The Benefits of Art as Therapy – Part Three

Posted on June 6, 2012

During the last weeks we discovered the awesomeness of art therapy (part one) and explored a number of ways it can help you be a better you (part two). Or me. (I mean me be a better me, not YOU be a better ME!?). Some of you may still have reservations. And not the kind you make for a restaurant dinner. Let’s address some of those concerns…

But I suck at art. Does this matter??

Heck no! In fact sometimes not knowing a single thing about ‘creative technique’ can be a blessing in disguise. People who aren’t ‘trained’ tend to do things more spontaneously – without spending hours fussing over a simple brush stroke (like some artists do). Sometimes the best parts of a drawing or painting or song come from mistakes. The decision of going with the flow and allowing yourself to make mistakes is what can take you in fantastic new directions.

The point of using art as a means of therapy, is not about how great an artist you are or aren’t – it is about enjoyment and how that benefits you.

“The object isn’t to make art; it’s to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable” — Robert Henri

 

This quote by the 19th Century American Artist Robert Henri, does a wonderful job of summarising the whole point of using art as therapy. It alludes to the fact that the final result/finished product is not the most important aspect of being creative; rather that it is the feeling you get from doing it.

I’m not sceptical, but I’d like to see some fancy diagrams and proof.

Sure. Well let me begin by name-dropping some people with important letters after their name, and show you some scientific things that will otherwise convince you. ;)

Professor of Neurobiology and Neuroaesthetics, Semir Zeki, from University College London, has found that viewing art triggers a surge of Dopamine, the body’s natural feel-good neurotransmitter, into the orbito-frontal cortex of the brain, resulting in feelings of intense pleasure.

While inside an MRI scanner, Study subjects were shown images of art on a screen – including works by Botticelli, Turner and Cézanne, and their brain activity was mapped.

“There have been very significant new advances in our understanding of what happens in our brains when we look at works of art,” explains Zeki. ‘We have recently found that when we look at things we consider to be beautiful, there is increased activity in the pleasure reward centres of the brain. Essentially, the feel-good centres are stimulated, similar to the states of love and desire.”

You can watch the video HERE

If that makes you scratch your head confusingly and ask “what the…?” then allow me to break it down for you. Essentially this study proves that looking at art stimulates the happy parts of your brain. See below.

If a person can get this excited merely ‘looking’ at art, imagine how AMAZING the act of ‘doing’ art can be?!

So what next?

So if you still have reservations (of the non-dining kind), it’s time to release yourself from holding back. The best way to do this? Dive in head first. Remember what it was like when you were a kid playing with things? Have fun. Try new things. Make it up as you go. Frolic with that same reckless abandon. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments. Don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect and finally, move from a state of fear to one of CREATIVITY and INSPIRATION!

HANDY TECH BABBLE:
If you’re an art therapist seeking tangible clinical research or a doubter wanting technical proof on the efficacy of Art Therapy, here is a link to a list of studies.
Also more recent studies for Alzheimer’s.
Cancer here  and here.
And Health & Depression here and here.