“Art has always been the raft onto which we climb to save our sanity. I don’t see a different purpose for it now.” ~ Dorothea Tanning
With mental health issues on the rise due to the changes and isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to know that there are options we can explore to cope with the state of our mind. While there are many benefits to incorporating practices such as yoga and meditation, we should also consider the benefits of using artistic expression as an avenue to focus our thoughts.
Creating art and discovering our artistic expressions can be a tool used to cope with overwhelming emotions that we may be feeling during these unique times. Art can be an avenue that we can use as an escape from our thoughts and circumstances. Whether feeling anxious, depressed, traumatized or experiencing any other mental disturbance, art is available to anybody regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or physical constraints.
According to a study conducted by the NIH on the connection between art, healing and public health, “Engagement with creative activities has the potential to contribute toward reducing stress and depression and can serve as a vehicle for alleviating the burden of chronic disease.” The process of making of art and using our creativity can have healing effects and enhance the overall state of our lives. There are various reasons why using our creativity can have such a powerful effect on our psychological health:
As a form of self-expression
Art offers a means through which we may express ourselves beyond verbal communication. Our creativity can be used to generate a different language with which we can communicate with others or ourselves on a level that is non-verbal yet effective to demonstrate ideas that we may not have words to describe or may feel unable to speak. Have you ever felt emotionally affected by looking at a piece of art? Whether it is a painting, drawing or musical piece, we do not need to know who created the art or why to still feel our experience impacted by it. Art can serve as a freeing form of self-expression which can be used to not only heal the creator but influence the observer as well.
An avenue for meditation
Much like meditation, art creates the ability for us to disconnect from negative or anxious thought patterns and live in the present moment. As we become involved in the process of creation, we begin to actively train our minds in a way that increases awareness and acceptance of our thoughts and emotions while fostering the relaxation of our body and mind. By allowing ourselves to be consumed by the experience we are having in that moment, we are able to reach a state of consciousness in which we can break free of the encumbering and never-ending chatter of our minds. When our thoughts lie in a state of fear, uneasiness or inadequacy, we are unable to experience life as it is but by channeling our thoughts through our creations we can calm the state of our minds and create a state of bliss and connection that frees us from the chains of our negativity.
A connection to our true selves
When we live in our thoughts, we begin to identify ourselves with a fabricated sense of identity. As we become caught up in our thought patterns and the state of our emotions, we begin to believe that we are that falsely created sense of ourselves. Conditioned by our past experiences or our sense of lacking, this fabricated self is unable to feel happy or fulfilled. One of the many factors that make art so impactful is that it creates an avenue of self-acceptance. As we connect with our creative selves, we allow our true feelings and emotions an avenue of expression that can break us free from the constant, debilitating turmoil that is created by our minds.
A feeling of freedom
Artistic expression or artistic freedom is defined as “the freedom to imagine, create and distribute diverse cultural expressions free of governmental censorship, political interference or the pressures of non-state actors.” As art creates an avenue that allows us to go into deeper and quieter parts of our consciousness, it offers a state of awareness and inner stillness where we have no internal or external constraints and we are freed from limitations placed on us by our bodies, our minds, our feeling of separateness from one another and restrictions that come from outside of ourselves.
When we learn to center ourselves, we develop a crucial skill in which our happiness becomes less about our experience of emotional highs and lows and more about creating a space of stability and connection to ourselves as we find a point of inner balance where we foster psychological equilibrium. Through our creation of art, we experience no resistance, we experience things as they are and we become alive and alert while achieving an inner calm. It is acting spontaneously while remaining engulfed in our actions at the present moment.
While creating, we have no need to achieve present moment awareness, it is just a result of the process, and one we can practice and foster in all moment s of our life. As Joseph Campbell said, “There is a center of quietness within, which has to be known and held. If you lose that center, you are in tension and begin to fall apart.”