Discovering the Health Benefits of the Arts
February 9, 2016
For thousands of years, people have searched for the meaning and beauty of life in music, painting, poetry and other arts. Now scientists are finding that the arts can benefit both your mental and physical health.
Many scientists agree that the arts can help reduce stress and anxiety, improve well-being and enhance the way we fight infection.
Music plays an important role throughout our lives. Parents worldwide sing and coo to their babies. And let’s not forget the other end of the life cycle. People with dementia often remember songs and music when they can remember nothing else.
Scientists are also studying how art therapy can help to ease pain and stress and improve quality of life. Several small studies, some of which were supported by NIH, have suggested that art therapy can help improve health status, quality of life and coping behaviors. It can improve depression and fatigue in cancer patients on chemotherapy, and help prevent burnout in caregivers.
And then there’s writing. Expressive writing—writing about traumatic, stressful or emotional events—has been shown to have a number of health benefits, from improving symptoms of depression to helping fight infection. Dr. James W. Pennebaker of the University of Texas at Austin has designed several studies to show the links between writing and health. “Writing about emotional upheavals in our lives can improve physical and mental health,” Pennebaker says.
Arts that involve movement, such as dance, can also bring health benefits. Researchers already know that physical activity can help you reduce stress, gain energy, sleep better and fight depression and anxiety. NIH-funded researchers are now studying Tai Chi—a sequence of slow, graceful body movements—to see how it affects fitness and stress in cancer survivors. Tai Chi classes are held every Friday at 10:45 a.m. at Lake Prince Woods and our Zumba Gold classes on Monday and Wednesday offer stimulating and expressive movement.
Remember that the arts are no substitute for medical help when you need it. But they can still bring health benefits. If you enjoy writing or any other art, go for it. You don’t have to be “good” at them for them to be good for you.
Participation in the arts is part of the Lake Prince Woods lifestyle. Every week craft classes, painting classes, choir, sing-alongs, attending theater performances and concerts are a few of the options available.