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Art’s Avenue Towards Wellness

jennifer-difrancescoAn important factor of good health is allocating the time and freedom to create. It doesn’t matter how good or impressive the end result may be; allowing yourself the time, and enjoying the experience, is what matters. However, a large majority of us forego creative activities because we feel we are not “artistically inclined.” Experiences in our youth (possibly negative responses to our creations) may shut this window in our mind. But the truth is we all have the potential and need to hone that part of our brain which is nurtured by the arts.

I grew up with an artistic and creative mother who impressed upon me and my children the importance of nurturing our inherent creativity. Now 80, she continues to volunteer in schools extolling this value.  My mother’s impact is contagious, leading me to implement artistic classes into spas and wellness centers which I have managed. The effect has been powerful.

In art there are four distinct therapies that are shown to trigger positive emotions, enhance affirmative moods and develop a capacity for self-reflection: visual arts, movement-based expression, music engagement, and expressive writing. These practices have been used clinically for more than a century.

Visual Arts Therapy. By taking the time to draw or paint, mold clay or work with abstract concepts, the right side of the brain is stimulated. This is the side of the brain that is visual and intuitive, while our left side is analytical and sequential.  Balancing the effect of right brain to left brain results in non-verbal communication through art experiences.

Movement Based Expression. Tai Chi, a meditative movement of expression derived from martial arts, is gaining new popularity. It is a perfect example of movement-based arts as each movement has symbolism and subtle nuances of energy aimed at reducing stress. Dance, yoga, theatre and other movement-based therapies also reap great benefit.

Music Engagement. Music is a very positive and well-researched medium of art and healing that can calm as well as excite us. A way to understand the power of sound and music is exposure to crystal bowls tuned to reverberating sounds related to a chakra of the body. We have seven chakras in our body that emanate energy. By focusing on a specific field of energy such as the heart, a profound balance can be achieved while the heart responds to the tune of the crystal bowl.

Expressive Writing. The power of writing, journaling, poetry and verbal communication as expressions of oneself is a wonderful social and emotional therapy. Joining a writing group, starting the process to write a memoir, reading or writing poetry, or other writing-based activities are shown to have a positive effect on mood.

We all have the opportunity to enhance our well-being by expressing that which comes from within. Fortunately, our Valley has many organizations, from community and senior centers to non-profit groups, offering classes and programs to help us open this window of our brain and to grow and heal through art.

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