Increased dopamine levels have been shown in patients while sketching. When dopamine is released, it establishes the feeling of happiness in the body. This leads to the conclusion that people with creative outlets are more prone to increased dopamine levels and thus experience more positive feelings on a daily basis than non-artists. In a Very Well Mind article, Elizabeth Scott wrote “Many people who are artistically inclined say that the creation of their art is a wonderful stress reliever.” When the research is connected with first-hand accounts of self-expression, the importance of how the work is done or how it looks appears to diminish in contrast with personal creativity. Even doodling for fun can release stress from your day, as it doesn’t matter what is created specifically: it is all about how it makes the artist feel after expressing themselves on the canvas.
Art therapy is one of the many well-known techniques for stress relieving. It is a relaxing way for individuals to express how they are feeling through mediums and colors. Scientists have seen improvements in mental health as someone is using a creative outlet. According to a Sage Neuroscience article, the benefits of art therapy include self-awareness, emotion processing, and release, and building self-confidence. These positive ramifications occur as art therapy impacts the brain wave patterns, emotional experiences, and nervous system throughout the process of creating art. In an article from American Congress Rehabilitation Medicine (ACRM) , neuroscience research indicates that “these benefits don’t just come from making art, they also occur by experiencing art.”
Many art therapy classes are used for rehabilitation centers to help others through trauma and stress. Using an artistic outlet can reduce cortisol, a steroid hormone that produces stress and is made by adrenal glands. When cortisol is limited through creative expression, the body can more readily decrease stress and tension, maintain regular blood sugar, and fight infections. Without art therapy or other forms of creativity, stress can cause chest pain, headaches, high blood pressure, and more unpleasant or even dangerous impacts. The expressiveness of art can also establish a strong connection with oneself and the outside world, reducing excess stress and constructing balance within the body.
Many people do not believe that art is a stress-relieving activity, and this may be due to individuals feeling insecure about a perceived lack of the “creative mindset” they deem necessary for meaningful creation. Their limiting beliefs can include thinking that art is only for “right-brained” people when in actuality art can be performed and executed in many unique ways, such as theater, art classes, photography, videography, or even creating one’s own style of art for no reason other than personal pleasure.
Prioritizing mental health gives people the ability to create a more balanced life, and the primary way to commit to less stress is art therapy. Doodling and sketching for fun, or using paint or pastels to express emotions on paper, can help decrease stress levels. In my own life, I use art as a way to express complex feelings in a deeply personal way. Art therapy is an ancient form of self-expression and will continue to help individuals to work through stressful times, in the present and beyond.