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Art Heals the Mind, Body, and Heart

There’s so much to love about art. “Art is life, and life is art,” some say. It encompasses everything from drawing to painting, dancing to writing, music to theater – and more. It caters to our sense of pleasure and being alive. Another perk of art? Engaging in it actually helps heal our hearts and keeps our brains healthy.

Do you remember when you were a kid, and there were no cell phones or worries about what time it was? You simply played and created games and lost track of time until the sun came down. Much of that is fueled by our inherent creativity. Unfortunately, with money worries, deadlines, schedules and well…life, adults have a harder time switching into a creative mode. That’s why exploring art, such as painting, dancing or music, can have immeasurable benefits on our mental health and can actually heal our hearts.

Here are the top ways incorporating art into your life will help you physically, mentally and emotionally.

1. It improves memory

A study published in the Journal of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience shows that people who learned to play a musical instrument as children appear to experience less decline in brain function as they age. What’s more, Alzheimer’s patients often are asked to draw and paint to help recall their memory. As patients sharpen their minds through imagination and thinking, they may experience less complicated conditions of their illnesses.

2. It relieves stress

We know that exercising and meditation can greatly reduce stress. But what about actually creating something? Creating art provides a distraction, giving your brain a break from your usual thoughts. The average person has 60,000 thoughts per day, and 95 percent of them are the exact same thoughts day to day! When you’re totally immersed in a creative art, you may find yourself in “the zone” or in “flow.” When this happens, all of those thoughts melt away. You’re literally giving your poor brain a break, similar to meditation.

3. It creates more empathy and feelings of love

Do you ever get lost in a painting? Or feel like you’re transported to another time and place at a great live music show? That’s because art triggers a surge of dopamine into the same area of the brain that registers romantic love. Again, it’s activating that pleasure center in the brain. In addition, a study of more than 10,000 students finds that a one-hour trip to an art museum changed the way they thought and felt. The data shows the field trip increased the students’ critical thinking skills and their empathy and tolerance toward people. In short, art allows your heart to soften.

4. Art helps heal

Whether physical or mentally, art heals. For those experiencing grief or chronic illness, thoughts and emotions can be hard to put into words, unless you’re a seasoned writer. So, opening up to different forms of expression, such as music, painting or dancing, gives you the space to express what you’re feeling. It’s also a way to connect with yourself on a deeper level, to uncover old wounds and ultimately heal them.

From a physical standpoint, art is especially healing for mental disorders. A Berkley study shows that when art inspires a feeling of awe, it creates a lower level of particular chemicals in the brain – known as cytokines – which correlates with lower levels of depression. Cytokines are also necessary to heal trauma and physical conditions, such as disease and infection.

In fact, there’s an entire field of art therapy, as explained in Art Therapy Exercises: Inspirational and Practical Exercises to Stimulate the Imagination, by Liesl Silverstone. The book includes individual and group activities, and Silverstone has written it for a broad audience. In Art Therapy Techniques and Applications, by Susan I. Buchalter, you’ll find warm-up, movement and mindfulness suggestions to support the art therapy experience.

Are you ready to start those pottery classes, art lessons, or learn to dance? You heart, brain and entire being will forever thank you.

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