Health Benefits of Art and Creativity

It’s no accident that our Health Sciences library is brimming with artwork created students, faculty, and staff at the UCF College of Medicine. Creating and viewing art is not only fun and fulfilling, it also has amazing health benefits: from improved focus and concentration to reduced stress and anxiety. So whether you paint, draw, write, sing, dance, play an instrument, create pottery, color-by-numbers, or even just enjoy strolling around in a museum, you’re potentially having a big impact on your overall health and well-being.

In 2010, the American Journal of Public Health published a review titled, The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health.  Five of the visual arts studies mentioned in that review (visual arts includes things like painting, drawing, photography, pottery, and textiles) examined more than 30 patients who were battling chronic illness and cancer. The studies all showed that practicing visual arts significantly impacted the patients in the following ways: “Art filled occupational voids, distracted from thoughts of illness, improved well–being by decreasing negative emotions and increasing positive ones, improved medical outcomes, reduced depression, reduced stress and anxiety, and improved flow and spontaneity, expressions of grief, positive identity, and social networks.”

I don’t know about you, but I think the benefits listed above sound like they would be great not just for patients in hospitals, but for everyone. Who wouldn’t want to reduce stress and anxiety, increase positive emotions, and reduce the likelihood of depression? Furthermore, the benefits of art aren’t restricted to improvements in mental health. The impact of art, music, and writing can be seen in your physical body as well. In fact, this study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine used writing as a treatment for HIV patients found that writing resulted in “improvements of CD4+ lymphocyte counts.” That’s the fancy way of saying: the act of writing actually impacted the cells inside the patient’s body and improved their immune system. In other words, the process of creating art doesn’t just make you feel better, it also creates real, physical changes inside your body.

The wonderful thing about art is that it is for everyone! Anyone can draw, paint, write, or sing along to the radio. However, the health benefits of art aren’t just restricted to creating it – according to the American Journal of Public Health, observing the creativity or art of others can also reduce stress levels and increase overall feelings of well-being. So go out and walk a museum, see a concert, or go to a play – it might just improve your health!

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