I may be a little biased having spent my whole life studying and creating art for a living but art is one of the most therapeutic things you can do to bring a sense of balance in a very chaotic world. In this blog post I discuss the positive effects of art, both in creating and viewing it on the mental health of individuals.
Takes your mind away from focusing on the wrong things
When suffering depression you tend to focus on what you deem to be all that is wrong with the world, every aspect you look at tends to be the worst case scenario going through your head and what comes out of your mouth is rarely positive. When you come to realise this it only makes you feel worse and then you are harsh on yourself for constantly being negative, you get into a terrible spiral of negative thinking and tormenting the self.
When you choose to undertake artwork, even if just a sketch, you purposely focus on your canvas, grab your materials and start to express a concept that all your mind becomes focused on.
By working on a piece of art you forget the world around you, you stop focusing on what is bothering you in your regular life and you express something that is in your mind.
For the moment in time you are attending to your artwork your racing thoughts are put to the back of your mind.
Allows you to express hidden emotions and experiences
Sometimes talking about how you feel or an experiences you have had can feel too traumatic or you don’t want to burden anyone around you with your own heavy negative load, it can feel like no one really cares anyway so you keep it inside and to yourself and it can hurt an awful lot.
It is something that men, in particular, tend to do, partly due to society expecting a man to ‘man up’ or ‘be strong’ no matter the circumstance. As a man, I have always argued the case that it is actually stronger to express your emotions and thoughts than surpresse them as it is going against ‘the social norms’ and you face the possibilities of ridicule and mockery.
If you are one of these people that tend to find it difficult to break the social norms for fear of judgement, communicating your thoughts and feelings via art can not help you to express difficult experiences you may not have been able to do so otherwise.
Art helps to communicate difficult experiences
Art allows you to release trapped emotion
All art has emotional connotations, it could even be said, emotion, is in fact, what makes us all human and of course, is both negative and positive in its expression. When we experience a difficult experience in life, as discussed before, a lot of us tend to keep it to ourselves for fear of hurting them or making them feel as bad as you do. This, is very bad for your emotional self and can fester away inside of you.
By creating art you are allowing yourself to release the feelings of the past out of your mind and onto a canvas or paper. If what you create is a very dark and morbid piece of art it is probably best not to keep it (possibly burn it in controlled conditions) and hang it as it will remind you of a negative experience, but if it is a painting of turning a negative situation into a positive one then maybe, that can be something to look at like a trophy to say ‘yes! I did change the thought!’.
Art allows you to release trapped emotion
It helps us to reconnect with who we are and our ‘inner child’
Sometimes in life we make a lot of bad decisions and we lose our way of who we are and what we really want from life. Art is something we all did as children, it was one of my favourite activities as a child in primary school, getting the paints out, drawing and crafting and is the same for many a child. By choosing to create art as adults we are reconnecting with that creative part of ourselves a lot of us tend to lose as we become ‘responsible adults’ and ‘realistic’.
Art helps us remember we were once very creative and happy
Art is rewarding
One of the greatest things about creating art is that it is very rewarding.
When you have completed your piece of art you are left with a finished canvas to either wall mount freely or frame.
It is quite a satisfying feeling to finish a piece of artwork knowing the amount of work you put into it, the concept you created behind it and the way it has improved the appearance of your habitat in which you live.
Art rewards you with a product that is very personal to you.
Art helps you see the world through different eyes
Whether you are creating art or viewing it in an exhibition you are going to start seeing the world in new ways.
When you view art in a gallery the artist is ( on a whole ) trying to get you to think about something that may otherwise ignore. Consider Andy Warhol’s prints of soup cans and famous persons. It is in my opinion that he brought it to the forefront of our minds how mass production is changing the way we live and we are becoming more and more consumerist. Banksy, on the other hand, challenges a lot of political and stereotypical views of how society should be as well as communicating things no one dares say but often think about.
This is the power of art to alter our perceptions of our reality, the benefit of this is that we can also see our problems in a new light too.
Art helps you change your thoughts.
Art allows you to communicate without speaking a word
A picture speaks a thousand words…and then some! When you really put some thought into creating a piece of art to communicate something a picture can have deep meaning to you on a personal level but then when someone else views it they may well see something you hadn’t intended.
By creating art you are telling the world how you think without even speaking a word.
Art can record a passage in time culturally, historically and personally
When you create a painting you are expressing something about your ideas and thoughts for that moment in time. It is similar to taking a photograph only you are recording a time in your life through your own perspective of reality.
The benefit of this is that when you look back at the artwork you created you will be able to see how far you have progressed since that period of time. What were you communicating? What was your thought process? Has your painting/drawing style reflected how you were feeling at the period of time?
Culturally and historically speaking your artwork might also become a record of what was happening. For example, my painting called ‘soul tree’ was during the worst economic recession 2008 – 2012 and how it had such a detrimental effect on achieving a career I expected to using the skills I had gained over a 10-year art and IT education. Looking back now I can see clearly how the recession had affected my mentality at that time and now, it is forever recorded in that painting.
Art helps you to become more reflective of important moments in life and how far you have come.
Art is never wrong
Lastly, art is great for depression because IT IS NEVER WRONG! It doesn’t matter what your style is , what it looks like, whether you make sure you paint accurately or you simply splash paint in the style of Jackson Pollock, it is all correct.
When you are depressed you feel like you have done everything wrong or made bad decisions that have made your life become what you didn’t want, art allows you to express yourself without judgement and without ever being wrong.
Even if you feel it is not what you wanted to produce you can always paint over the top of it or turn your page over and start again!
Art is never wrong and non-judgemental!
In conclusion, why is art good for healing depression?
Art, in my opinion, has always been an expression of the self. No matter what the subject matter is or who the artist is it demonstrates a piece of the artists’ soul & mind & how they view the world and all it embodies.
Art can help you make sense of your own thoughts and your experiences ( which is particularly important for depression) through life’s journey by stopping them engulfing your mind and instead, into physicality both recording an idea in time like a visual diary and going within to understand yourself and find your direction properly again.
The lasting reward of creating art is powerful for both your mental health and you don’t have to be painting or drawing in any particular style you just have to give it a go and express yourself.
Have you used art to try to help you overcome depression what benefits did it have for you? Please comment in the box below