Studies Show Creating Art is an Effective Way to Reduce Stress

 

When you get stressed out, have you ever felt the urge to write, draw or paint? Perhaps you find old episodes of "The Joy of Painting" with Bob Ross to be especially soothing.  

There’s a reason for this—numerous scientific studies over the years have concluded that creating art is a highly effective means of reducing stress.

One study focused on the stress-reducing effects of art in a pediatric setting. Researchers wanted to analyze the therapeutic benefits of art for children, both in a healthcare setting and in their everyday lives. The result not only found that art was indeed therapeutic for the children in the study (between the ages of 5-17), but also that certain types of art images tended to have more stress-reducing effects than others.

Another study from West Chester University in Pennsylvania focused on the physiological effects of the arts on children living in high-stress environments. Researchers analyzed cortisol levels in the children at the beginning of the study and end of the study. Cortisol is one of the body’s natural stress indicators. The higher the cortisol level, the more stress you are likely to be experiencing.

During the study, the children were placed in daily arts programming. Upon completion, researchers concluded cortisol levels in the children were lowered, and lower than children who did not have regular arts programming in their everyday routines.

 

Benefits that translate to the classroom and beyond

The results of these studies and many others of their ilk demonstrate just how important it is for the arts to have a consistent place in children’s education, both during the regular school day and in after school programs. Young children have lower stress tolerance thresholds than adults, so this time reserved for creativity can be extremely beneficial for them.

Art can serve as a distraction, allowing kids to take their mind off of what’s stressing them out in their everyday lives, whether it’s struggles in a particular subject or difficulties in their home lives. Having built-in time to clear their heads and exercise their creativity will make it easier for them to regain their focus for the rest of the school day.

Art can also have many of the same benefits as meditation. A person who is engaged in some form of art can find themselves so fully engaged in it that they get into a “flow,” or a near-meditative state. Meditation and mindfulness exercises are commonly recommended for people who deal with regular stress, so it’s easy to make the connection to involvement in art and the arts as a whole.

So while art might not show up in standardized testing, it certainly has plenty of benefits that can help a child both in a classroom and in his or her life outside of school!

Joshua Chernikoff