Is Abstract Painting Really Good for Mental Healthcare?
Updated: Dec 29, 2020
There is no doubt that art is a powerful tool which can evoke and influence our moods. Although much research has been carried out, more information is still needed. But there are several studies that associate art with mental wellbeing and healing and confirm that visual art improves psychological as well as physical wellbeing in many ways.
The current levels of psychosocial distress in society are significant, as evidenced by the number of prescribed antidepressants and the numbers of working days lost as a result of stress and anxiety. The situation has also increased dramatically during the current year due to the psychological effects of Coronavirus, lockdown, etc.
There is a growing body of evidence that active involvement in creative activities provides a wide range of benefits, including the promotion of well-being, quality of life, health and social capital.
In the U.K. there are currently a number of projects operating that offer Arts on Prescription for people experiencing mental health problems and social isolation. The purpose of such schemes is not to replace conventional therapies but rather to act as an adjunct, helping people in their recovery through creativity and increasing social engagement. Although the schemes are varied in their approaches and settings, the common theme is that there is a referral process and creative activities take place in the community facilitated by artists rather than therapists.
The act of creating art itself has also proven to be beneficial to our health and productivity. Art classes are being introduced in medical schools to promote a more personal approach to what has become an impersonal role.
How can art benefit mental health?
· Promotes Stress Relief: Mental health issues and stress or high anxiety often go together. Finding an emotional release like painting allows a person’s mind to relax and let go of all the problems that contribute to a high stress level. When people create something beautiful through painting, they stimulate the creative mind while relieving mental strain. A low stress level leads to a happier, healthier lifestyle and helps improve overall mental health.
· Expands Creative Growth: Painting comes more naturally to artistic, right-brain people, but more analytical left-brainers can stimulate and nurture their creative growth by practicing painting as well. Practicing and learning creative skills at your own pace fosters creative growth.
· Bolsters Memory: Painting sharpens the mind through conceptual visualisation and implementation, plus, boosts memory skills. People using creative outlets such as writing, painting and drawing have less chance of developing memory loss illnesses when they get older.
· Enhances Problem Solving: As an artist thinks conceptually to bring multiple solutions to life when painting, they are using critical thinking skills. During the process, what an artist imagines may evolve due to colour limitations or unexpected outcomes that occur during artistic implementation. Finding the solution helps build important problem-solving skills. Thinking outside the box becomes second nature to a painter.
· Cultivates Emotional Growth: Releasing emotions through artwork is a helpful experience for many painters. As an artist pours out their emotions through their artwork, they can also evaluate and understand factors that contribute to varying moods. Experimenting with different painting forms helps an artist understand what triggers feelings such as happiness, sadness, love or anger. Painting is often a type of healing through abstract emotional expression.
· Stimulates an Optimistic Attitude: Painting provides a relaxing, open environment where artists feel safe to explore their own creativity and encourages a more optimistic approach to life. The reward of creating visually appealing artwork that others admire gives the painter a sense of pride and happiness in the work which helps boosts self-esteem and inspires people to reach new levels of skill. Painting helps build strong mental health at every age and it is never too late to start a new hobby. Painting can help generate a happy mood not only in the artist, but also in people around them.
For many years, I have been passionate about creating abstract paintings but also intrigued by the potential impact of abstract painting to help people to overcome mental health such as anxiety, depression, stress, grief and loneliness.
I believe abstract painting, particularly non-representation art, can take you into a different journey deep inside the soul or perhaps the subconscious. It is hard to describe in words but I know it’s a fantastic experience full of excitement, total relaxation and ultimate satisfaction. It is all about that journey irrespective of the end result of the painting.
Nothing else could match this experience.
Abstract art can be interpreted differently, but to me it can be a simple collection of unreal images and scenes that are not depicted from reality (although I still have my views about that possibility). Can the process of painting absorb some of the tension created by mental health issues.
People with mental health issues are often at a loss to describe how they feel. The discipline of art therapy is devoted to helping individuals express themselves without the need for language or logic; their lack of artistic skill or training is no barrier to self-expression. Painting abstract follows a similar approach but it allows the person the ultimate freedom of visual expression. No rules, no restrictions and no limit.
A few individuals with mental health have produced works that have gained the attention of artists, art dealers, art historians, collectors and curators as they can free exercise self-expression.
Science says viewing and creating art also helps alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
The conclusion in my opinion is that abstract painting can provide a relaxing and enjoyable experience to everyone. Try it, without thinking about the result of the painting.