How art can help improve your mental health

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Untitled has challenged you to take a photo that represents how you’re feeling with the #myphotomyfeeling creative challenge, but did you know art and creativity can help improve your mental health? Humans are hardwired to express themselves, and art is one of the most direct ways to let those feelings flow. 

Sounds simple? That’s because it is. While engaging in creative pursuits is not the be-all for mental health challenges, there is substantial evidence that prioritizing the arts can enable people to take greater responsibility for their health and wellbeing and ultimately improve their quality of life. 

With mental health accounting for more than 20% of public health challenges in the UK (that’s even more than cancer or cardiovascular disease), art can be used as a non-medical approach to support people’s mental health, helping save money in health social care along the way. 

Still unconvinced? Here are five great reasons why you should give it a try.

1. Helps reduce stress

How many thoughts do you reckon the average person has a day? If you guessed near 60,000, you’d be on the right track (sounds exhausting). Your brain deserves a break every once in a while, and art is a great way to focus your thoughts on one activity, reducing your stress levels and inducing a positive mental state. 

2. Creates conditions for mindfulness

Today mindfulness has become a bit of a buzzword, but that doesn’t make it less important, especially for artists. Art can create the conditions for mindfulness through what is known as ‘flow’, a mentally pleasurable and neurochemically rewarding state of optimal engagement. Those who practice art regularly become aware of these states and can shift in and out, reaping the rewards of attention, creativity, and even improved cognition.

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3. Improves your brain health

Creating art is one of the key activities to maintain neuroplasticity and communication between your brain cells. Want to combat memory loss? No problem. Hoping to improve your mental capacity? Art is your answer. It can also help improve problem-solving, hand-eye coordination, and out-of-the-box thinking. 

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4. Boosts your self-esteem

Dopamine is a crucial happiness transmitter in our brains. Without it we are basically screwed. The good news is that artistic hobbies have been linked to dopamine production. Dopamine has also been linked to increased motivation - a win win. Creating art will give you a well-deserved boost of dopamine which as a result will make you feel better about yourself. For an extra shot of self-esteem, get your art out on display (even if it is only on the fridge).

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5. Helps you process your emotions

Processing emotions is difficult. It takes a lot of time and energy, especially those pesky negative ones. Sometimes simply talking about how you’re feeling isn’t enough. This is where having a creative outlet can come in handy and make the process a whole lot easier. Forget the rules, allow your emotions to guide you and most importantly, trust the process. 

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Ready to put this into practice? Give our Show & Tell photography brief a go.

RELATED: 5 tips for capturing feeling in photography 

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