Anxiety and depression are the two most common mental illnesses in the U.S, and the current COVID-19 crisis is doing plenty to make matters worse.
Those living in isolation and vulnerable members of the population such as the elderly do not have traditional outlets for stress – including gym visits, social gatherings, and office work.
The ‘free time’ that has suddenly become available to millions can be used in a highly productive manner, though – the creation of art.
This hobby and therapy have already proven in study after study to be a powerful antidote to stress, anxiety, and depression, and it is arguably very much needed in this pivotal moment in history.
Art vs Depression
Many studies have been carried out on the ability of art to lift the mood and enlighten people in their thoughts and feelings.
One study undertaken at the University of Gothenburg showed that creating a picture of how one is feeling on a particular day has a significant ability to improve symptoms of depression.
In the study, participants were asked to doodle and freely express themselves the way they desired; then talk about the picture and its significance.
After just 10 sessions, notable progress was made. “Painting pictures based on themes and discussing the pictures with the therapist promotes self-reflection and brain stimulation that takes place outside of the conscious mind,” said the researchers.
You Don’t Need To Be Picasso To Lift Your Mood Through Art
Many people are thrown off trying their hand at sketching, drawing, sculpting, or collage making because they feel they lack talent.
They should pay heed to a 2016 study that showed that art at any level significantly lowers stress hormones (triggers for anxiety and depression) every time you make art – any kind of art, even very simple, stick figure-type stuff.
The truth is that beginning is easier than ever these days, with a host of online resources teaching you to sketch eyes, mouths, and other facial shapes.
Eyes, they say, are the windows to the soul. By drawing your own expression, you open the doors to showing others your work and letting them know what lies behind the image.
Other imagery you can easily learn includes natural elements such as plants, flowers, and scenic landscapes.
Art And Anxiety
Because art is a proven stress hormone buster, it is currently being used in many healthcare settings to battle anxiety.
Anxiety is common among cancer patients – both those who are newly diagnosed and those who are having treatment.
A study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management found that art therapy can reduce a wide range of symptoms – including pain and anxiety – in cancer patients.
Another study found that art was able to improve symptoms of PTSD, depression, and anxiety among traumatized children.
Art is also used today as part of many substance abuse rehabilitation programs since it enables people to express and discuss ambiguous feelings they may have about tackling their addiction.
Art is a powerful antidote to stress.
For this reason, it can help people battling anxiety and depression.
Today, art is used in a variety of settings – sometimes formally (through art therapy) and sometimes informally.
The aim is to lift the mood, provide a mindful activity, and allow for smooth discussions of issues that may be hard to bring up in day-to-day life.
Hey, this is Katlyn Martyns, the author of this article.