Psychology Wellbeing & Fitness

Can Art Therapy Help Improve Your Mental Health?

Written by Dr Bhavna Jaiswal for Doctify

We all know that one scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. No, not where they join the parade. Or drive Cameron’s dad’s red convertible through the window. Or where they bluff their way into the restaurant. I guess it has quite a few iconic scenes, actually. But the one we’re referring to is Cameron in the museum looking George Seurat’s painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”. He stands, gazing at the artist’s depiction of a child holding hands with his mother. He is visibly moved, connecting with the painting in a way that he doesn’t seem to be able to with other people.

Art has always been connected to the way we feel, its ability to summon emotions and even influence behaviour. But can it actually help improve our mental health? Psychologist Dr Bhavna Jaiswal thinks it can. Read on to find out more.

How can art help with mental health?

Art is a medium through which people can communicate their feelings, thoughts and emotions. Sometimes it is difficult for people to express their inner thoughts and feelings in words, but art can help them to communicate their message in different forms.

When people start losing their memory, pictures can help them to reconnect with themselves and stimulate their memories. In some illnesses, people are not able to express themselves verbally but they can draw pictures to make themselves understood. In this situation, pictures are very useful for people who have a shorter attention span.

Pictures can also arouse emotion and hence capture one’s attention. They play a key role in helping one to reminisce about pleasant times in the past.

For example, a beautiful landscape may evoke happiness and calmness while a colourfully garnished dish may stimulate appetite.

Is it just creating art or also looking at art that can help?

Both creating and looking at art can help. When you create art, you are using your emotion and memory to draw pictures giving a voice to your creativity. When you are viewing art, you are using your imagination. In both of these situations, your senses are engaged which can help you to connect with yourself.

Can art help to trigger memory?

Yes, art can help to trigger memory. Pictures are a source of information and we read them in the same way that we read a page of words. Pictures can keep people engaged with their lives by easily retaining and understanding the relationship with other family members and friends; they can help to regenerate the connection which they may lose or have already lost.

Are there any other occupational therapies that are used to help people with mental health problems?

Photos are just one way to stimulate memories. Other therapies include listening to songs, pieces of writing, simple puzzles and any activity which helps to keep your brain active. Simple exercise, healthy diet, meditation and a generally healthy life style can also help improve mental health.

Is listening to music helpful?

Yes, listening to music can help. Not all pieces of music are suitable for everyone and it depends on the individual’s mental health condition. Always be careful when choosing music for this purpose.

A song which generated a good feeling in the past may not be suitable for your dark days because it arouses emotions which may hurt you.



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