ART AS AN ANTIDOTE FOR DEPRESSION

Sangeeta Gupta

Sangeeta Gupta

Art whether one chooses to create it or simply observes and enjoys it, is a relaxing and inspiring activity for most people. Displaying art on the wall tends to provide a calming environment that produces a sense of peace and serenity.
All kinds of art can affect our mood in a positive way, making us feel happier, calmer, or even inspired to do something.
Aesthetic learning is its own reward. The arts teach young people about beauty, proportion, and grace. Students can examine conflict, power, emotion, and life itself. The power of the arts is in its wondrous ability to give us joy, help us understand tragedy, promote empathy and make the written word come alive.
Human beings are innately creative, and all one needs to do an art activity successfully is, to be honest with oneself. Once a student unleashes creativity, the inner artist will become active. Art activities can eliminate the monotony of a regular school - day, give a break from continuous hammering of arithmetic and reading. Art education is all about giving opportunities to children to be creative. Everyone has a drive to create and explore within one’s world, art is a very satisfying method to do these things.
Art education is not about how well you paint or draw. It is a process of brainstorming, inventing, creating, problem solving, troubleshooting, decision making, storytelling and reflecting.
Arts in education, is an expanding field of research and practice by way of inquiry into learning through art experiences. It also includes visual arts. How to improve learning through the arts,how to transfer learning through the arts to other disciplines, discovering and understanding human behaviour, thinking an learning through close observation of works of art and various forms of involvement in arts experiences, are some major areas of research based studies.
Studies clearly indicate that Art as a education curriculum will be very useful in managing behaviour, processing feelings, reducing stress and anxiety, and increasing self-esteem of the students.
Art is a tool to express one’s emotions without words, it can process complex feelings and bring relief to the anxious mind. Creating art can help one become aware of feelings that are lying dormant in the subconscious. Studying art will give the students a sense of achievement which can be very valuable in improving their self worth and confidence.
The greatest benefit of art is that it will give students a healthy outlet for expressing and letting go of all their feelings and fears. Complex emotions such as sadness or anger sometimes cannot be expressed with words. When one is unable to express oneself, but one needs emotional release, making art may help one to do it.
Fighting anxiety, depression or emotional trauma can be very stressful for a child both mentally and physically. Creating art can be used to relieve stress and relax one’s mind and body.
Studies also show that creating art stimulates the release of dopamine. This chemical is released when we do something satisfying and makes us feel happy. Increased levels of this feel-good neurotransmitter can be very helpful if one is struggling with anxiety or depression.
Art helps in learning how to communicate with your own self and with others. If the activities are done in a group, they are excellent for building healthy connections with other people, which may be very helpful if one is fighting depression silently. 
Arts-related activities are important for so much more than just keeping children busy or relaxed. It is a proven fact that art boosts a child’s self-image. The self esteem, confidence and pride that is derived from art education is immensely valuable and every child should be allowed to experience it. Arts education should be declared as a core subject. 
 Students, who engage themselves in Arts, gain ability to perform high in other subjects such as math and science as they challenge the student’s brain. Art education not only helps in expanding the mind but also keeps children away from negative activities. It keeps the students pre occupied, therefore, they are far from getting bored in school and getting trapped in with the wrong company. Keeping art programs in schools is an important way to keep students safe from depression, which is so prevalent these days. It even changes sleeping patterns positively. 
Studies show that students with art programs are three times more likely to succeed than those who don’t. Art programs give children a platform to express themselves if they don’t have the support to do it at home, it also gets children to think creatively and inventively, expanding their way of thinking. Students who have access to art programs have better grades at school, it allows them to improve their overall skills. 
 Students who feel overwhelmed or pressured by the hectic courses they have taken up for building up a career should try art as a stress buster. Creating art will give students a chance to slow down and explore issues they may be having. Art improves the mental health of students who are dealing with addictions, anxiety, attention disorders, grief and loss, depression, eating disorders, physical illness. Studies suggest that art activities can be immensely useful in treating depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and even some phobias.
The healing power of art has long been recognised by artists around the world, though it is now emerging as an evidence-based therapeutic treatment for depression. By creating new avenues for self-expression, art provides invaluable benefits for students struggling with even severe depression. 
Depression remedy is inherently about creation. By interventions and compassionate support, one creates new thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. One creates an expanded capacity for joy, love, and confidence, a new dimension where one can live harmoniously with one’s self and with the world at large. Now people struggling with depression have been given a new way of recovery. For children with depression, art gives an opportunity to push against that destruction by immersing one’s self in the process of creation. Research has shown that art making can have a profound impact on a person’s physical and psychological well-being. 
Through guided or spontaneous art activities one can experience profound benefits often not found in other therapeutic modalities. One was always aware of the healing power of art, it has only been recently recognised through empirical research too.
There are clear indications that art has significant positive effects on health. It sharpens critical intellectual skills, fosters higher levels of thinking that carry over to learning other academic subjects as well as to handle life outside of school. Through the arts, children learn to observe, interpret, see different perspectives, analyse and synthesise. In today’s world where students are flooded with information, critical thinking skills act as a tool for preparation for college entry and lifelong learning.
Students who participate in the arts develop leadership skills, decision-making, strategy building, planning and reflection. It also prepares them to use these skills effectively by developing a strong sense of identity and confidence. 
Art-making allows students to experience what it feels like to be active members of a community and to work as a team to determine and achieve common goals. As they work together, they learn to understand differences and diversity and realise the ways that teamwork contributes to a great performance. By teaching students how to live and work together, the arts contribute to making schools safer and more peaceful learning environment. In the arts, students learn to articulate their intentions, receive and offer constructive criticism and listen actively to other’s ideas.
Art education challenges the student to look at things from a creative perspective. Be it math, science, languages or drawing, they must learn the basic skills. 
Artistic freedom supports brain to absorb information, which helps to retain information better. Art in any form helps us boost our memories. It has an impact on brain wave patterns and emotions, the nervous system, and can actually raise serotonin levels. Art helps children with the development of motor skills, language skills, social skills, decision making, risk taking, and inventiveness. Visual arts teach learners about colour, layout, perspective, and balance. 
 Benefits of Art like, it stimulates the imagination, opens the heart and mind to possibilities, makes one more observant, enhances problem-solving skills, boosts self esteem need to be highlighted to all concerned, specially parents, who do not understand its value. Children are often snubbed and discouraged by them if they want to pursue art as a career which often leads to depression and suicide. 
Humans have been making art since we were cave-dwellers, there has to be something amazing about creation that we still continue to do so.
Art helps us navigate problems that might arise in the future.
Our brain is a predictive machine. The brain uses “information to make predictions about what we might do next and more importantly what we need to do next to survive.
When one makes art, one is making a series of decisions, like what kind of drawing tool to use, what colours, how to execute what one is seeing on the paper, finally interpreting the image, what it means
By creating art one is able to imagine possibilities and see a future beyond the present moment in which one was seemingly depressed. This act of imagination is virtually an act of survival.
Making art induces what the scientist call the flow state, the wonderful process that happens when one is in that trans. It is about losing one self, losing all awareness, one is so immersed in the moment that one forgets all sense of time and space. While one is in that state of flow, at that point of time the brain activates several networks including relaxed reflective state, focused attention to task and a great sense of pleasure.
Psychological studies have found that this flow, increased theta wave activity in the frontal areas of the brain and moderate alpha wave activities in the frontal and central areas.
Some types of art appear to yield greater health benefits than others. Clay modeling is a wonderful experience where one engages both hands and many parts of one’s brain in sensory experiences. The sense of touch, the sense of three-dimensional space, sight, all of these are engaged in using several parts of oneself for self-expression, therefore, it is more beneficial.
A number of studies have shown that coloring inside a shape, specifically a pre-drawn geometric mandala design is more effective in boosting mood than coloring on a blank paper or even coloring inside a square shape. Study published in Journal of the American Art Therapy Association stated that colouring inside a mandala reduces anxiety to a greater degree compared to colouring on a plain sheet of paper.
If one is making art to connect with one’s own creativity, decrease anxiety and hone one’s coping skills then one should figure out how to do that.
Just let lines, shapes and colours translate your emotional experience into something visual, Use the feelings that you feel in your body, your memories as words don’t often get it. It is cathartic and that catharsis gives a sense of relief.
When psychiatrists and psychologists found that those with mental health issues often express their emotions through art and drawings, such therapies started evolving into healing strategies.
It is now being used in mental health assessments of trauma survivors and victims of abuse.
Many may dismiss art as frivolous, more and more people are beginning to understand the role it plays in emotional well-being.
Art is also a symbolic communication system practiced only by humans and it may have helped us in creating social cohesion and ensuring survival itself.
The British Health Secretary in 2018 unveiled an initiative that might soon enable doctors in the U.K. to prescribe art, music, dance and even singing lessons as ‘treatment’ for a variety of ailments, from some forms of dementia and early psychosis to various respiratory conditions. This could mean that in the future, with this form of ‘social prescribing’ in the U.K. and other countries that had for decades relied on antidepressant pills could find patients enrolling for art, dance and singing lessons.
It is aiming to create a National Academy for Social Prescribing to ensure that doctors only refer suitable patients for art as treatment. It will be preferably done for prevention. Social prescribing can certainly help combat over-medication.
Life itself is art and it is because life is sacred that art that comes from within is also sacred.

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