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The benefits of the arts on our mental wellbeing

ByMarta Naumova

Oct 30, 2019

Art has been a means of expression since the dawn of humankind. The oldest evidence of our species being creative dates to seventy-three thousand years ago. There seems to be a natural drive which makes us want to paint, knit, produce pottery or embroidery for decorative purposes – the creative impulse is fundamental to the experience of being human. Today lots of people enjoy artistic hobbies as a means of relaxation or as a joyful occupation for an idle hour. But it is not as commonly known that art is not only good for your mood – it is beneficial to your health too!

In fact, engaging with the arts has an important role in improving and maintaining both physical and mental health. Cambridge Institute for Music Therapy Research claims that playing musical instruments and singing freely can help us to:

  • Express our emotions, better self-awareness, insight and identification of feelings
  • Develop connection through synchronicity, shared language or non-symbolic linking
  • Bond, build relationships and experience a greater sense of community
  • Have structure and order when feeling agitated, manic or psychotic
  • Explore free improvisation to help facilitate growth, confidence and reflection.

Art in any form is especially important to practice for those who have suffered from psychological trauma. As therapist and researcher Melissa Walker explains in her speech discussing the ways in which ‘art can heal PTSD’s invisible wounds, “due to advances in technology and neuroimaging, we now know there’s an actual shut down in the Broca’s – or the speech-language area of the brain after an individual experiences trauma”. However, she also notes that: “We’ve observed that the process of art therapy bypasses the speech-language issue with the brain”. In other words, practising art actually heals the brain and helps us learn to communicate in new and innovative ways.

It seems like all of these benefits do not only come from just the music side of The Arts. All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing produced a report in 2017 confirming that drama, music and visual art activities such as painting, embroidery, and pottery have been found to ease depression, anxiety, and stress. At the same time, they increase resilience and well-being. Sounds exactly like something a busy and stressed student could need!

Luckily, in Edinburgh there are many ways one could engage in arts and other creative hobbies. Firstly, of course the societies in our University provide the chance to do so with arts and crafts society, various singing and instrumental groups and many more. Secondly, there are other organisations in and around Edinburgh town where you could practise some art in a thriving community including:

Artisan Stich – studio for sewing classes and creative workshops located on London Road

Doodles Ceramics Workshop – a place to decorate pottery with your own designs. Check their Christmas Decoration workshop happening on 11 November. Located on Marchmont Crescent

Narcissus Flowers and Plants – school for contemporary flower arrangements providing workshops for beginners on Broughton Street

Dovecot Gallery – this gallery on Infirmary street holds exciting events too. Check out their “Make your own May Morris Lampshade” (9 November) workshop for example

The City Workshop – holds Saturday Night painting classes on Colme Street with all materials provided.

Image Credit: Pxhere

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