Creativity: Good for your health
Creative activities can be fun and calming, and research shows they can also benefit your health. The American Journal of Public Health published a comprehensive review of the positive impact of art on health and self-healing. The report, “The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health,” analyzed more than 100 studies of various kinds of art – including music; writing; dance; and the visual arts, such as painting, drawing, photography, pottery and textiles.
Studies of patients battling chronic illness and cancer found the creation of art to be a positive distraction that produced measurable health and mood improvements. Participants noted decreases in negative emotions, depression, stress and anxiety, as well as improvements in medical outcomes, positive emotions, spontaneity, social networking, positive identity and expression of grief.
Other artistic genres have been shown to produce benefits in the physical body. A study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine that used writing as a treatment for HIV patients found the creative activity resulted in improved blood counts. Writing impacted the patients’ blood cells and improved their immune systems. In other words, the process of creating art doesn’t just make you feel better; it also creates physical changes in your body.
You don’t have to share your art to reap health benefits. The activity of creative expression alone is good for you. The best part about these findings is that no special skills or equipment are required to create art in its simplest form. Use the technology at your fingertips: Sit down at your computer, open a blank document and start typing. You can write anything – a journal entry about what you did today, a poem, an essay or even the start of a novel. Grab your camera – even the one on your phone will do – and take a picture. Play around with simple editing software to crop or enhance your photo.
If you want to get down to basics, get out a blank notepad and any writing implement. Start writing a story or sketching a drawing. You can also combine exercise with expression. Turn up the music and dance. (Don’t worry; no one is watching!)
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