Creative Arts Wellness is the consistent use of a creative art such as painting, music or dance to promote psychological, physical, and emotional health.
Stress has been steadily increasing in Western societies over the past several decades. Illness due to psychological pressure has been increasing in tandem. Depression, obesity, drug abuse, and workaholism are rampant. In addition, technological advances are leaving us disconnected and loneliness is pervasive. Unfortunately, Western cultures are ill equipped to manage these increasing pressures.
To manage the effects of stress, focus has been primarily on the physical, as people reach for pills or join a gym. However, these solutions provide only temporary relief as they do not address the underlying issues. More and more, people are beginning to look for other avenues to promote well being. Creative arts wellness provides a relief and a connection that people crave on a very deep level. It’s an element of coming home. When people express their true selves, they are able to connect to something truly essential, something magical that is lost in the shuffle of daily life.
By creating music, painting a picture, or moving in a new way, creative arts wellness participants are able to bring a part of themselves out into the world and to experience the world in different way, permitting the over-used hyper-critical part of the brain to relax. This shift in consciousness provides significant relief, allowing the emotional and physical bodies to heal. The results are generally quite profound with participants expressing deep satisfaction.
Participation in any form of creative arts has multiple positive benefits. Research in the last decade has shown that creative expression is an effective tool for creating wellness.
- Drumming reduces anxiety and depression, improves social resilience and inflammatory immune response. – Fancourt, Perkins et al, Plos One Journal, 2016
- Visual Arts improve psychological well being and social functioning, reduce symptoms of physical and emotional stress and increase positive emotions. Stuckey and Nobel, 2010, American Journal of Public Health
- Dancing increases neural pathways and reduces the risk of dementia by 76%. Verghese, New England Journal of Medicine
- Expressive Writing improves control over pain, depressed mood, and pain severity. Stuckey and Nobel, 2010, American Journal of Public Health
- Combined Creative Arts – decreases anxiety, stress, and mood disturbances, and improves psychological and physical well-being and quality of life. Stuckey and Nobel, 2010, American Journal of Public Health
Any creative activity can be used for wellness, provided it is used on an ongoing and consistent basis. However, when creative arts are done in a group, the experience is doubly potent. Group participation allows an individual to connect to something larger than themself.
This connection is extremely healing to the psyche. Feeling safe and seen in a group undergirds an individual’s basic need for acceptance and participants leave the creative group activity feeling not only more relaxed and healthier, but also more secure and self-confident.
Who Benefits from Creative Arts Wellness?
Many different groups and individuals benefit from creative arts wellness. Here is a small sampling of the different groups we work with:
- Corporations – To combat workplace stress, managers often create wellness programs which incorporate creative arts activities. Employees gather after work or on a mid-day break to make art, drum or stretch their bodies. The highly-satisfying break in the day stimulates creative thinking and increases productivity. Employees show higher loyalty, job satisfaction and fewer missed work days and report feeling more positive about their work and employers.
- Veterans – Returning veterans meet regularly to make music together, create art, and to write about their experiences. Special movement classes have been created specifically for veterans. And special spaces created for their use, which accommodate their needs. All of the creative arts activities provide the opportunity for veterans to process their experiences. Veterans report feeling more connected to society and each other as a result of creative arts wellness.
- Senior Centers – Seniors gather to share stories, make music, art and dance. Continuing to create not only brings back memories, but helps seniors feel connected and current. All creative arts activities for seniors are designed to take their physical challenges and needs into consideration. Because group creative arts activities are interactive, their brains are stimulated and memories activated. Seniors report feeling happy, engaged and satisfied.
- Chronically Ill – Patients with long-term illnesses gather to create collages, write and sing together. Not only are they able to express what they are going through, they are able to connect with their peers more deeply. Participants are often surprised at the high-quality of their art work. Not only are their spirits lifted, but their physical symptoms improve.
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