You know the sense of accomplishment you get from finishing a project? Turns out, it doesn’t just give your pride a boost. In fact, it might actually benefit your physical health, too. According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, engaging with creative arts can have a positive health outcome.
Approximately 40% of Americans live with a chronic disease or illness. For many people, these conditions have psychological effects in addition to physiological ones. According to the study, taking part in creative activities can help reduce stress and depression that are so often side effects of chronic disease.
While much of the study is based on theory, there are a number of potential benefits that are worth taking advantage of. The study examined different types of creativity, including music engagement, visual arts, movement-based creative expression, and expressive writing. It found a number of possible benefits for each type of activity.
Visual art can be an insightful way to explore how people understand their illness. It can also be a form of escapism and a way to process challenging feelings like grief and anger. Visual art encompasses many things, and patients who engaged with this type of art showed reductions in stress and increases in healing, well-being, and sense of purpose. Cancer patients demonstrated better focus on positive life experiences and improved self-worth and social identity.
Music therapy was shown to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. When combined with another creative art method, study participants reported a significant decrease in feelings of depression. Simply listening to music for a little each day can increase your well-being and help you relax.
Music therapy’s effects on cancer patients have also been studied. Patients reported music therapy gave them a sense of control, helped promote wellness and healthy habits, and reduced pain and psychological symptoms.
Dance and other types of creative movement are also beneficial. For participants in the study, dance helped them expand their consciousness and identify patterns of meaning in relationships. It also helped participants identify challenges in their lives and promote self-awareness. Plus, dance helps you expand your range of motion and your body image!
There are many types of expressive writing, from journaling to fiction to poetry. In studies, writing had varied positive effects on the participants, including long-term improvements in mood and health. It can also help people control pain and depressed mood better. Finally, the study found poetry to have some benefits to the healing process.
Perhaps next time you notice your mood dropping, feel isolated, or are struggling with a health problem, you can try one of these methods of creative expression and reap the benefits.