The Mental Health Benefits of Art

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Creating art is an effective way to stimulate the brain.

By Doris Cook (Kids Expression)

“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.” — Pablo Picasso

There are a lot of misconceptions floating around about art. Some people think you have to be creating paintings or sculptures to be considered a real artist. Other people believe that you are either have talent or don’t. Many are afraid that since they are not good at something, there is no point of trying it and won’t get any benefit from doing it.

We are all born with a desire to express ourselves and art encompasses a wider range of activities than can be imagined.

Activities like painting, sculpting, drawing, and photography are relaxing and rewarding and can lower your stress levels leaving you feeling mentally clear and calm. Creating art provides a distraction, giving your brain a break from its usual thoughts. The average person has approximately 60,000 thoughts per day and 95% of them are exactly the same day in, day out with 80% being negative. When you get totally immersed in a creative endeavor, you find yourself in what’s known as “the zone” or in a state of “flow”. This meditative-like state focuses your mind and temporarily pushes aside all worries.

Leonardo da Vinci said, “Painting embraces all the ten functions of the eye; that is to say, darkness, light, body and color, shape and location, distance and closeness, motion and rest.”

Creating art trains you to concentrate on details and pay more attention to your environment. In this way, it acts like meditation.


Dr. Lawrence Katz is an internationally recognized pioneer in neuron regeneration research and author of Keep Your Brain Alive: 83 Neurobic Exercises to Help Prevent Memory Loss and Increase Mental Fitness.

He found that mental decline was due mainly to the loss of communication between brain cells. Dr. Katz coined the phrase “neurobics” to describe brain exercises that use your senses in new and novel ways, and creating art fits this definition. Art enhances problem-solving skills. There is no one correct answer in art. Art encourages creative thinking and lets you come up with your own unique solutions. Out-of-the-box thinking also stimulates your brain to grow new neurons. Creative thinking does not mean using the right side of your brain. It involves getting both hemispheres of your brain communicating with each other.


You may put your children’s artwork on the fridge door to boost their self-esteem. Hanging your latest work of art on the wall can instill the same feeling. Creating art increases the “feel good” neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine has been called the “motivation molecule.” It boosts drive, focus, and concentration. It enables you to plan ahead and resist impulses so you can achieve your goals. Dopamine stimulates the creation of new neurons and prepares your brain for learning.  You don’t have to produce fine art. Crafting hobbies of all kinds — knitting, quilting, sewing, drawing, photography, woodworking, gardening, and DIY home repair — increase dopamine, ward off depression, and protect the brain from aging.