Saturday, July 4, 2020

Art Changes Your Brain! Coping with Stress in our new pandemic world.

Have you ever noticed how energized you feel after making art?  While at the same time being relaxed and calm, there is an excitement underneath?

And, in these times, the "new normal" as everyone is calling it,  we need energy to adapt to our new way of life and also calmness to cope with the many anxieties.

Other countries are going back to the "before"...but we are surging ahead with the need to be separate from each other.
Socializing (except within the bubble) is probably going to be a thing of the past. can we make this work for us?  How can we actually GAIN from this rather than lamenting what we have lost?

The question is:
Can we use art to learn to be less stressed?

Instead of going back to our old ways, can we actually gain from spending more time making art and less time running around town, shopping, socializing, see the latest shows, attending lectures and concerts and dances...?
Surfing around the 'net, I came across a fascinating article that was published in 2014 by Bolwerk et al called How Art Changes Your Brain: Differential Effects of Visual Art Production and Cognitive Art Evaluation on Functional Brain Connectivity. 

In the Introduction, they point out that research has largely focussed on the  psychological and physiological effects of making art in clinical populations i.e. the basis for art therapy in psychiatric hospitals.

Making art has consistently been shown to help to reduce stress, increase thoughtfulness and miindfulness, and also to help to bring heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels towards normal.

It's not known, however, if these effects are lasting...can art affect the functional neuroanatomy of the healthy human brain.  also does this work for everyone as well as for people in hospital.

So this is what they set out to study.  It is clear that art is 
 a powerful resource for mental and physical well-being, but there's very little known about 
the underlying effects at a neural level.

 They took 28 normal people of retirement age and divided them into two groups.  The control group attended art appreciation lessons in a local museum.  (not sure where this was, but the authors names suggest Holland or Belgium).
The experimental group attended art lessons where they were encouraged to make art.
The study lasted 10 weeks with the subjects going once a week to museum or art class.

Before and after the experience, they were given various cognitive tests and MRIs.
Both the tests and the MRIs showed that the subjects who actually made art demonstrated great ability to cope with physical and psychological stress.

By the way, I also found that another strategy for stress reduction is engaging with you can see from the images I've posted...I've been walking in the woods AND making art!!!

Just some thoughts.....and, if you have been, thanks for reading!
Please comment!!!   Elizabeth

PS do check out other fiberart blogs:     and then - go make art!


Molly said...

I actually have two personal affirmations that this study is true. My son, who has never shown any artistic inclination in his life, has recently began to study watercolor as a stress relief. Now that he's working from home, he says he can take a break whenever things start getting to him just to 'draw a purty pitcher.'

Me, OTOH, who is a creative - my sewing machine and stash have been packed away for months while we put the house on the market and getting ready to move. My stress level has caused a gout flare-up, a 3-day nap due to exhaustion, and various other maladies. We've moved now, and my studio is only half unpacked. Your blog is most timely. Guess what today's project will be?

Teresita said...

Thank you! So soothing !

Elizabeth Barton said...

Thank you Molly and Teresita for your comments.
I'm so glad that you found the blog relevant!
And I hope your son continues with his purty pitchers!!!!!
we need them.
And good luck with your projects for you both...I'm definitely heading down to the basement (aka studio!) to both paint and sew...I tend to alternate!
all the best....making art will help us get through...Elizabeth