It was after I was evacuated out of the chaos of the earthquake that shattered Haiti in 2010 that I learned how therapeutic beauty is. As I picked up my paint brush, my anxious thoughts disappeared into the colours on the canvas and calm washed over me.
Art invites us to let our brains rest and pay attention to our hearts. As we navigate anxiety producing circumstances, beauty calls us to pause and savour.
I didn’t know the science behind it at the time of the earthquake, but I now know whether our artistic expression comes through creative writing, music, movement or visual media, the arts are able to change people’s perspectives, moods, relationships and overall health.
The American Art Therapy Association states that art therapy can be an effective mental health treatment for individuals who have experienced depression, trauma, medical illness, and social problems.
There is also an increasing amount of scientific evidence that proves art enhances brain function. It has an impact on brain wave patterns and emotions, the nervous system, and can actually raise serotonin levels. Art can change a person’s outlook and the way they experience the world.
How can engaging with art and beauty help us better navigate the crisis we find ourselves navigating now?
Art helps us validate and recognize our emotion.
Whether it’s a memory or a feeling, art can evoke powerful emotions. Art can cheer us up after a bad day or evoke rich memories of a moment of beauty in our life. It provides a reflection back to us that enables us to process our own reactions, emotions, and thoughts. It can provide the comfort from knowing we aren’t the only ones feeling this way.
Contemporary Artist John Demarco said, “Art is a language meant to speak the things that can’t be said.”
Without needing words, art can be the perfect way to express who you are to both yourself and others. This seems obvious when you are one who creates art, but it’s also true when you are the one who appreciates art.
Why? Because art tells a story.
When you love a piece of art enough to buy it and hang it on your wall, that tells a story about you. Whether it’s your personality or what you value in life, art can be the perfect translator. It lets you forge deeper connections with those who come into your home.
Art reminds us of what is possible.
Seeing other people do what they love is inspiring. Passion is contagious. It awakens the creative impetus in us. Writer and Publisher Michael Hyatt said, “I’ve found that nothing brings me more joy and better inspires my own creativity than good art.”
Art has the power to point us to the ultimate Artist.
When we find joy in combining certain colours or textures, designing a pattern whether the medium we express it in is wood or fabric, plants or paint we are reflecting our Creator to the world.
As people, made in the image of God, we were made to do more than merely produce. We were made to create, to express, to give life to the ideas inside us; and the more we use our creativity muscle, the stronger it gets.
You may be thinking, “Well, that’s great for you artistic types, but what about the rest of us?”
Here are some practical ideas we can all use to add some art therapy to our lives.
- Cultivate a taste for beauty. As with so much in life, making room for art starts with intention. Take time to notice beauty. When you hear or see something that moves you, comment on it to someone close to you. Talking about it will deepen the effect on you.
- Shop for art. What a great time to add a piece that expresses your heart and makes you happy. There are lots of websites where you can purchase prints and original art online. You can see more of my work on my website and at Fine Art America.
- Revisit the Creativity of Your Youth. If you have no artistic interests now, go back to those things that you dabbled in as a child. You might even rediscover a part of you that got shut down by practical parents or a critical teacher. Did you used to draw, write, paint, or play an instrument? Even if you don’t go that direction now, it may open up doors for other kinds of art that work for you today. Maybe today you’d rather cook, garden, sew, or build things.
Go wherever your creativity takes you but by all means, if you want to really find solace in the chaos, make space in your life to enjoy and create things of beauty.