Researchers at Drexel University led by Girija Kaimal, an Assistant Professor, in Creative Arts Therapies conducted a study to understand the effects of making art on stress hormones in the human body. They made an interesting discovery and published their findings in the Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association. Their paper revealed that 45 minutes of creative activity significantly lessens stress in the body, regardless of artistic experience or talent.
The study involved 39 adults who were aged 18 to 59. In the study the participants were invited to make art using collage materials, modelling clay, and/or markers. They were given the option of creating any kind of imagery using the three media choices individually or in combination. They were also told that there was no expectation of creating a final artwork but that they were welcome to work with the materials as they chose.
The participants’ saliva was tested before and after to evaluate cortisol levels (Stress hormone) and they were also asked to complete pre and post questionnaires to generate additional data on their experiences.
By the end of the session, nearly 75% of the participants had lower cortisol levels after art making than at the start of the session. For the remaining participants, cortisol levels remained about the same or were elevated.
If you have ever been involved in some type of creative work (whether assembling a new wardrobe, writing an article, or painting) and you look up at the clock to suddenly realize 4 hours have gone by, you would agree that creative work allows you go into your own mind – An almost meditative state. Art allows you go into your own world where your mind is so completely focused on the task at hand that stress takes a backseat.
Most people make the mistake of believing they must be talented and imaginative before they can make Art – That is not true. The ability to create Art is a universal skill, just like writing, riding a bike, public speaking or driving. It can be learned with a little bit of effort. All you need is the willpower to create something truly unique, to give others a glimpse into your inner world.
The next time you are feeling stressed or depressed, all you might need is time alone, a colouring book, a camera or some paint and brush. You can express yourself in art – Your thoughts, hopes, fears, emotions and dreams. Go ahead and write a poem, draw the landscape in front of you, take pictures or paint. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just express yourself.