4 ways in which the creative arts can improve our mental health and well-being

We experience a sense of unexpected joy when we color a repetitive pattern or repurpose old cans into decorative pencil holders. In giving new meaning to forgotten objects or bringing to life the outline of a mandala design, we are able to restore an internal imbalance of emotions. So it won’t come as a surprise when studies show that creating art releases serotonin or a mood stabilizer. This is often associated with better appetite and sleep- both of which are often helpful in combating anxiety, depression, burnout from work and stress among other mental health issues.  

Another example from our daily lives could be turning to exercise or movement, especially during a time when we have all been forced to become homebodies. Staying indoors, sitting in the same position, performing the same task– often sitting in front of a screen– has become monotonous and dull. 

Given the health risks of letting children outdoors during the pandemic, they are subject to far more supervision than before from their parents and elders.. They are home with limited ways to entertain themselves. They also often have to rely on their parents to access things on the internet or need their help with complex projects like cooking, building models or engaging in garden for instance. This means a lack of agency in their lives which they would otherwise have more of if they were attending school in person and socialising with peers their age. 

Whether it’s listening to music, watching a movie, knitting sweaters or learning how to make candles, engaging with art has been everyone’s go-to for self soothing. Movies, music, podcasts are all examples of things that come about when someone engages in creative activities. Art has the ability to transcend physical boundaries and open up a whole new world where imagination can run wild. We’ve included different creative arts and how they can improve children’s mental health and overall well-being.

  1. Develop a sense of psychological well-being through creative writing

Starting with an activity as simple as creative writing can do wonders. According to a study by Laura King–by asking undergraduates to write about positive experiences and imagining their best self through writing– they felt an increased sense of well-being in the long term. Taking some time to practise creative writing could help your angsty teenager learn more about their identity and develop a sense of self. Creative writing could also serve as a grounding activity that helps them better understand their desires and pay more attention to things that bring them joy. 

 2. Stimulate your child’s brain with dance and other movement practices

Engaging in dance or other movement-oriented activities can another be a great mood booster. After spending hours in front of a screen sitting still for the most part can dull one’s senses. But experiencing music through movement can stimulate your child’s brain and lead to endorphins being released into their system. These endorphins prevent the effects of stress and anxiety that come from external factors beyond a child’s control. A study by Sungwoon Kim and Jingu Kim looked at the mood of various Korean high school and undergraduate students before and after engaging in aerobics and hip-hop dance. They found lower levels of psychological stress and fatigue in these students after they had engaged in these activities. 

3. Improves self-esteem and a sense of achievement 

Finishing art projects that are enjoyable to do can give children a feeling of accomplishment. This in turn improves their self-esteem when all their hard work culminates into a painting or project that can be displayed. Even the act of appreciating their efforts as parents contribute to an increased sense of self-worth. Art projects don’t have to be limited to painting or sketching. It could also include knitting, sewing, photography, or even gardening. Pick any activity that engages their hands, body and mind.

4. It can help build resilience and strengthen their ability to bounce back from a bad mood 

There is no failing or doing poorly in art. You can make as many mistakes as you like and they can turn out to be beautiful drawings and wonderful creative experiments. By looking at abstract shapes, giving colors meaning and putting them together into a project can activate your child’s imagination. Multiple studies have shown that in addition to improved self-esteem, self-confidence and relationship building skills, children also feel a sense of belonging. In a time when they are so often isolated from their friends and growing largely within their home, art brings color and a sense of awe from a new place outside of our cramped surroundings. 

All of the abovementioned skills and changes are not mutually exclusive. It’s a combination of them that will improve your child’s well-being in the long-term. So you could start now with something as simple as drawing or writing short stories. 

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