When you’re feeling blue, expressing yourself may be a healthy way to bring more color back to life. Exploring creativity can be a simple solution to reduce stress and improve overall mental health.
A 2018 Gallup Poll reported that Americans experience some of the highest levels of stress in the world. According to the ADAA, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. and affect nearly 1 in 5 adults every year. Anxiety develops from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events. Long-term exposure to stress and anxiety can have significant effects on the body.
“Stress and anxiety trigger neurocircuitry that was designed to be used sparingly to deal with life-or-death threats, not on a daily basis,” says Lynne Everatt, wellness expert and personal trainer. “Chronic stress has a corrosive effect on the brain that has been linked to degeneration of the hippocampus (the brain’s memory center) and impaired functioning of the prefrontal cortex that can manifest in our lives as depression, dementia and impaired executive function.”
Other health problems caused by acute stress include high blood pressure, fatigue, insomnia, obesity and heart disease. Stress has also been linked to a weakened immune system and an increased risk of developing diabetes.
Creativity Can Balance Hormones
Studies have shown a strong relationship between artistic expression and reduced stress. When the body experiences stress, it can release the cortisol hormone. Measuring cortisol levels is one way to scientifically measure stress levels. The higher a person’s cortisol level, the more stressed a person is likely to be.
A Drexel University Art Therapy Study found that 75% of adults had lower cortisol levels after 45 minutes of making collages and doodling on paper using markers. Half of the participants had limited experience making art. Skill level and artistic experience didn’t correlate to the level of the health benefit.
Not only can creativity reduce cortisol levels, it also can be used as an alternative to antidepressants. A 2016 research study found that “human creativity relies on dopamine.” Dopamine is the feel-good neurotransmitter and balanced dopamine levels can indicate balanced mental health.
Art Healing studies show that creativity can even influence physical health including the frequency of provider visits, immune function, stress hormones and blood pressure.
4 Steps to Use Creativity to Reduce Stress
1. Allow Yourself to Experiment
Before you dive in, try to start with an open, gentle mindset. Even if you don’t feel like you are artistically inclined, exploring creativity can still help you reduce stress. You can still enjoy mental health benefits regardless of if you create a masterpiece or not! It’s ok if you try and fail. Don’t put too much pressure on the end result. Give yourself room to experiment and focus more on playing instead of actually executing a specific vision.
2. Choose Your Type of Expression
There are many different types of creativity to explore and they vary based on your level of energy and resources. Try these super easy options to get started.
Expressive Writing focuses on using language to communicate thoughts and emotions. By exploring rhyme, rhythm and meaning, you can discover a deeper understanding of your thought patterns. Physically writing out your thoughts is a great way to release mental clutter if you’re feeling overwhelmed, confused or trapped.
- List 10 things you’re grateful for
- Journal about what happened during your day
- Write down a few words that rhyme
Visual Arts include tangible mediums that are visually inspiring. By exploring color, shape, symbol, and texture, you can express yourself in ways beyond the limitations of words. Visual arts tactile, can increase focus and can strengthen your mind and body connection.
- Draw shapes with pencils or markers
- Mold shapes with play dough or clay
- Color in a coloring book
Movement encompasses using your entire body to express yourself. Gestures, stretching and dancing can help you tune into your body to feel more comfortable and confident. Think beyond exercise and try simply having more fun.
- Try hula-hooping
- Play hopscotch
- Host your own silent disco dance party
3. Give Yourself a Timeframe
Again, try not to put pressure on achieving an actual result. Instead give yourself a timeframe to explore and play. For instance, set a timer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, check in with yourself. Ask yourself if you feel more relaxed, calm and focused. If you do, congratulate yourself on improving your overall health! Don’t worry about finishing your art project. The practice itself is the true long-term benefit.
4. Create a Routine
Once you start to feel more comfortable, try to create a weekly routine. Try to schedule at least 20 minutes of “Creative Health Time” per week. By creating the habit, you can practice reducing cortisol levels more consistently. You’ll enjoy a healthier long-term solution to coping with stress and anxiety.
As cited in the Connection Between Art Healing and Public Health: “Use of the arts in healing does not contradict the medical view in bringing emotional, somatic, artistic, and spiritual dimensions to learning. Rather, it complements the biomedical view by focusing on not only sickness and symptoms themselves but the holistic nature of the person. When people are invited to work with creative and artistic processes that affect more than their identity with illness, they are more able to ‘create congruence between their affective states and their conceptual sense making.’ Through creativity and imagination, we find our identity and our reservoir of healing. The more we understand the relationship between creative expression and healing, the more we will discover the healing power of the arts.”
Contact Natural Bio Health Today
If you’re concerned that your stress or anxiety levels are influencing overall health, please consider reaching out to an expert. Our team is dedicated to helping you understand the numerous factors that may be keeping you from reaching your optimal health.
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