Main­tain­ing your well-be­ing through art

Study shows art isn’t just for kids, helps adults im­prove sense of self

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Michilea Pat­ter­son mpat­ter­son@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @MichileaP on Twit­ter

It’s pretty com­mon knowl­edge that reg­u­lar ex­er­cise and good nu­tri­tion helps lead to a healthy life but more and more re­search is dis­cov­er­ing that ex­press­ing your­self through art also has ben­e­fits. A re­cent study found that art can help an adult im­prove con­fi­dence in his or her abil­i­ties to han­dle life sit­u­a­tions.

Gir­ija Kaimal is an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor for the Cre­ative Arts Ther­a­pies De­part­ment at Drexel Univer­sity in Philadel­phia. She has al­ways been in­ter­ested in learn­ing how peo­ple find art help­ful and what draws them to the cre­ative and ex­pres­sive ac­tiv­ity.

“What is it about the arts that can en­hance our health and well­be­ing?,” is a ques­tion Kaimal said she would ask her­self.

Kaimal along with Drexel Univer­sity doc­toral stu­dent Ken­dra Ray con­ducted a re­search study on how art mak­ing im­pacts a per­son’s sense of self­ef­fi­cacy. Kaimal said self-ef­fi­cacy is sim­i­lar to self-con­fi­dence. It’s how peo­ple han­dle dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions or take charge of their life, she said.

“It’s your sense of self. Do you feel like you can han­dle your is­sues? Do you feel like if you’re faced with a prob­lem that you will be able to come up with a so­lu­tion?,” Kaimal said.

For this study, she de­cided to fo­cus on the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion. She said a lot of pre­vi­ous art ther­apy re­search fo­cuses on spe­cific pop­u­la­tions like those with men­tal ill­nesses but Kaimal wanted to learn how art ben­e­fits peo­ple in their ev­ery­day lives.

The study had 39 par­tic­i­pants be­tween the ages of 18 and 59. The par­tic­i­pants made art for about 45 min­utes us­ing var­i­ous tools such as clay and mark­ers. No pre­vi­ous artis­tic skills were nec­es­sary to par­tic­i­pate. Kaimal said each per­son took a ques­tion­naire be­fore and af­ter the art ses­sion ask­ing ques­tions re­lat­ing to self-ef­fi­cacy and their mood.

“We were happy to dis­cover that just in 45 min­utes that some­one’s sense of self can re­ally shift,” she said. The study, which was pub­lished in Art Health, showed that about 73 per­cent of par­tic­i­pants had an in­crease in their sense of self-ef­fi­cacy af­ter cre­at­ing art. Kaimal said the “open-ended for­mat” of art is what al­lows peo­ple to im­prove their sense of self. She said peo­ple can cre­ate what­ever they want with what­ever tools they want to use.

“The art medium gives you the free­dom to ex­press your­self with­out words,” she said.

Kaimal said there’s also re­search that shows us­ing your hands can help a per­son feel bet­ter and have a bet­ter sense of con­trol.

“Th­ese things put to­gether re­ally help en­able us to ben­e­fit from the arts,” she said.

Kaimal has also done a study that showed art can lower lev­els of cor­ti­sol which is a hor­mone re­lated to stress. Kaimal said through that study they found that peo­ple were ba­si­cally able to “lift their spir­its” af­ter an art ses­sion no mat­ter the mood they were in be­fore. In the fu­ture, she will look more specif­i­cally at how art ac­tiv­i­ties af­fect a per­son’s stress us­ing other in­di­ca­tors than cor­ti­sol lev­els.

Kaimal said arts is not an ac­tiv­ity only for chil­dren but can be ben­e­fi­cial for all ages. She ex­plained that a lot of peo­ple in the self-ef­fi­cacy study said they hadn’t done vis­ual arts since el­e­men­tary school.

“Which is re­ally sad. As a so­ci­ety, we kind of shut down that ex­pres­sive part of our­selves,” she said.

Kaimail said peo­ple can start off by just doo­dling in a notebook. She said what­ever peo­ple cre­ate; they shouldn’t judge it but re­mem­ber that it’s a form of ex­pres­sion.

There are pro­grams through­out the area that pro­vide art classes for adults us­ing dif­fer­ent types of tools from clay to glass.

Tra­cie Mellinger, of Chester Springs, is tak­ing an in­tro­duc­tory stained glass art class at Art Fu­sion 19464 in Pottstown.

“I’ve al­ways loved stained glass,” Mellinger said adding that she wanted to learn how to cre­ate it her­self.

She said art is a great way to “ex­er­cise” the brain and it helps to show her cre­ative side.

Stained glass art in­struc­tor Carl Alt­man said he didn’t con­sider him­self “ar­tis­ti­cally in­clined” be­fore he be­came in­ter­ested in glass. He started about nine years ago and re­ally en­joys cut­ting the glass into shapes as well as us­ing the dif­fer­ent col­ors.

Other stu­dios in the area with art classes for adults in­clude Clay on Main in Oley, the Phoenix Vil­lage Art Cen­ter in Phoenixville and Paint­ing with a Twist in Me­dia.

For more healthy liv­ing sto­ries, visit the Fit for Life web­site pottsmer­c­fit4life.com.

“We were happy to dis­cover that just in 45 min­utes that some­one’s sense of self can re­ally shift.” — Gir­ija Kaimal, Cre­ative Arts Ther­a­pies De­part­ment at Drexel Univer­sity

PHO­TOS BY MICHILEA PAT­TER­SON — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Stained glass art in­struc­tor Carl Alt­man shows his stu­dent Robin Klokis how to make, cut and shape glass dur­ing an in­tro­duc­tory class for adults at Art Fu­sion 19464 in Pottstown.

Sherri Tu­nis cuts pieces of stained glass into dif­fer­ent shapes dur­ing an in­tro­duc­tory class for adults at Art Fu­sion 19464 in Pottstown.

Sherri Tu­nis works on her stained glass art project dur­ing an in­tro­duc­tory class for adults at Art Fu­sion 19464 in Pottstown.

Fused glass art pieces cre­ated by adults are dis­played in the work area of Art Fu­sion 19464 in Pottstown.

Pieces of fused glass art cre­ations are dis­played in the work area of Art Fu­sion 19464 in Pottstown.

Sev­eral stained glass art cre­ations are dis­played in the work area of Art Fu­sion 19464 in Pottstown. Art Fu­sion has sev­eral classes for adults with dif­fer­ent medi­ums.

This stained glass art project was done by a stu­dent.

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