Your brain on art: The healing power of creativity

 "Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life", said Pablo Picasso, a world-renowned artist. Art forms are not for mere entertainment purposes, they offer such a wide perspective when it comes to self-growth and personality development that today they are employed in treating patients suffering from mental disorders. In this article, we shall look into numerous ways in which creativity and art impact our minds. Let's begin!

Art is in our blood.

Going back in time, when human beings were primitive and still evolving, there wasn't any form of an official language for the early men to communicate. Art, was their only form of expression. The meager knowledge we possess about them is from some of the well known archaeological sites like Bhimbetka, Magura, Altamira, etc.
They used natural elements to make colors and painted various kinds of things on cave walls and rock tablets. Art was their expression, entertainment, and also a medium to pass on knowledge to future generations.
Therefore, it is no exaggeration to say that art is primordial. And it's almost like it is in our DNA.

The relation between Art, Creativity, and brain

Our brain often associates memories, situations, smells, sounds, etc with shapes, colors, symbols, and many more things. Let's do a fun activity to test this. A set of words will be displayed below. What's the first thing that strikes your mind when you look at the word. Note your answers.
1. Danger
2. Girls
3. Happiness
4. Grief
5. Peace
6. Provocative

Since the above terms are generic, your answers could be something like this. 
1. Red color/ skull and bones symbol
2. Pink color/ heels
3. Orange color/ luxury
4. Black color/ inauspiciousness
5. White color/dove
6. Neon 

"Art is to console those who are broken by life".

              -Vincent Van Gogh

How does art help in opening your heart and mind to new 


When we think of art, we tend to confine ourselves to the notion that it's just for artists and professionals and ordinary people can't do it. You are totally wrong on that one. For, art belongs to everyone. It's what every tom, dick, and harry can do. It's what you and I could do. Art is not about artistic excellence. It's about self-expression. Remember that your focus should be on expression rather than perfection. 

1. Makes you mindful

When we are in our normal and casual state we ignore all the teeny weeny details like the number of cars, trees, people, etc in our vicinity. We are ignorant because we know that they are trivial. But when you start practicing art, over time and practice, you develop keen observation skills and better insight. And learn to channelize your focus in one particular direction. You'd be able to concentrate effortlessly by eliminating mundane thoughts. 
What you cannot express through words, can sometimes be expressed through art. It is like a direct portal to your subconscious mind. It gives you a better understanding of yourself. For, it is your reflection, after all. 

2. Release of repressed emotions

We have been taught by our society to behave in a particular way. This social conditioning does not let us express our feelings and emotions sometimes. Left with no other alternative, we suppress our emotions. It's a Hobson's choice. 
Art is cathartic. It helps you release your emotions and ease from stress. The tightening effect and physical tension caused by stress can be relieved through art. This catharsis or release of emotions calms your mind, through the attainment of peace.
 Domingo Zapata stated, "By painting, I relax, let go of my demons, and travel to another planet. Through art, I get to create my own world where everything is a little more beautiful".
Studies have shown that art therapy helped increase self-esteem and decrease stress in 86% of patients suffering from mental disorders.

3. Improves creativity

Since art involves drawing, painting, symbols, colors, shapes, etc it enhances your creativity and inspires innovation. It makes you look at the world from a different point of view, by enabling out-of-the-box thinking. Not only that, it flexes your creative genes. And most importantly, it promotes the plasticity ( learning potential) of your brain and improves your cognitive reserve, and makes way for an intuitive mind. 

4. Teaches valuable lessons of life

Art helps you learn valuable lessons in life. Life without ups and downs is as boring as a blank sheet of paper. Just as myriad colors in a painting, our life too is filled with various colors of joy, grief, excitement, angst, stress, pain, happiness, mystery, etc which make it precious and frabjous. Life is beautiful when it is colorful.
 Art makes you discern the fact that there lies beauty in imperfection. Your painting is what you make it and your life is what you build it. 

Art in healing Neuro-degenerative diseases

Alzheimer's is the fifth leading cause of death in people aged above 65. People belonging to this age group are vulnerable to Dementia and Alzheimer's. Studies have shown that more plastic (neuroplastic) brains are better protected from neurodegenerative diseases. 
But, the problem with our brains is that its plasticity decreases when learning stops. As the popular adage goes, 'If you don't use it you lose it'. 
This suggests that art therapy is the best possible treatment in this respect. It stimulates their brain and evokes emotions and memories. Studies have also shown that people who constantly engage in art and creative activities are very less likely to develop cognitive impairment.

How to get started?

If you liked what you read and wish to incorporate this into your life, I assure you that you'd greatly benefit from it. You need not purchase everything. You can get started from where ever you are. Just make sure that you have basic stuff like markers, crayons, pencils, etc.
If you are struggling to draw/paint, follow the tip mentioned below.
Think of a situation in your life when you've experienced strong emotion. Be it a happy one or the opposite. Just process it in your mind. Think of all images, colors, shapes, and symbols associated with that memory. And draw a rough sketch. Then do whatever you want with your canvas. It doesn't matter if it's a masterpiece or just something stupid. Focus on expression.

Hope my article, 'Your brain on art: The healing power of creativity', is of some help to you. Feel free to express your views in the comments section below. Subscribe for updates. And most importantly, add colors to your life. 

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