The Healing Balm of the Arts

“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.” ~ Pablo Picasso

It’s finally Spring and time again for Cornerstone Counseling Ministries to prepare for the annual Art Benefit. In 2017 CCM hosted its first Art Benefit raising approximately $17,000 providing 650+ sessions for clients in need. The event brought together many artists that donated exceptional pieces of work using various forms of art. Not only does this Counseling Center benefit from the arts, but artists have expressed the therapeutic benefits of the creative process.

 You don’t have to be a trained artist to enjoy the benefits of expressing yourself creatively. The Arts are enjoyable activities that promote dialogue, reduce anxiety, increase self-awareness, help people identify and explore fears. It has the ability to promote healing on every level. There are many different forms of art, from painting to music, and they all contribute to our mental well-being.

Art, emotion, and healing are linked.  In recent years Art has become a useful tool in a therapeutic setting for many emotional issues and can promote psychological health. Art is experiential – it is a “doing process.” It is also very personal. Creating art is a journey of personal expression and self-awareness. Using art to express what is inside of ourselves is a powerful means of easing pain, and of better tapping into the power of self-awareness to heal.

Recent research has shown that art therapy has been used quite successfully to help children and adults learn to effectively communicate, have improved concentration, improved behaviors and develop closer relationships.  It has shown to improve moods, promote relaxation, and decrease disruptive behaviors and attitudes. Many times where words are few, our emotions and feelings can be expressed through the many mediums and forms of art.

We all have the ability to express ourselves creatively and use our creative gifts. Some additional ways the arts can improve your mental well-being include the following:

Stress reduction: Artistic activities are calming, whether you are playing an instrument or painting a landscape from memory. When you take time out of your day to be artistic, you stop thinking about the world around you. You cease to focus on worries and it provides a mental rest from your regular activities and stresses. Creating art requires a focus on details and a concentration that blocks everything else out.

Creative thinking: Art, music, and dance are all creative forms of expression that use a different part of your brain. The creative thinking process engages your brain in different ways and produces different brain chemicals than your everyday logical thinking. It is good to exercise your brain in this way. When you are adept at creative thinking, it can be applied to problems to suggest alternative solutions. There are no right and wrong answers in art — everything is subjective. This opens the mind to creating and considering alternate possibilities. Exercising creative thinking in the pursuit of artistic endeavors improves your mental health by preparing your brain to tackle everyday issues in positive new ways.

Brain connectivity and plasticity: Plasticity is your brain’s ability to change and grow new connections over time. In some ways, positive mental health depends on your ability to adapt to new situations as you get older. Recovering from bad experiences is also dependent on your ability to develop new thought patterns, working around the old pathways that no longer serve you. This is especially true in PTSD and addiction. Your brain is stuck on old thought patterns and needs to find a way around them. Building new thought patterns is part of the solution to these problems. Engaging in artistic activities creates new connections or pathways in your brain between cells. Art encourages verbal and nonverbal communication which strengthens connections between the left and right side of the brain – it essentially makes your brain stronger!

Self-esteem boost: Each area of art is a specific skill and talent, and practicing the one you enjoy the most can improve those skills. Over time, you will see a noticeable improvement in the quality of your finished works, and that can boost your self-esteem. Completing a piece of art can provide tremendous satisfaction in your ability to manage the medium and express your own vision. Self-esteem is built on recognizing your own accomplishments and understanding their implications for the rest of your life. If you can do this, you can do other things, as well. Art gives you a chance to chart your growth and contemplate the outward expression of your emotions at different stages.

While there are many other benefits to engaging in the arts, we can agree that it is a wonderful outlet to support emotional health and is quickly gaining ground as an alternative treatment in the Psychology world.

So whether you engage in the arts yourself, enjoy viewing art, or are a collector of art, please join CCM at our June 1st Art Benefit. By being at the event or purchasing a piece of art, you will be part of a bigger purpose in bringing the healing balm of hope to a client in need of emotional help.

“Art is to console those who are broken by life” - Vincent Van Gogh

Written by Patricia Millen, MA
Tetelesti Creations