Making art may help relieve stress and anxiety

As the weather gets colder, you might be spending more time nesting at home. In addition, the holiday season may bring new or returning stress, especially in an ongoing pandemic.

One way to help pass the time — and help relieve those anxieties — could be reaping the benefits of a new creative outlet. Art allows us to express feelings and thoughts in a non-verbal way, which has led clinicians and researchers to study the positive effects it may have on our overall well-being. And although the research is ongoing, particularly as we understand more about how the brain works, studies have shown that art can be part of a healthy lifestyle.

Here are a few ways that practicing art has shown to be more than just a fun diversion:

Helping with anxiety

Scientists have discovered that art therapy may help individuals with emotional control and executive functioning. Art can be a way to express yourself and work through some of the feelings you may be having, which can help reduce anxiety and symptoms of depression.

Reducing stress

Art therapy may also reduce levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, by allowing a person to focus on the task at hand and free themselves of constraints. According to one study, when cortisol levels were taken before and after participants engaged in 45 minutes of creating art, 75% of those participating had reduced levels of cortisol.

Helping improve quality of life

In those with dementia or other neurological diseases, art may have therapeutic and instrumental effects on a patient’s well-being. Art therapy may help with self-expression for the person with dementia, as well as their caregiver, and can help create a feeling of purpose and accomplishment. 

Meditating colorfully

The recent popularity of adult coloring books has shown that people are interested in finding ways to bring art into their everyday lives, while helping to reduce anxiety and improve mood. Adult coloring books have been compared to a meditative exercise, forcing yourself to be present in the moment, while relaxing your brain. These coloring books also have a low barrier to entry and can be a great introduction to exploring the benefits of creativity.

Creativity has remained a constant in how we see ourselves as people, especially in times of adversity. The best thing about making art — and one of the points that’s most misunderstood — is that it isn’t a skill, but rather, a process. One you can benefit from all year round.  

Sign up to get the latest news from the UnitedHealthcare Newsroom