Art is a universal language that gives voice to our true selves, and the act of being creative promotes a safe place to express our inner thoughts and feelings. Throughout life, whether due to loss, trauma or illness, it’s easy to develop a habit of suppressing or avoiding painful emotions. But with the freedom of expression that art provides, we can tell a story, without words, at our own pace.1
Many of us are creative, even if we don’t realize it. We are great cooks, eloquent with our words, or maybe even eccentric in the way we dress or decorate our homes. These, plus many other talents, contain qualities that call for "thinking outside of the box" and tapping into the imagination. So, given how innately artistic we are, why aren't we quicker to pick up a paintbrush or share ourselves through theater or dance? Are we holding back on our potential? Are we afraid to try something new, of failure?
As much as we enjoy the experience of creating, we enjoy it most when it comes naturally. Likewise, when we fail at something, it's much easier to justify avoiding it in the future. But according to Friederike Fabritius, a neuropsychologist and author of The Leading Brain: Powerful Science-Based Strategies for Achieving Peak Performance, “The rational part of the brain actually has to give up in order for creativity to occur."2
Facing challenges and stepping outside of our comfort zone (even when we fail) drive us to the next level of self-awareness and enable us to have breakthroughs – pushing us beyond our logical left-brain. Art gives us the means to stop thinking and start expressing through sensations, lines, colors and memories.1
One of the best ways to tap into our imagination is through meditation. Many of us spend our days running on adrenaline to where we almost become dependent on that stress to complete a project. But meditation shows us another way, with a different approach, driven by intentions, discipline and stillness. As we’ve written about before in “The Power of Meditation,” developing a meditation practice takes time, but if we can let go of old habits and look for new ways to shift energy, we can open our abilities and try new things, new art.3 In fact, the regular practice of art can often come to serve as meditation itself.
Whatever medium we choose to explore, the creative process has a positive effect on us all. Self-expression can boost our immune systems and lower inflammatory chemicals known to trigger diabetes, heart attacks and other illnesses.4 For decades, health psychologists have been exploring how participating in the arts can heal emotional injuries, increase our understanding of oneself and others, help develop a capacity for self-reflection, reduce symptoms, and alter behaviors and thinking patterns.5 In other words, music, visual arts, movement-based expression and writing all have a significant and positive effect on our health.
"Art opens the closets, airs out the cellars and attics. It brings healing." – Julia Cameron