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Art boosts mental health

By Mark Haskell

Staff Writer

Whenever I am struggling mentally or emotionally, I turn to art as a form of comfort. I am able to put my emotions to paper and create a piece where I can understand myself and my feelings.

The mediums I use do not matter - I use whatever is on hand. I feel the most tranquil when I am generating art regardless of the format or time of day.

Whenever I am in a museum, seeing notable works of art or the unknown, I feel calm and at peace when I am imagining the times they were made in and thinking of how it makes me feel.

What brought about my love of art was my travels to Europe and enjoying the galleries there. I was able to envision myself in those paintings and experience the subject, as well as the artists’ emotions.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic is what truly amassed my support of art therapy.

Since before the pandemic, I have been in therapy. Though, in the last two years, most, if not all of it has been virtual for safety precautions.

The pandemic has been a consistent, tumultuous challenge humans collectively face which has led to the rise of depression and anxiety.

According to Forbes, nearly 50% of young people have reported symptoms of depression. About 30% of respondents reported mild or worse symptoms. The level of follow-up care would be typically recommended in a clinical setting.

If humans are to address these challenges, I believe that art therapy is a very proactive way to tackle that because it gives people the chance to express themselves.

Many people in the world, including myself, felt very secluded and cast out during the COVID-19 isolation as humans are a very social species.

The pandemic led to the cancellation of many in-person activities and events, which led to the transition to remote life, causing people to miss face-to-face connections with others.

Art therapy encourages folks to be engaged in interactivity despite isolation. Although many channels for social activities are coming back, art therapy continues to prove itself beneficial because it helps with anxiety, depression, and other feelings.

Art is a very ancient practice that goes back centuries. According to Adelphi Psych Medicine, art and artistic expression are a means of communication, expression of ideas, and recording events. As art became an important piece of culture and history, it is accepted that art and emotional expression are one and the same.

Art therapy helps by tapping into different areas that may be of concern, such as mental health, other medical matters, and having the drive to grow emotionally, creatively, and spiritually.

The pandemic has produced many feelings and emotions that are hard to define. Art therapy is a very mindful and low-tech way to process these feelings and emotions.

Even my own feelings and emotions are difficult to explain and complicated to visualize.

When I used to attend therapy in person, I was instructed to conceptualize my thoughts and feelings into very simple art projects.

I was able to engage in drawing, painting, and other practices that assist in order to unlock emotions and translate them into something real.

It helps people share bits and pieces of their experiences and is much better for handling stress and other negative emotions.

Art therapy, much like other forms of treatment, is not a cure-all and may not be the right approach for everybody. However, it is compatible with other traditional therapies.

As compared to other mental health regimens, there is still a long way to go for art therapy to be recognized as a world-wide course of treatment, but it is off to a great start.

Engaging in therapy, whatever form it may be, is a quest to understand what kind of person you are and want to become.

Experiment with art therapy to find a sense of control within the chaos and ground yourself with self-compassion and mindfulness.

It is completely worth it.


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