Give a group of stressed-out adults some coloured markers and sheets of paper. Leave them in a room for 45 minutes. What do you think happens? Let’s start with the fact that the stress hormone cortisol is decreased by up to 75%!
No, this is definitely not kids’ stuff. Art activities have the power to wipe out stress and make you feel calmer.
I can’t even draw a stick figure.
It’s ok if you’re not DaVinci! The 2016 study found that dramatic decreases in stress hormone happened irrespective of a person’s actual creative ability or art experience. When people have the chance to express themselves creatively, it doesn’t matter their skill. Artistic expression invites us to lose ourselves in the moment. We use our imaginations which, despite what your third-grade teacher told you, is an incredibly positive and productive practice. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls this “The Flow State” and says that it is the “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.”
Can I knit instead?
If markers are not your preferred medium, try any creative expression that speaks to you. The same benefits of the creative flow can be found in painting, pottery, writing, music, dance, sculpting, sewing, and the list goes on. You can be sure that your brain will get a healthy dose of positivity from a surge of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. So, dust off that old guitar in the back of your closet. Pull that paint set out from the drawer. Sign up for that sewing class. By losing yourself in the creative flow, you may find yourself better at handling stress!
Kaimal, G., Ray, K., & Muniz, J. (2016). Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants’ Responses Following Art Making. Art Therapy, 33(2), 74-80.doi: 10.1080/07421656.2016.1166832 Warren, S. (2006).
An exploration of the relevance of the concept of “flow” in art therapy. International Journal Of Art Therapy, 11(2), 102-110.doi: 10.1080/17454830600980358