Feeling Artsy? Here's How Making Art Helps Your Brain
Featured on npr.org
A lot of my free time is spent doodling. I'm a journalist on NPR's science desk by day. But all the time in between, I am an artist — specifically, a cartoonist.
I draw in between tasks. I sketch at the coffee shop before work. And I like challenging myself to complete a zine — a little magazine — on my 20-minute bus commute.
I do these things partly because it's fun and entertaining. But I suspect there's something deeper going on. Because when I create, I feel like it clears my head. It helps me make sense of my emotions. And it somehow, it makes me feel calmer and more relaxed.
That made me wonder: What is going on in my brain when I draw? Why does it feel so nice? And how can I get other people — even if they don't consider themselves artists — on the creativity train?
It turns out there's a lot happening in our minds and bodies when we make art.
"Creativity in and of itself is important for remaining healthy, remaining connected to yourself and connected to the world," says Christianne Strang, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Alabama Birmingham and the former president of the American Art Therapy Association.
This idea extends to any type of visual creative expression: drawing, painting, collaging, sculpting clay, writing poetry, cake decorating, knitting, scrapbooking — the sky's the limit.
"Anything that engages your creative mind — the ability to make connections between unrelated things and imagine new ways to communicate — is good for you," says Girija Kaimal. She is a professor at Drexel University and a researcher in art therapy, leading art sessions with members of the military suffering from traumatic brain injury and caregivers of cancer patients.
But she's a big believer that art is for everybody — and no matter what your skill level, it's something you should try to do on a regular basis. Here's why:
It helps you imagine a more hopeful future
Art's ability to flex our imaginations may be one of the reasons why we've been making art since we were cave-dwellers, says Kaimal. It might serve an evolutionary purpose. She has a theory that art-making helps us navigate problems that might arise in the future. She wrote about this in October in the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association.
Click here to read the full article.