From a scientific research point of view, a recently published study in 2016* proposed that adults may experience a measurable reduction in their cortisol levels after a 45-minute art session. The participants were asked to make art of any type and their saliva was tested before and after to evaluate cortisol levels. The results: nearly 75% of the participants had lower cortisol levels after art making than at the start of the session.
Other findings suggest that art therapy is a preventive measure for a person to understand stress situations and to be capable to manage their anxiety, react adequately and to cope with stress, thus improving the quality of life by creative means.
It is hoped that the latest research in this area will inspire additional studies, identifying the distinct role of art therapy in facilitating health, including stress reduction and physiological measures of well-being.
It is a common sight to see adult colouring-in books available for sale today - but there is much more to art therapy than simply colouring in intricate designs.
Art therapy focuses on the process rather than the final form of what is created. How a person feels while making the art, helping them to cope with difficulties and stress and even speeding up recovery processes is the main objective.
An art therapist can work with people of all ages and backgrounds, giving them a voice to experiences and feelings not easily expressed in words or solve problems by looking with a creative perspective.
Benefits of art therapy can be as simple as helping clients to relax and reduce stress, develop self-awareness and self-esteem or develop social skills. Or they can be more complex such as managing behaviours, symptoms and emotional issues of other more serious ailments. Engaging in creativity in this way can aid recovery as it helps them to focus, relax and express themselves.
Robbi Wymer, a Sydney based Art Therapist says "Research has been conducted into art therapy and the effects it has on lowering high stress levels and the development of burn out with positive results. Findings suggest that art therapy is a preventive measure for a person to understand stressful situations, be better able to manage their anxiety and react appropriately to cope with stress. Stress is a normal part of life, however when levels are too high and seem to be never ending, then mental health issues increase as well."
"This is where art therapy can offer a creative intervention to encourage healthier habits. It's about taking time out and turning your creative brain on, being in a calm supportive space, using a mindful practise of focussing your attention on the creative moment and using your hands to make something. With specific art activities your adrenaline levels and breathing rates will decrease giving your brain the space to make better decisions, make less mistakes and foster supportive relationships."
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*References: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/arts-and-health/201606/art-making-and-stress-reduction Art therapy for mental health recovery https://www.anzata.org/