Study Shows Creating Art Can Actually Reduce Stress—Even If You're Bad at It
World-renowned artists, poets, and musicians have long spoken of the therapeutic benefits of creating art. But as it turns out, you can still reap the psychological benefits of creativity without actually possessing any artistic ability.
According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, creating art—no matter what skill level you bring to the drawing board—can significantly lower stress hormone levels, providing a sort of mental escape from the stresses of modern life. The 39 study participants were simply instructed to create art—any art—in a lab for 45 minutes.
They were given modeling clay, paper, markers, and collage materials as mediums to choose from. The researchers tested each participant's levels of cortisol, the hormone released in the brain when undergoing stress, before and after the art session. Roughly 75% of participants experienced significant drops in cortisol by the end of the 45-minute session, a shift also reflected in their post-study written responses.
"Participants' written responses indicated that they found the art-making session to be relaxing, enjoyable, helpful for learning about new aspects of self, freeing from constraints, an evolving process of initial struggle to later resolution, and about flow/losing themselves in the work," said the researchers. "If taking a pen to paper, setting an hour aside to make a collage … or just jotting down some stream-of-consciousness prose can help offset most people's chronically elevated levels of stress hormones; even the simplest artistic endeavors hold merit."
Moral of the story? Don't let your perceived lack of artistic ability bar you from picking up a paintbrush or trying your hand at pottery making; your mind and body will thank you. Start making time for creativity today with our favorite adult coloring book: