My Observations About Art as Therapy for Illness and Stress

Updated on December 30, 2018
Ezria Copper profile image

I do clerical work in a medical setting. I find that drawing pictures on a whiteboard with quotes helps to improve the mood of the patients.

Art as Medicine

Art during Illness

With the recent mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, the war overseas, the economy, and serious illnesses of all kinds, how are people supposed to find some happiness and comfort in our modern times? It is a difficult undertaking, especially for those with a serious illness like depression, cancer, P.T.S.D., etc.

I once read a book about a young kid with cancer who was concentrating on origami. Someone had sent to her a paper crane made in this Japanese art style. Somehow it did make her life better. There was a woman I met who had a daughter die of cancer. This saddened mother started making jewelry and selling it which helped her overcome her depression.

Does art really help people get through difficult times? My job involves clerical work in a medical setting that helps people living with serious illness. I found that drawing pictures on a white board with quotes helped improve the patients' mood, as well as mine. My drawings and the accompanying quotes gave the patients hope. I have included pictures of some of my drawings to help illustrate this article, which is about the healing benefits of art.


Painting embraces all the ten functions of the eye; that is to say, darkness, light, body, and color, shape, and location, distance and closeness, motion and rest."

— Leonardo da Vinci

Facts about Art Therapy

  • Art can help re-activate pleasure centers in the brain.
  • Act can boost self-esteem and promote a sense of self-worth.
  • Art reduces physical stress and tension by serving as a cathartic outlet.
  • Art provides space for externalizing inner experiences.
  • Art creates a sense of purpose and control over one's environment.

Flower Drawing

Art as a Form of Meditation

Drawing or creating any kind of art is in a way a kind of mediation. It causes the person to concentrate on details and be aware of what is in his/her environment. The country that is the highest in per capita consumption of antidepressants, tranquilizers, and sleeping pills is France. It is France which popularized the idea of having adult coloring books. This has worked for helping veterans with P.T.S.D. and helped them transition into art therapy.


Art Therapy

Art Benefits the Brain

  • Art enhances problem solving skills.
  • Art encourages creative thinking and lets the artist come up with his/her own unique solutions.
  • Thinking out of the box causes the brain to grow new neurons.
  • Making art increases the feel good hormone "dopamine"


The Effect of Art on the Brain

An internationally recognized pioneer in neuron regeneration research and author of Keep Your Brain Alive: 83 Neurobic Exercises to Help Prevent Memory Loss and Increase Mental Fitness, Dr. Lawrence Katz figured out that often mental deterioration was caused mostly by the loss of communication between brain cells. It was not caused by the actual death of these cells. He invented the term "Neurobics" to describe brain exercises that engage the senses in new ways, including creating art. Brain Plasticity or neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to grow connections and change throughout your lifetime. Making art causes communication between various parts of the brain. This is why making art has proven to increase the resistance to stress and psychological resilience. It is believed that intelligence depends on the number of connections in the brain and not how large or small the brain is.


Art increases Dopamine

  • Dopamine has been referred to as the "motivation molecule" because it increases drive, focus, and concentration.
  • Dopamine makes you able to plan for the future and resist impulses so you can achieve your goals.
  • Dopamine also stimulates the creation of new neurons and gets the brain ready for learning.
  • Any kind of crafting project increases dopamine which wards off depression and prevents the brain from aging.


All People Benefit from Art

Art benefits children as well as people with illnesses. It has been proven that simply viewing art brings pleasure, increases empathy, and produces, a greater tolerance towards different people. Having a child create art increases his/her brain's plasticity, fluid intelligence, and attention span while helping improve overall behavior and impulse control. Many people who deal with chronic illness and the stress, depression, and anxiety that comes along with chronic illness benefit from creating art.

Art Helping Illness

  • art reduces stress by lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
  • art helps people express their feelings.
  • creating art gives people a sense of accomplishment.
  • art provides a means of escape from whatever illness they are suffering from and makes people focus on positive life experiences.

Art Helping Defeat Cancer

Art and illness

  • Art reduces stress by lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol
  • art helps people express their feelings
  • creating art gives people a sense of accomplishment
  • art provides a means of escape from whatever illness they are suffering from and makes people focus on positive life experiences

Lady Bug

Oncologist who Wrote Poetry

After facing some dark realities from working as a pediatric oncologist, Dr. John Graham Pole wrote poetry to try to deal with everything that he had seen. Upon retiring he formed some informal art workshops to help the cancer patients and staff cope better through painting and writing.

Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life."

— Pablo Picasso

Illnesses that Art Helps

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • P.T.S.D.
  • Chronic pain
  • Cancer
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Dementia or Alzheimer's

Blooming out of Adversity

Using Art to Better Humanity

In conclusion, art has been around since the beginning of mankind and still is today. It can be used as a means of expressing emotions that many people cannot put into words and becoming aware of one's environment. It has many benefits for mental health. Knitting, wood working, jewelry and many other forms of art making have all been done in order to get people to express themselves and contribute to society while making the person doing it feel a sense of accomplishment and purpose. We should put a focus on art and getting people to express themselves in that manner as a part of providing better health to people in general and bettering the world.


Information from the following sources were retrieved on June 1 and 2, 2016.

Questions & Answers


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      • Ezria Copper profile imageAUTHOR

        Ezria Copper 

        2 years ago

        Yeah, I think it can help a multitude of illnesses. We should be looking more at holistic health and not just strictly putting people on pills all the time.

      • Jodah profile image

        John Hansen 

        2 years ago from Queensland Australia

        This is a very good hub on the importance of art as therapy. I certainly believe that any form of art can have a beneficial effects on people suffering many different things. It helps take your concentration away from the problem and something else to devote your attention to. I use writing as a therapy whenever I feel depressed or upset about something.


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