Engaging with art, whether viewing, collecting, or discussing, provides proven benefits for mental health and psychological wellbeing. Being surrounded by artworks provides sensory stimulation, while collecting fosters a sense of purpose.
Understanding the scientifically studied effects of art on mental health can encourage actively incorporating art into treatment plans and daily life. This article explores key findings on art therapy mechanisms and outcomes.
Art as Therapy
The American Art Therapy Association defines art therapy as using the creative process to improve physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Unlike looking at art in a passive way, art therapy engages a person in the act of creating. Studies show art therapy benefits major conditions like:
Art therapy is flexible for different needs and requires no art experience to engage in successfully.
Benefits of Collecting Art
Studies on art for mental health show that collecting and curating art offers benefits by:
- Providing a sense of purpose and achievement
- Learning about different artists and movements
- Achieving a state of “flow” that reduces stress from the search process
- Exercising cognitive abilities needed for evaluation and decision making
- Allowing self-expression through selecting pieces that resonate
Owning cherished works can make a space feel more like home.
Finding Flow Through Art
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow describes a state of complete immersion in an activity. Being fully focused on art selection and acquisition provides enjoyable escape from anxieties. Studies confirm flow states reduce stress and negative emotions. Discussing and sharing owned pieces within a community also enhances engagement with art.
Community Impact of Art Engagement
Sharing and discussing art within a community provides further mental health benefits by:
- Building social connections and a sense of belonging
- Developing communication, perspective-taking, and empathy skills
- Reducing isolation, loneliness, and disconnection
- Providing enjoyable social activity and stimulation
Social support systems are critical for emotional wellbeing. Community art spaces facilitate this while allowing creative engagement.
Art Therapy Best Practices
To explore art engagement safely and effectively, experts recommend:
- Working initially with a trained art therapist, when possible, to process emotions that arise
- Trying different art forms and styles to find what you most enjoy
- Letting the process be more important than finding the “perfect” work
- Displaying cherished pieces prominently as a sense of accomplishment
The goal is therapeutic engagement rather than collecting perfection. Prioritizing imagination and exploration produces the most mental health benefits.
Art as a Therapeutic Tool
A growing body of research validates art’s ability to improve psychological wellbeing as both a therapy and daily lifestyle activity. Engaging with art, either independently or in community with others, can develop self-awareness, cope with symptoms, reduce stress and anxiety, and build a meaningful sense of purpose.