Art is defined as a diverse range of activities that involve human expression or creativity and has several therapeutic and mental health benefits. Art can be produced concretely through drawing or painting, but can also be expressed with the human body through dance, drama, and martial arts. Several psychologists have seen benefits of using art therapy to explore one’s emotions and reduce anxiety and stress, especially in children and patients with a mental illness. Growing up, both of us actively engaged with several art forms, such as classical Indian dance, music and piano, painting, and martial arts that have helped our overall mental health both in childhood and adulthood.
Taekwondo is a Korean Martial Arts form that emphasizes the use of control of mind and body for self defense. Kareena has been performing Taekwondo for the last 12 years, and it has been a great way for her to not only stay active and explore a culture different from her own, but it has also taught her the values of integrity, discipline, and perseverance. Challenging herself physically and mentally through Taekwondo, Kareena has seen significant positive effects on her mood, self confidence, and overall mental health. Soumya has also engaged in many artistic pursuits of which she finds dance to be the most compelling. For the last 15 years, Soumya has been a Bharatanatyam, South Indian Classical Dance, artist and it has provided her with such a rewarding creative outlet to explore herself. In addition to helping her learn more about her culture and spirituality, the grit and determination that she has fostered through this ancient dance form has been unparalleled. Through her artistic journey, Soumya believes she has become a more confident, positive, and happier individual. In addition to Taekwondo and dance, both of us also enjoy drawing and painting as stress-relief activities, through which we have noticed tangible improvements in our mental wellness.
From a biological standpoint, art has numerous benefits to mental health due to its profound impact on emotional variability and brain wave patterns. In fact, studies have shown that engaging in any art form significantly increases serotonin levels and reduces cortisol or stress levels. Given that art is an activity you derive fulfillment from, there is also a notable increase in endorphin levels. Art therapy is now becoming a widely popular treatment approach to treat a variety of mental health disorders from anxiety and depression to substance abuse and addictions. In addition to helping individuals explore their emotions, art therapy can boost one’s self esteem, relieve stress, and creatively express any pending frustrations or negative thoughts that they might be subconsciously harboring. To help facilitate this, many treatment centers use art therapists, who are licensed professionals that guide individuals to uncover messages and symbols through their art. In addition to helping people deal with their emotions, art therapy also boosts sensorimotor and cognitive skills in those struggling with neurological problems, from dementia to Parkinson’s disease.
In conclusion, art has influenced us both creatively and emotionally throughout our lives. We realize that sometimes given the stress of academics or other extracurricular activities, it can be hard to find the time for such creative outlets like art. However, given the many mental benefits
of art, we plan to make more of an active effort this summer to devote time towards drawing and painting, and we encourage you all to find an artistic endeavor that you enjoy and do the same!