Health Benefits of Expressive Arts for wellness

Interested in reading more? If you are looking for research or just curious, we have a few resources that explain why we feel better (or at least different in some way) when we express creatively, we have a selection of articles, research and stories from people who have had profound experiences through self expression, expressive arts programs and creative self care practices.

Enjoy a few samples of Creative Self Care Practices…

A study proves that art making is good for your health, even if you’re not good at it….Read more



6 Creative Self Care Pratices

“…Below, Medford and Foster share the different ways we can use art to practice self-care. Click to read entire article.

1)Collage your emotions. Self-care includes acknowledging, honoring and holding space for our emotions. When Medford is stuck on a difficult emotion, she creates a collage about it using old magazines and found papers. She looks for images, colors and shapes that express how she’s feeling. It’s a quick and messy process. Which is the point: These collages “are more about processing the feeling than making ‘art.’”

2)Play with clay. “Clay is a very kinesthetic and grounding media that helps us feel in control when things are not so orderly in the ongoings of our lives,” Foster said. Crayola makes an air-dry clay, or you can get non-drying modeling clay and store it in an air-tight container, she said.

3)Draw your mood daily. Medford has a journal that contains pages with 2 x 2 inch squares. Every day she fills in one square expressing her mood that morning. “A big part of working through my anxiety is noticing how it feels in my body, and what images and colors it brings to mind,” Medford said. “Paying close attention to my experience, and drawing what I find, helps me to take some of the power away from the feelings and gives it back to me and my creativity.”

4)Look without looking. Draw a loved one, or something in your environment, such as a car or tree, without looking at your notebook, Foster said. Make your drawing realistic or make it weird or abstract. When you’re done, use pastels or watercolors to fill it in.

“This exercise helps us to let go of outcomes and become less attached. It might be uncomfortable at first but practice compassion for yourself and keep going.” After all, self-care is self-compassion.

5)Tell your story. Foster suggested creating an altered book. For instance, every day or once a week, you decorate the pages in any way you like. You might include important mementos or personal photos. “Over time the right story will come out—whether it’s your whole life story, or the story of your growth in the past year.”

6)Practice mindful drawing. Medford has recently started this series: She picks a photograph of a complex natural subject, such as a close-up of tree bark, and tries to draw the details as accurately as possible. She uses her own photos, or Googles what she wants to draw…..”

(sited online article. Click here to read entire article)



Three Evidence Based studies:

Benefits of Visual Arts in older adults… abstract link

Greer, Fleuriet, and Cantu (2013), using observation, surveys, self-reports and semistructured interviews, tested residents of a housing complex for fixed-income older adults who received free on-site painting lessons from a professional artist/teacher. Results indicated increased social engagement, sense of empowerment, and psychological health. No time requirements were imposed; participants attended as many sessions as health, desire, and conflicting engagements permitted.

Reynolds (2010) performed a qualitative study of 32 retired women who discussed their new-found interest in visual art, defined as painting, pottery, or textile art (weaving, quilting, embroidery for aesthetic, not practical purposes). Phenomenological analysis of the interviews (based on guidelines by Smith & Osborn, 2003) indicated that art engagement enriched participants’ mental lives, set new challenges, developed new skills, encouraged greater attention to nature, and preserved their identities. A recurrent theme was the sensuality of working with colors and textures.

Using a waiting-list design, Kim (2013) performed an RCT with 50 nondemented Korean-American older adults who had scored 26–30 on the MMSE. The experimental group participated in visual art sessions three times a week for 4 weeks. The sessions included a 10- to 15-min phase called “unfreezing” (no further explanation given), 30–40min of art making with materials of their choice (acrylic paints, drawing pencils, modeling clay, etc.), followed by group discussion, for a total time of 60–75min. The experimental group scored significantly better on standard outcome measures for anxiety, affect, and self-esteem. (As stated in the introduction, participants’ ages and the specific outcome measures for all reviewed studies are shown in Table 1).