The Art of Relaxation

Picture this: You look at your desk. A pile of papers, folders, pens, and notebooks are sprawled out before your glowing laptop screen. You have 2 more assignments to do before you can start studying for your quiz on Friday. You check the time, its 9:00pm already! In that moment, you feel it. You’re stressed out. The next morning you wake up thinking of all the assignments in your near future, and you still are having all those stressful thoughts. So what should you do? How can you relieve your feelings of dread?

We’ve all been here before, but why? Recently college students have found it pretty difficult to find time for themselves to relax between assignments, upcoming exams, and extracurricular events. As a creative person, I find it extremely hard to incorporate my favorite form of art, photography, into my busy schedule. But if you’re an imaginative person seeking a way to de-stress like I am, I have great news for you. Art therapy exists.

So what is art therapy? According to art therapy is “a form of psychotherapy involving the encouragement of free self-expression through drawing, or modeling.” In other words, expressing yourself through art can be therapeutic to you. A study done by Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, researchers collected saliva samples of participants in order to assess their cortisol levels. They discovered that participants that engaged in some sort of artistic activity for 45 minutes had higher levels of cortisol. So what does this mean? It means that people who did art for an extended period of time released a hormone which makes them feel more relaxed and at ease.

Not only does art therapy help people mentally, but it can help you even ease physical pain. According to a Study from Northwestern University cancer patients who painted or took part in some kind of artistic activity reported having less physiological pain afterwards.

Okay so the benefits are definitely there, but what if you’re not artistically talented? Luckily it doesn’t matter, everyone can benefit from the positive effects of art therapy. So you aren’t the best at drawing…there are many other options for you to pursue. Some alternatives to drawing, panting, and modeling clay. Instead try, photography, writing in a journal, making comics, or playing music. Anything creative will work.

If you want an even closer look at what an actual art therapy session would be like, without actually scheduling an appointment you can try it on your own at home. Some common activities include decorating and writing postcards that you never send, attaching messages to balloons and letting them go, painting to music, making scribble drawings, and drawing with your eyes closed.

Next time you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed remember to take a little bit of time to release all your stress, and incorporate your creative side into it. Color yourself relaxed!

-Annie Knudson



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