5 ways creative arts promotes health and longevity
February 27, 2018
Written By Lauren Glendenning
Brought to you by Breckenridge Creative Arts
Have you ever let wet clay run through your fingers in a pottery class and felt its silky texture soothe your soul and calm your mind?
Or, maybe you've experienced a stressful day but found relief and release through painting, writing, photography or music.
Dozens of studies on the relationship between creative arts and health show the mind's ability to heal itself when stimulated. When we let our creative juices flow, there are countless other positive effects that happen in our minds and bodies.
"Aside from providing therapeutic benefits, the creative arts also provide a range of cognitive benefits including retrieving information from memory, problem solving, communication, and focus," said Becca Spiro, director of Learning and Engagement at Breckenridge Creative Arts.
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A 2010 review in The American Journal of Public Health, "The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature,"
looked at numerous scientific studies on the health effects of music engagement, visual arts therapy, movement-based creative expression and expressive writing. The results make a case for creativity's relationship on our health as we age.
The review indicates that creative engagement can decrease anxiety, stress and mood disturbance. It also states that creative engagement contributes to many aspects of physiological and psychological conditions typically associated with good health.
"Through creativity and imagination, we find our identity and our reservoir of healing," the review said. "The more we understand the relationship between creative expression and healing, the more we will discover the healing power of the arts."
Here are some of the ways these healing powers are being experienced at Breckenridge Creative Arts.
Creativity stimulates the mind and increases brain function. One study by the Mayo Clinic showed that middle-aged and elderly people who engaged in activities such as painting, sculpting, ceramics, sewing and other crafts could preserve their memories and reduce their risk of dementia.
"The aspiring metalsmith is required to remember the steps involved in the creation of a precious pendant. The advanced painting student may struggle to form a cohesive composition," Spiro said. "The young writer knows that verbalizing and sharing his ideas is crucial in the formation of his story, and the potter must concentrate on centering her clay, thereby eliminating all distracting factors."
Creativity through physical processes such as carving a woodblock or completing a ceramic project can alleviate stress and build confidence, Spiro said.
"A stimulating art exhibition provokes thoughtful conversation, fostering friendship and creativity," she added.
The American Journal of Public Health review of various creative expressions showed that the movement of mind and body in a creative way can lead to the relief of stress and anxiety, as well as other health benefits. Poetry, for example, can offer self-expression not otherwise possible through everyday words.
Art helps people express experiences that are too difficult to put into words, such as a diagnosis of cancer, according to the review. It goes on to say that "there are no limits to the imagination in finding creative ways of expressing grief."
Logic, reasoning and resilience
Logic and reasoning are benefits not commonly associated with the arts, Spiro said. One example might be a person's experience while viewing contemporary art and coming to their own conclusions about that art with limited information.
Upon learning a new skill — whether it is sewing or glassblowing — we are bound to make mistakes, Spiro said. It's the growth we achieve in overcoming those mistakes that leads to resilience.
"We may even fail, but we learn that we can start over, and that's OK," she said.
Sense of adventure
Breckenridge Creative Arts participants often sign up for a class to meet new people or to learn a new skill, but the most valuable feedback comes from patrons who have ventured outside of their comfort zones in the studios.
"These people leave campus with a new self-confidence, energy, and sense of adventure," Spiro said.
Aging adults with strong social networks can lower disease risk, lower blood pressure and increase immune system functioning, according to a study of social relationships in PLoS Medicine that says social support can increase long-term survival by about 50 percent.
Creative classes such as those at Breckenridge Creative Arts have the ability to not only stimulate minds toward optimal physical health, but they bring the community together in a relaxed environment.
"We recently started a series called 'Date Night,' a program offered to people interested in combining a social event with a creative experience," Spiro said. "By participating in a hands-on activity in an informal setting, we hope that patrons feel relaxed and unconcerned about making a final product."
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