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Artists in Lockdown

A few scribbles there. A little colour here. A tiny smudge of shading along the corner. It does not even have to look aesthetic. It is born out of your mind, so it is beautiful. At that moment, everything else in the world seems to matter a little less and the problems do not seem so awful anymore. And suddenly, the day that seemed too long, feels exactly right. This is the beauty of art and creativity.

This pandemic has affected people in various ways. People’s mental health and social life are deeply jolted, leading to stress, anxiety and plethora of uncertainty. At home, students have difficulty dealing with the lack of structure and incentive systems pushing them to action. These, along with many more factors have led psychologists to believe that this pandemic could produce a mental health crisis. This is why governments, public health organisations and even Bollywood has made public’s mental health a priority. Experts have come out with a number of palliatives. A front runner among these is art.

Think back to when you were a child. Creative expression is often used as a tool to make sense of the world and your place in it. We are in dire need of this instrument again. Art is a unique medium of therapy and distressing. Not only does not require more than a paper and a pen, you do not require training or skills to engage in it. Researchers have found that every human being is innately creative. The famous artist Vincent Van Gogh once said, “If you hear a voice within you say, 'You cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced”.

Creative expression leads to a number of interlinked biological and cognitive benefits. Researchers have found that drawing and painting can reduce cortisol levels (stress hormone), leading to considerable relaxation.1 Secondly, creative behaviour requires use of different parts of the brain. This is because you use motor skills, identify patterns, pick colours, predict the end product, and so much more just for a single stroke of the paint brush. You have to be entirely focussed. Also, in a time where we are craving stimulation, this requires activation of different parts of the brain. Psychologists have identified the focused state as a state of “flow” where one forgets time and space. It helps us deal with two things we have been lacking during the lockdown: self-efficacy and self-accomplishment. There is no right or wrong answer in art. It can be whatever you want it to be. Hence, whatever you create tends to trigger the reward centres of the brain and give you a sense of completing something. Not only this, art gives you a medium to express yourself. In times like these, it is important to acknowledge your emotions and try to express them. Researchers have posited that this expression can often lead to self-discovery as well.

Art therapy has gained a lot of traction over the last decade. It has been found to help find meaning and connections to your life. This is particularly useful for people who feel overwhelmed and pressurized. Hence, people suffering from anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and so on, stand to benefit from art therapy. A large number of online art classes have started during the lockdown and they provide a great opportunity for devoting a few hours each day for creating something. Another trend that has picked up is that of creative journals, requiring at least one entry per day. This has triggered a string of DIY and training videos. Hence, all the resources that are needed are relatively accessible.

An important thing to note is that at the root of art and art therapy is the concept of creativity. Creativity can manifest in several ways – dance, baking, music, writing, graffiti, etc. All the benefits mentioned accrue, whatever the medium. It is important to engage in creativity and give your brain the little boost it needs to make it through the rest of the day. A creative mind is a happy mind.

By - Josika Mahindru Artwork by - Niharika Suri

#art #quarantine #mentalhealth #positivity #lightreads

References/ Read More At -

1Drexel University. (2016, June 15). At any skill level, making art reduces stress hormones: Cortisol lowers significantly after just 45 minutes of art creation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 9, 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160615134946.htm

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