Art – in all forms – can improve our state of mind, mood and sense of well-being. For many, walking through a gallery or attending a concert instills a sense of peace, quiet and calm like nothing else. Just looking at art has been found to increase our empathy and tolerance, stimulate our senses and heighten our emotions.
The benefits of creating art yourself appear to be greater still. Drawing a still life or sketching a model requires us to focus on details like texture, angles and shadows. Working with clay can be fun and a great stress reliever, too. Crafting a collage of photos, or using recycled scraps and found objects to make something unique and new provides a sense of accomplishment and pride. Dementia patients may experience enhanced well-being and quality of life after participating in an art activity. And a study published in the journal Art Therapy found that art making of any kind, and regardless of the participant’s ability, lowered levels of the stress hormone cortisol after just 45 minutes.
Research has shown that viewing and creating art increases the brain’s “connectivity” and “plasticity”, and that actively creating art can bring the mind into a state of “flow”, like that experienced during meditation. If you could use a little more flow in your life, or are looking for ways to express yourself artistically, here are eight ways to unleash your inner Picasso, O’Keefe, Remington or even Mozart!
Online art classes
You can find everything from classes for absolute beginners to advanced offerings for experienced artists looking to perfect their technique. Sketching classes, watercolor, and classes for digital art programs like Photoshop are all available online – many free of charge.
Community education art classes
Check your local newspaper or community website for current classes and associated costs. Drawing classes requiring just a sketch pad and a few pencils are a good way to start. Looking for more? You may be able to find classes in stained glass, fiber art, and specialized art forms like rosemaling, batik or felting, especially if you live near an active arts community.
Working with clay is the ultimate hands-on arts experience! If you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty, and want to have something to show for your effort, a pottery class that provides an opportunity to create a plate, bowl or mug is worth a try. Plan on attending for at least two or three sessions to create your piece and let it dry, add a glaze, then have it fired in a special oven to finish. Sculpting shapes and figures with your hands can also relieve stress and may benefit stiff fingers too. Try kneading some modeling clay or Play-Doh to feel more relaxed.