Create Your Way Well

 
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By Hannah Woit

Maybe you’ve purchased one of the adult coloring books that has risen atop of Amazon’s bestseller list, ripped up all of your magazines to create a vision board, or have a home full of Pinterest-inspired DIY projects--coloring books are no longer just for kids. There are many factors that have contributed to the rise in adults doing art projects--and the pursuit of mindfulness and health is a major one.

Art therapy has been around for years. So how does using your creativity impact your health and wellbeing? Read on for ways that picking up a paintbrush, splurging on a set of colored pencils, or an art break at the office can be a boost.

Paint the Stress Away:

When researchers looked at how making art such as collaging, drawing, clay modeling, and coloring helped students in Maine cope one week before their final exams, the effect was clear: The subjects’ anxiety levels decreased, even only after doing art for a short time.

Some research has also indicated that the way participants are doing the art matters. When undergraduates at a Canadian university were assigned to groups that would either choose the colors they used or color by copying the colors in a completed image, the ones who had the ability to choose experienced greater drops in their anxiety levels than those in the other group after a coloring session.

However, some structure to the activity may actually be beneficial. Researchers in Illinois found that being assigned to color a mandala or plaid pattern resulted in a greater improvement in the intensity of the participants’ anxiety than those who were asked to draw freely.

Perk Up by Coloring:

As we’ve discussed previously, your health is tied to your emotions. It turns out that you can use art to change your mood. If you want to try an artistic pick-me-up, studies indicate that you may want to consider the structure of the activity. For example, coloring circular shapes versus squares might be more impactful in cheering you up, according to research. How you use your emotions also matters. Findings published in the Art Therapy Journal of the American Art Therapy Association have demonstrated that drawing freely may be more optimal than being instructed to draw with the intention of expressing how you’re feeling.

Consider this your coloring book prescription!

by Hannah Woit