The pandemic has had an overwhelmingly negative impact on the mental health of millions of people. Time spent away from family and friends, anxiety, and long winter months in isolation all eventually took their toll, putting mental health in a sharper focus than ever before.
Creativity has been an escape for many though, and it has tangible effects on mental wellbeing.
This is particularly important for anyone suffering from anxiety, but it has benefits for us all. Becoming absorbed in an activity such as drawing, singing, or a piece of creative writing gives you focus. Some artists refer to the state of complete absorption as being “in the zone,” but this simply means being so engaged in the task at hand that you aren’t thinking of anything else.
Stress is often brought about by an overabundance of thoughts and worries. On any given day you might be prone to speculate on the future, the past, and worry about even the smallest of day-to-day activities. Getting absorbed in an artistic project pushes all of that completely out of your mind and you’ll often come away feeling mentally refreshed—perhaps even liberated.
Art therapy is a popular form of treatment for those with a history of trauma. It helps them to express themselves in ways that would otherwise have been impossible and to discuss memories that they wouldn’t have been able to express in any other way. Painting and drawing are especially useful, but any creative endeavor serves a similar end. Art therapy doesn’t always have to take place in a group setting, either. Simply sitting down and writing your thoughts on paper can help you to process them.
That said, there are definite benefits to creative groups. Group classes help to foster a creative environment of support and encouragement, as well as helping you to meet new people and make friends. Socializing in a group setting has definite mental health benefits even aside from the arts, but creativity can be the excuse you need to meet a set of like-minded individuals.
Studies show that musicians enjoy better connectivity between the right and left sides of their brain, but all artistic pursuits increase cognitive function by boosting blood flow to the brain. Ideas begin to occur without prompting, and the sensation of increased capacity will leave you feeling more mentally energetic. That’s especially true for those who choose to pursue a career in the arts. While there are undoubted stresses associated with any artistic career, especially within the music industry, these can be mitigated and the advantages certainly outweigh the negatives.
That increased cognitive function might explain why people who regularly engage in creative activities have a lower risk of dementia. The arts (and especially music) have been shown to reduce agitation in dementia patients and might one day even decrease their reliance on medication. Regardless of your situation, though, there isn’t anyone who wouldn’t benefit from boosted cognitive function.