In a world that is constantly demanding through work, school, internships, family or friends, I find it hard to separate myself from the fast paced world we live in. When I do have free time, I get sucked into the virtual world of social media.
Many painters find that painting is a type of sanctuary in our fast-paced lives.
Leonardo da Vinci said that creating art helps you “see” by concentrating on detail and the environment.
Painting embraces all the ten functions of the eye; that is to say, darkness, light, body and color, shape and location, distance and closeness, motion and rest.
Last summer, my friend came to my place and suggested we paint. I hadn’t painted in months, so I had forgotten the feeling painting instills.
We decided to paint goldfish. As I started my goldfish painting with wide brush strokes, I suddenly felt relieved from what had been worrying me that day: my brother’s diagnosis of pneumonia, LSATs and my hectic drive in LA traffic the next day. I felt like I could finally breathe again. The best part is, you don’t have to be Picasso to experience the psychological benefits of painting:
- Communication: Art helps us communicate on a universal level and benefits those with problems in communication and expression.
Self-esteem: Studies have shown that art boosts self-esteem, especially in kids. As a child, I’ve experienced this through positive feedback from my teachers and parents. In addition, hanging your latest work of art on the wall can instill you with the same feeling. From personal experience, I know my overall confidence increased when my mother hung my paintings in the house. Higher self-esteem is important, as studies have shown that those with healthier self-esteem levels are less prone to illness.
- Mobility: Painting helps strengthen fine motor skills, as is used to help the elderly, because holding a brush and/or pencil stimulates brain connections by regulating hand movements.
- Therapy: Art helps ease pain and stress, improves depression and fatigue in cancer patients on chemotherapy, and helps prevent burnout in caregivers. It’s also been used to help prepare children for painful medical procedures and improve the speech of children with cerebral palsy. Megan Robb, a certified art therapist at NIH’s Clinical Center, said the act of drawing or painting is “an active involvement in your own healing.”
When traumatic memories are stored in the brain, they’re not stored as words but as images. Art therapy is uniquely suited to access these memories.
Painting and drawing is helpful during the growth and development stages of children as well as in adulthood. Dr. Arnold Bresky’s “Brain Tune Up” program with Alzheimer and dementia patients has shown that drawing and painting strengthens connections between the right and left hemispheres of the brain and increases growth of new brain cells. Painting also boosts imagination and strengthens memories in Alzheimer patients.
This video shows real-life examples of how art is used as therapy. Particularly moving is the story of a Marine with PTSD. To him, art wasn’t just means to express pain, but to lift its heavy burden when no other medium could.
Creating art isn’t solely for artists; it’s for everyone. Each of us has a spark of creativity. Maybe you’ve considered drawing or painting and never had the time, but now that you know all the benefits artistic pursuits can provide, it’s time to explore your artsy side.