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Creating Art Reduces Stress

Updated: Nov 16, 2021

Colorful paint brushes in a pile. Creating art reduces stress.

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“When we have the freedom to shape our surroundings, we experience a heightened sense of personal control, which reduces stress and improves our confidence.” ~ Ron Friedman, PhD, The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace, Perigree Publishing, 2014.

Does creativity reduce stress?

Can art help you relax?

Whether you are a practiced artist or just starting with your first attempt at crafting, the simple answer is yes!—art and creativity reduce stress hormones and help you relax.

Although art therapy is a specific field in which a licensed therapist guides clients through art exploration as a way to reduce stress, develop coping skills, and gain personal insight, everyone can benefit from creating arts and crafts at home.

Benefits of creating art

Creating something beautiful or useful engages both your brain and your hands. You think about each step, and the movement of your hands across the media brings you into the present moment.

The ability to focus mindfully on the present boosts our mental health by putting worries on the back burner.

Creative expression helps us release emotions. Engaging in a creative activity encourages us to think of new ideas—or new uses for old materials (upcycling used objects or finding new ways to make crayon rubbings or mud pies!).

Viewing art can help improve your mood and lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone), too. If you come home from work feeling bogged down with work stress, try spending some time at an art museum or visiting an art walk on the weekend. You might just feel your spirits lift and come home with new, creative ideas.

Art is beneficial for children, too.

When my children were little, we made DIY wrapping paper using finger paint and giant sheets of Kraft paper. Making prints with their little hands and feet encouraged creative thinking and gave them a healthy creative outlet. As a bonus, I had some adorable wrapping paper to use for the holidays!

By encouraging children to participate in art and craft activities, they learn how to reduce anxiety and gain focus (which can help when they study).

Fabric leaf cutouts hanging on a line. Crafting reduces stress.

7 tips for using art to reduce stress

Whether you’re looking for a new creative hobby or just want to benefit from creativity, here are seven ways you can use your creativity as a tool to reduce stress and practice a little self-care.

  1. Be present. When you engross yourself in the art of creation, your mind becomes so involved with the task at hand that you get into a zone and temporarily stop worrying about the past or future. Creating art is an excellent mindfulness activity.

  2. Start a dream journal. Writing down your dreams reveals patterns. These patterns can help you understand how your mind is reacting to daily stressors while you sleep. Decorate your journal, inside and out. Use your favorite markers or colored pencils, and sketch your dreamscapes as well as writing down important details.

  3. Color an intricate design. Adult coloring books come in various styles and themes, including mandalas, animals, and floral patterns. You can also print free coloring pages from sites online.

  4. Create a gratitude journal. Writing down the things that you’re grateful for helps you look at the positive side of life. If you want to expand this activity, you can make handmade thank-you cards to give to the people in your life you are grateful for.

  5. Find an emotional release. Drawing, coloring, and painting can help you express your emotions in a healthy way. Use colors and strokes that exemplify how you feel. You don’t have to share it with anyone to gain personal benefits.

  6. Make a sculpture. If you’d like a more tactile form of art, molding and sculpting clay might be just the thing you’re looking for. You can make homemade play dough or buy air-dry clay if you don’t have access to a kiln.

  7. Put together a collage. Gather images that represent your hopes and dreams. What would you like to accomplish in the future? Combine the pictures on a poster board, and imagine yourself experiencing success now.

Bonus tip: Doodle! Stressed out during a meeting? Doodle in the margins of your notebook. Doodling can help you maintain focus by giving you an outlet for fidgety fingers whether you’re on a conference call or listening to a recorded webinar.

If you’re looking for a little positive emotion mojo, grab some supplies and start creating. Have a favorite art, craft, or DIY project? There’s no better time to start than now!

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