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New Study Says Making Art Relieves Stress Even if You’re Lousy At it

posted: 06/24/16
by: Amanda Mushro
woman doing art
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If you're looking for a stress reliever that's good for your mind, body, and soul, it looks like it's time to head to a craft store. According to a new study from Drexel University, creating any kind of art is a powerful stress reliever, and it doesn't matter if you're making the next Mona Lisa or something that looks more like a toddler's scribbling. The findings seem to make sense, after all, think about the craze of adult coloring books.

Girija Kaimal, an assistant professor of creative arts therapies at Drexel University, recently led a study examining the effects of making art and how it can reduce stress, regardless of artistic experience or ability.

"It was surprising, and it also wasn't," Kaimal explained to Drexel Now. "It wasn't surprising because that's the core idea in art therapy: Everyone is creative and can be expressive in the visual arts when working in a supportive setting. That said, I did expect that perhaps the effects would be stronger for those with prior experience."

According to Kaimal, 39 participants, ranging from 18 to 59 years old, were asked to describe their artistic experience. Just under half described their art background as "limited." Once the study began, participants were given a number of art supplies like markers, paper, clay, and collage materials with the directions to create whatever they wanted in 45 minutes.

Researchers recorded their cortisol levels before crafting and after. Cortisol is a biological indicator of stress -- the higher your cortisol level is, the higher level of stress you are feeling. After crafting, approximately 75 percent of the participants displayed lower levels of cortisol. So just 45 minutes of getting crafty, helped them to feel less stressed. The levels didn't correspond to their prior experience in art or what kind of art supplies they used--they just felt less stressed.

There was a correlation between younger participants and lowered cortisol levels. So it seems that younger people can really benefit from using art as a stress reliever. One participant even said "It was very relaxing. After about five minutes, I felt less anxious. I was able to obsess less about things that I had not done or need [ed] to get done. Doing art allowed me to put things into perspective."

So the next time you feel stressed, reach for a few crayons to start feeling zen.