visual arts in terms of psychological benefits for the elderly.
Writing therapy showed immediate benefits for patients living with chronic pain, especially for those who expressed their anger on paper. Emotional writing also improved white blood cell counts in HIV patients, while journaling is a way for trauma survivors to find meaning.
With scientists starting to understand and quantify the healing power of creativity, it is all the more reason to dust off those paintbrushes or write that novel—for your health.