Stressed? Gone through every relaxation technique in the book? Can't find anything that works? Scientists say that making art can bring stress levels down, even if you don't have an artistic bone in your body.
When the cortisol gets going, it's time to get your creative juices flowing. That's not just clunky, awkward rhyme; scientists say that creative activity keeps stress at bay. Spending a minimum of just 45 creative minutes a day can help you relax and stop sweating the small stuff.
But then, what if you're not creative or artistically talented at all? It turns out that it doesn't matter if you're the next Picasso or if you can't even handle finger-painting. It's not artistic talent that reduces stress during creative activity, but the creative activity itself. So don't worry about making something worthy of museum walls. That's not what matters. What matters is what happens to your cortisol levels once you take a paintbrush to a piece of paper.
39 adults, aged 18 to 59, participated in the study. Almost half of the participants had “limited” experience in creating art. The researchers gave the participants art materials like paper, clay, markers, and other tools for making art. Participants then had 45 minutes to create whatever they wanted to create with the given tools and materials.
The researchers measured and recorded the participants' cortisol levels before the session began. But what is cortisol, anyway? Cortisol is the so-called “stress hormone” and plays a role in regulating the body's response to stress. The higher your cortisol levels are, the more stressed you likely feel. Thus, it makes for a good indicator of the effects of creative activity on stress. Researchers also tested the participants' cortisol levels after the art session.
Results of the tests show that about 75% of participants had lower cortisol levels by the end of the session. This is a good indicator that engaging in creative activity may be a good relaxation technique. It also seems that it really is the creative activity that makes a difference. Though the participants had differences in the change in their cortisol levels, their experience with art or the materials they used had no bearing.
One thing that the researchers noticed in the results was that younger people benefited more from creative activity. It seemed that the younger the participants were, the more likely it was that creative activity lowered their cortisol levels. The researchers think that this may be because older people already had more experience in dealing with stress and thus had established coping mechanisms. Younger people, however, were still figuring things out.
The sample size of the research is quite small, and the researchers aim to scale up the study in the future. They want to include other biomarkers such as alpha amylase and oxytocin to have a better idea of how a participant is feeling. Including these biomarkers may give the researchers more accurate findings. Until then, however, we can safely assume that making art is indeed a good relaxation technique.
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