Three summers ago I enrolled in a watercolor painting class. I guess I enjoyed art as a kid, but it was never my forte. To my pleasant surprise, painting has become a part of who I am now. Most importantly, it helps me get lost in the moment and forget about my worries.
Creativity can be an important stress buster to help keep our kids calm. Art has been scientifically proven to reduce stress levels, so much so, that an entire discipline of art therapy has been developed. Art is a way of tapping into the right side of the brain where creativity, intuition, visualization, emotions, and daydreaming stem from.
Ways Art Reduces Stress and Anxiety
- Distraction. An important tactic in managing anxiety is to distract ourselves from what is tormenting our minds. Art is a great way to focus on something more positive, productive, and inspiring.
- Flow. Artists can become so absorbed in their work that they achieve a state of flow, the sense of being completely engaged in an activity to the point of being in a near meditative state. When we are in a state of flow, we forgot about all of our thoughts and lose track of time.
- Mindfulness. When we are focused on an art project, we become completely absorbed into the present moment. This helps to quiet the mind as we become more concerned with doing the task at hand as completely and mindfully as we can and less concerned with judging and relating to things beyond the immediate context.
- Self care. Having a hobby that we enjoy helps us feel more balanced and allows for mental and emotional downtime.
Key Research Linking Art to Stress Reduction
More and more research is capturing the connection between creativity and stress reduction.
Visual Arts. A new study published in May by Drexel University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions found that just 45 minutes of creating art can significantly reduce stress hormones in our body. A group of adults was given art supplies including markers, paper, modeling clay, and collage materials. They spent 45 minutes creating a piece of art on their own without any instruction. Cortisol levels were measured both before and after the art project. Cortisol is a stress hormone–the more we have, the more stressed we are. The researchers found that 75 percent of the participants’ cortisol levels decreased during the art session. There was no correlation between past art experiences and cortisol levels, indicating that you do not need to have artistic training or talent in order to feel less stressed from being creative.
Music. Music has been found to have a soothing effect on our bodies and minds. Music can calm neural activity in the central nucleus of the amygdala of our brain; therefore, reducing anxiety. In one study, participants exhibited significant reductions in heart rate, respiratory rate, and anxiety after listening to relaxing music for 20 minutes.
Expressive Writing. In one study led by James W. Pennebaker, the leading researcher on the power of writing and journaling for healing purposes, students were asked to write about their deepest thoughts and feelings on an important emotional issue. They were instructed to keep writing until the allotted time was up. The research concluded that emotional writing can reduce the level of stress hormones in our body.
Dance. Creative movement of the body has been found to relieve stress and anxiety. There are several notable studies in the area of movement-based creative expression and dance therapy to promote well-being.
10 Ways To Bring More Creativity Into Your Child’s Life
Fortunately, there are endless ways to add creativity in your child’s routine. Just remember to keep it fun and relaxed for your children. Art is personal, and they should be able to create freely and not worry about staying in the lines or comparing their artwork to others.
- Sign them up for after school art classes.
- Send them to an art camp.
- Invite your children into the kitchen to cook or bake with you.
- Encourage them to take music lessons and to participate in choir.
- Frequent creative performances such as concerts, theater, ballet, and art festivals.
- Have an art-focused birthday party.
- Use art to teach science, math, reading, and other subjects like conservation.
- Do lots of art projects together. Explore Pinterest for ideas.
- Allow for plenty of music-based free play in your home, such as singing and dancing.
- Keep a bin of art supplies in the house and ask them to use their imagination to create.
What are your child’s favorite creative activities?