In this increasingly frenzied world, people find all kinds of ways to relax. We might buy an overpriced bath bomb to melt into our tub one evening or simply take the dog for a brisk winter’s walk. But here’s an idea – have you ever considered art as a form of relaxation?
I’m currently exploring a way of switching off that is new to me. It’s called art therapy.
The other day I had the pleasure of meeting Nell Croose-Myhill, the education officer at the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich. She uses lots of activities to help better mental wellbeing through the use of art.
During our intriguing conversation, Nell simply said ‘art is a complex thing’.
Since our interview, those words have been echoing through my mind. How right she is. We can admire the beauty of art without aiming to unleash its therapeutic potential, or perhaps some people just aren’t interested in art at all.
But how does art work as a form of relaxation?
Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that encourages self-expression. Neuropsychologist Dr Stan Rodski explained the effects of art therapy: “We noticed heart rate and brainwave changes. Concentrating on colour and images facilitates the replacement of negative thoughts with pleasant ones. It occupies the same parts of the brain that stops any anxious thoughts occurring.”
Such a simple activity as colouring elicits a relaxing mind-set, similar to what we might achieve through meditation. Adult colouring books hold these therapeutic properties that lead to them flying off the shelves worldwide.
There are over 1,500 art therapists in the UK who follow this concept of self-exploration that can lead a person to new insights about themselves. Some may be surprised if the effects of art therapy lead to better mental health but it’s still therapy, just with a completely different ingredient than most people are used to – that is, art.
I worry greatly that art will become increasingly unimportant, with the subject prioritised less in schools and visitor figures to art galleries dropping. Both The National and Tate gallery have seen their numbers fall by over half a million in recent years.
Art collectors and fine art institutions seem more interested in the financial value of artwork over the concept and meaning. It is this I disagree with.
To me, the hype about art’s expense suggests that monetary value is more important to people than its therapeutic benefits.
I feel that art is there to be interpreted. Perhaps it won’t cure disease, but it could make coping with illness much easier by helping people express themselves. When feelings are too difficult to put into words, try picking up a paintbrush. This seems like a better concept of how art should be recognised over price.
So, yes, art matters to me. It not only allows an individual a platform to express creativity but also holds such great therapeutic capability. This, I believe, can turn anyone from a sweating ball of stress into a state of much-needed relaxation.
-- Georgina Coll is a student a King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds