When times are troubling, people cling to art.
Decades-worth of research has shown that art is beneficial to a person’s well-being. The medium does not matter. Whether a person is engaged in any kind of performance art or paint digitally on an iPad, the positive impact is the same. They still will reap the benefits of art to mental health.
COVID-19, which only started spreading a year ago, has now killed millions and has infected and continues to infect more people. The stress and devastation that it has caused not only among those who were sick or lost a loved one, but also to the rest of the population are so immense that experts predict it will reverberate for years to come.
Now more than ever, people are turning to art in order to survive the harrowing and deeply traumatic past year filled with tragedies. And, here are the reasons why that is a good thing.
Live Theater Delivering Inspiring Messages
Theater benefits mental health in multiple ways.
For performers, it builds character and strength. It also serves as a confidence booster and contributes to creating a fulfilling life.
For the audience, it is more than just a source of entertainment. One study has shown that when students watched a stage adaptation of Hamlet and A Christmas Carol, they increased their vocabulary, empathy, and tolerance. Moreover, they showed improvements in the ability to read other people’s emotions.
Researchers explained that the audience cannot get the same effects from watching a movie or reading a book. While the story can be conveyed in different mediums, only high-quality productions can engage viewers in a way that facilitates learning.
Many theater productions carry a message of hope. The highly successful and well-reviewed production of JESUS by Sight and Sound tells the life and death of Christ and the people whose lives he has touched. The religious travel to see the musical in a sort of pilgrimage every year to hear the story of Christ who was sent to save the human race from
There are other productions that specifically explore mental health conditions. Dear Evan Hansen, an award-winning musical, is about a teenager who struggles with social anxiety whose problems are exacerbated by the reliance of young people on social media.
Although theaters are still closed in many areas around the world, audiences can access performances and reap the benefits of watching via recorded sessions available on streaming services online.
How Painting Relieves Stress
The arts is an effective tool for mindfulness. Mindfulness involves slowing down and becoming aware of one’s thoughts without guilt or judgment. It teaches a person to be present in the now, not think about the past or future, and shift their mindset.
Art encourages mindfulness.
Previous studies have found that, when a person engages in visual art, certain parts of the brain become active. Art can create a cognitive shift toward what is called the “flow,” the state in which the artist feels present and completely immersed in the task. It is also referred to as being “in the zone.” It feels mentally stimulating and pleasurable as well as a neurochemically rewarding experience.
The flow is not exclusive to visual artists. It is also present in others who engage in art whether professionally or as a regular person. Anyone who wants to experience the flow can do so by participating in art.
Music Overpowers the Brain
Music always has the ability to connect people. When Italy was first ravaged by COVID-19, videos of Italians singing and playing music from their balconies were passed around on social media sites. Going into lockdown, which many nations did soon after to control the spread of the virus, is a terrifying experience. Jobs were lost and people were not allowed to hold their loved ones. But, from their respective balconies, Italians consoled each other and reassured the world that everything will be okay.
A recent report by the Global Council on Brain Health concluded that music can enhance brain health and the overall well-being of people who listen to it. But, music has been touching the minds of people in ways that no other forms of art can.
In one study, 74 patients who volunteered for the trial were assigned to either receive ordinary care or listen to their choice of music before, during, and after surgery. Those who listened to music had lower blood pressure during surgery and participants said they felt calmer.
By incorporating music into quarantine routines, people may feel less anxious and have better mental well-being during the pandemic.
People continue to struggle with the pandemic as lockdowns stretch for a couple more months. However, art can improve mental health during this highly stressful period.