Why Art Matters For Your Health
Chronic diseases are the leading cause of death and disability in the United States. To most people, this probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise. We know that heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and arthritis are dangerously common conditions. Half of adult Americans have one of more of these chronic conditions and seven out of the Top 10 Causes of Death in 2014 were from chronic diseases. However, what may be a surprise for some is that we have the ability and power to change the course of our health and prevent chronic disease. Most chronic diseases are also considered lifestyle diseases, meaning they occur as a result of the way people are living their lives. Tobacco use, lack of physical activity, consumption of unhealthy foods, and excessive alcohol use are directly linked to causing chronic diseases. Nearly 80% of adult Americans are not meeting the physical activity recommendations and about 75% of the population has a diet low in fruits and vegetables.
Other less known factors that can lead to the development of chronic disease is depression, psychosocial difficulties, and stress. Stress has become such a common feeling in our society. From driving to work in the morning, waiting in line for a cup of coffee, or meeting a deadline at work--we all experience stress. When our bodies are under stress, we go through several biological changes. Our heart rate increases, digestion slows, hormones are released, breath quickens, blood vessels constrict, and our blood pressure rises. These changes were and sometimes still are necessary. Stress is essential for your body to prepare itself for the danger or uneasiness it is sensing because it readies your body, biologically, to run or fight. The problem with this is we are not under immediate danger driving to work in the morning or waiting in line for a cup of coffee. Our bodies were never meant to be under this state of heightened awareness but as society has changed the triggers of stress have changed as well. This constant state of stress leads to several health problems.
In the United States, emotional stress plays a role in the development of cancer, coronary heart disease, respiratory disorders, cirrhosis, depression, anxiety, and many other conditions. We, as a society, are unable to cope with the amount of stress we are putting on our bodies. Couple this with the lack of physical activity and nutritional choices and it becomes understandable how chronic illnesses are so prevalent. On the positive side (and I promise, there is one!) researchers and scientists all over the world are realizing this and putting money and effort into helping societies deal with stress in healthy, manageable ways. Times are changing and we are beginning to realize that the body is a holistic organism, meaning emotional wellness plays a role in physical health and vice versa—everything is connected.
Artistic engagement and creative activities are scientifically proven to have a positive impact on health. Participating in a visual art activity can decrease stress and anxiety, increase positive emotions, increase self-esteem and self-expression, and improve quality of life. In a nation plagued by chronic disease due to lifestyle and stress habits, this information is so important. We may overlook the value in this research but decreasing your stress, anxiety and negative emotions is detrimental to your health. One study reveals that just a 35-minute visit to an art gallery in a museum can significantly reduce a person’s stress level. Visual art and creative therapies involve areas of the brain that are linked to pleasure and can improve brain function resulting in better emotional balance along with increased sensory, attentional, cognitive, and motor capacities.
Art class is no longer a pleasure just for kids! People of any age, ability, or artistic level can experience the benefits of art and creative expression. Teach yourself to knit, write a short-story, or dance to your favorite song! You might not realize the health benefits that your body and mind are experiencing. The positive emotions that come from igniting your sense of creativity will lower stress levels and decrease your likelihood of developing chronic illness over time. Take advantage of events in your community that allow you to express yourself.
Join us this Saturday, February 17th from 10:00am until 1:00pm for a Kundalini Yoga and Art Workshop. Practice yoga, meditate, and create a vision board with us to give your spontaneous self a place to be free. The benefits of art are boundless and plentiful, you deserve to feel them.
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