Art and the Pandemic: Why It’s Good For Your Mental Health


We’re approaching month ten since the World Health Organization declared the Coronavirus a global pandemic

There’s been a spike in searches for soft cotton jammies and loungewear, skincare [over makeup], plants, bread recipes, art supplies and more, and while the initial surge in interest and demand has waned, demand for these products remain on the up and up this year. 

As we mentioned in an article unpacking the relationship between our gut, brain, and skin health, every thing and act is interconnected; ergo, every thing and action contribute to the state of our holistic wellness. Besides the fact that many of us have suddenly found ourselves with more time on the weekends, there is a psychological basis to why more people were searching for their paint brushes and drawing pads. 

The Mental Health Benefits of Art 

There is a pathos and logos appeal to coloring and making art at any age.

Two areas of our cerebral hemispheres are primarily impacted by art making:

the cerebral cortex, the area of the brain responsible for our vision and fine motor skills and the amygdala, the almond-shaped area of the brain responsible for our emotional processing [also responsible for the habits and the automatic emotional and mental responses and models we form].

Art making is positively linked with improving social and verbal skills, and our ability to focus, and the sensorial nature of art when used as therapy is conducive to both cognitive or psychological retraining or improvement. Art also helps moderate the effects of your emotions, and engaging in the practice of art for even a brief amount of time can significantly reduce one’s level of stress and psychological distress.

Imagine you are stressed & distressed.

Stress is often expressed and reflected through statements such as “I feel tense”, “I’m worried,” or “I’m restless”; It manifests itself physically in the body from acne breakouts and psoriasis (red, itchy, scaly patches) to neck and chest pain. 

When you feel stressed, this immediately arouses the brain which then triggers hyperactivity in the amygdala, which subsequently triggers a stress response in your entire being. Your body activates its self-protection mechanism for “fight or flight” and your brain (your body) releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline– great for protecting you in actual high-threat situations or launching you to greater heights in eustress situations, but harmful and self-destructive when activated from manageable stress. Art making or playing with colors effectively mitigate and slow down our stress response, and contributes to a positive state of wellbeing and health.

Case in point: In a 2016 study conducted by researchers at the University of New England, the effects of art-making were examined on its 57 undergraduate student participants.

The group participating in making art (coloring in a pre-made piece) were found to have significantly reduced anxiety levels after the session (quantified by the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, a commonly and clinically employed trait and state measuring tool for diagnosing anxiety) over the other.

How To Add Art Into Your Wellness Routine

Just start: Making art can be as simple as coloring in a pre-drawn piece and/or with no outline or plan at all. 

Get into and plan a regular rhythm: Pencil in a session with pen and paper like you’re penciling in time to go to the gym.

Adult Coloring Resources

ATEM Art Meditations: Coloring & Drawing Templates to Download and Print

Fantastic Cities: A Coloring Book of Amazing Places Real and Imagined (Adult Coloring Books, City Coloring Books, Coloring Books for Adults)

New Belgium: Adult Coloring Book

Sources:

Dorn, M., Im., S, Lee, T. (2020). http://atemlife.com/martha-dorn-executive-director-of-the-art-therapy-project-on-covid-19s-impact-on-mental-health-programs-art-therapy-and-social-imp

Melinda J. Emery (2004) Art Therapy as an Intervention for Autism. Lake Forest, CA: Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association.

Spielberger, C. D., Gorsuch, R. L., Lushene, R., Vagg, P. R., & Jacobs, G. A. (1983). Manual for the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.

By Susan Yoomin Im

We at ATEM pay so much intention and attention to not just the design of our skincare formulations, but in the packaging design and the way we evolve as a brand in our visual identity. Our staunch belief in the therapeutic benefits of art leads us to move and act as a brand and business that approaches the development and making of consumer personal care goods from a holistic angle so that we can maximize the way in which we impact and uplift the wellbeing of our ATEM community.

What is art therapy?

Art therapy is defined as using the creative process of art in combination with talk therapy to address emotional, behavioral, or situational issues and express or feel feelings that are difficult to verbalize or process is referenced in clinical practices and academics domains as “art therapy”. To learn more, check out our wellness feature with Martha Dorn, the Executive Director of NYC’s leading art therapy non-profit, The Art Therapy Project

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *