• Shagun Narang, Social Media & Psychology Intern

Art Heals

Bold strokes line the canvas, and somewhere in between is me. This is how I look at myself, trying to find my happiness between these strokes. While for many, a painting is just a manifestation of beauty for me, it is a way of expressing my thoughts, desires, and emotions. It is the way I look at the world. For years art has served as both, a medium to channel my inner thoughts and beliefs and also as a way to escape anxiety; in it, I find solace. It has shaped me into the person that I am today. Through art, I have learned to appreciate hard work, resilience, and perseverance. It has taught me that life is full of mistakes, and one must learn from them. Most importantly, art has taught me the essence of life — that I have the power to create my own vivid masterpiece. I believe that art acts as a healer. There are two important words here- Art and healer. By art I mean anything creative, that stirs the inner voice of an individual- it could be a beautiful sculpture, or wild random strokes of the brush on a canvas, a calm scene or even casual scribbling on a sheet of paper- All contribute towards the process of healing. What is healing? It is an internal process that helps you develop strength and helps you grow. Now how does art act as a healer? Art helps in expressing oneself creatively. It acts as a channel of communication when the person experiences a lack of verbal skills or when words don’t do justice to what one has to say. When we think no one seems to understand what we have to say art acts as a relief. Simple lines, figures and different colours help us attach personal meaning to them and express ourselves better. Other forms of art such as music, theatre, dance, literature also help to deal with difficult emotions and communicate better when one feels limited with verbal skills. According to the Encyclopedia of Medicine, 2008, art therapy allows patients to gain insight into their feelings and lets them effectively work through these issues. Suhasini Subramanian, a consultant Expressive arts-based therapist with Karma Centre, believes that “Artforms (including music, dance/movement, visual arts and writing) provide a platform for emotional expression. They serve as a valuable format for catharsis and emotion regulation as well as a source of insight which is a critical step in the process of personal healing and growth.” Over the years, researchers have found that art helps to heal emotional discomfort, understand oneself and others better and develop a pattern for self-reflection. Monti et al. (2006), in a quantitative study with women undergoing cancer treatment, showed that women who engaged in art showed a significant decrease in physical and emotional distress. Art also acts as a refuge in times of illness and provides a cathartic release of emotions. Research has shown that creating art reduces stress and anxiety. Aaron et al. 2011 found that art tends to reduce anxiety in college-going students. It has also found to increase the levels of serotonin(the happiness chemical) in many patients. You don’t have to be talented or creative or trained in art to create something and experience the benefits of it. I believe that creativity, does not follow the all-or-none law; instead, it is a spectrum where everyone is creative with different intensities. So you do not have to be an artist to heal through art. You can even observe and critique art while skimming through an art gallery and get immersed in the painting, leaving aside all your other preoccupations. Remember, it doesn’t matter whether you are good at drawing or not and all you know is how to draw a stick figure or paint an A4 size sheet your favourite colour or even enjoy looking at art- It is all therapeutic. References:

  • Aaron, R. E., Rinehart, K. L., & Ceballos, N. A. (2011). Arts-based interventions to reduce anxiety levels among college students. Arts & Health, 3(01), 27-38.

  • Monti, Daniel A., Caroline Peterson, Elisabeth J. Shakin Kunkel, Walter W. Hauck, Edward Pequignot, Lora Rhodes, and George C. Brainard. "A randomized, controlled trial of mindfulness‐based art therapy (MBAT) for women with cancer." Psycho‐Oncology: Journal of the Psychological, Social and Behavioral Dimensions of Cancer 15, no. 5 (2006): 363-373.

  • Stuckey, H. L., & Nobel, J. (2010). The connection between art, healing, and public health: A review of current literature. American journal of public health, 100(2), 254-263. `

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