Health Benefits of Creative Arts

Reasons to Dance, Paint, Sing or Write

The Basics

WHAT: Summary of various studies on how creative arts/activities benefit our mind and body health.

SOURCE: US National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health. Am J Public Health, 2010, “The Connection Between Art, Healing and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature”, Heather L. Stuckey and Jeremy Nobel

GREAT FOR: Stress-Relief, Anxiety-Relief, Mood Elevation, Feeling Happier, Body Health, Mental Health


Perhaps you are doing this already, dancing, painting or singing your stress away. Even if this is not your go to relaxation technique, our guess is that being relaxed, light and happy is what you feel after some time spend indulged in a creative activity. Right?

Creative arts have been used in many medical therapies and studies indicate that they can decrease anxiety, stress, and mood disturbances. Engagement with creative activities has the potential to contribute toward reducing stress and depression and can serve as a vehicle for alleviating the burden of chronic disease.

You can enhance one’s moods, emotions, and other psychological states from as little as observing the creative efforts of others or as an initiator of one’s own creative efforts.

You do not have to be an artist, neither have any specific talent or knowledge to benefit. Your health will be positively influenced even when you just watch or listen to the creative acts. You can enhance one’s moods, emotions, and other psychological states from as little as observing the creative efforts of others or go for a deeper experience as an initiator of one’s own creative efforts.

Which of the creative arts carry so much of the wonderful healing?

Four Primary Creative Arts Therapies Emerged

Music Engagement

Its therapeutical influence on human mind happens not only when you compose or play music but also when you simply listen to the sound tracks. Relaxation is perhaps one benefit we all experienced at least a few times when enjoying our favourite songs.

Looking closer at the effectiveness of the music therapy, studies show much more health benefits we get:

  • Decreased anxiety (music can calm neural activity in the brain)
  • Help in restoring emotional balance
  • Help in control over pain (there is evidence of the effectiveness of auditory stimulation, together with a strong suggestion that such stimulation abolishes pain). This can help with managing headaches which often are link with stress.
  • Help in restoring effective functioning in the immune system
  • Improved apical heart rates
  • Contribution to healing in coronary artery disease through reductions in heart rate, respiratory rate, myocardial oxygen demand and anxiety (all after only 20 minutes of relaxing music)
  • Increase of well-being and relaxation and decrease of tension (during the listening experience)
  • Decrease of serum cortisol levels (while listening to music or improvising)

Visual Arts

How do you feel after visiting a gallery, molding a new shape, painting or drawing whatever you feel? Art helps people express experiences that are too difficult to put into words. It can be a refuge from the intense emotions, especially when dealing with illness.

The healing power of visual arts lies in its ability to help people express feelings which may be hard to talk about and even surpressed or denied. Molding clay in particular can be an effective tool in emotional self-expression, through tactile involvement at a somatic level. Some other visual arts improving well-being are textiles, card making, collage, pottery, watercolor and acrylics.

Perhaps one of the most convincing evidences showing healing impact of the arts therapy comes from the study made on people with cancer. Here are observed benefits:

  • Distracted thoughts of illness
  • Improvements in flow and spontaneity
  • Decreased negative emotions and increased positive ones which led to improved well-being
  • Trends towards reduced depressions and hemodialysis prameters
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Reductions in symptoms of compassion fatigue
  • Increased sense of purpose
  • Improved focus on positive life experiences, self-worth and social identity

Movement-Based Creative Expression

A growing interest in dance and movement has accompanied recognition of the mind and body benefits of motor activity. The movement of mind and body in a creative way is often used as a psychotherapeutic or healing tool.

Dance, dance, dance and then dance some more….Here are the health benefits of any movement based expression found in various studies:

  • Release of stress and anxiety (all forms)
  • Improvements in physical symptoms and ambulation (tai chi)
  • Improvements in cognitive and psychological measures (theatre training)
  • Improved quality of life (all forms)
  • Improved body image (tai chi)
  • Expanding consciousness at midlife; meaning found in relationships with others, the self and spirit; meaning found in challenges of loss and illness
  • Supported self-awareness (any creative movement)
  • More of the conscious activities like: choosing, balancing, accepting and letting go
  • Improvements in elderly people: word and listening recall, problem solving, self-esteem, and psychological well-being (theatre classes)

Expressive writing

Studies have shown that people who have written about their own traumatic experiences exhibit statistically significant improvements in their physical health, such us less medical visits and better functioning immune system.

Expressive writing forms are vary and do not require a talent. You can write a very bad poetry and still enjoy wonderful health benefits. Finding one’s voice via poetic means can be a healing process because it opens up the opportunity for self-expression not otherwise felt through everyday words. Expressive writing through journaling is another way to access the unconscious self, awaken creativity, spiritual awareness and expansion of the self.

Here are a few proven ways of increased health and wellness through writing:

  • Improved anger expression in control over pain, depressed mood and severe pain
  • Less interpersonal distress in psychological wellbeing, pain and fatigue
  • Immediate improvements in negative mood
  • Improved control over pain (thanks to expressive writing), depressed mood, and pain severity
  • Significantly improved control over chronic pain and depression through anger-expressing writing
  • Helps to identify and work through feelings (journaling and poetry)
  • Improved relationships (journaling)

There you have it…Creative art goes way beyond helping us to relax and sleep better. Health benefits for the mind, body and for the soul are so many that is almost a crime against ones self when we do nothing creative at all. What was that you liked creating as a child? Perhaps it is time to reconnect with the dance, writing a journal, have a go with a poem or get dirty and colourful with the paint. It is the joyful kind of healing with no side effects.

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