Making Art Can Reduce Stress, and You Don’t Even Have to Be Artistic, Says Study

Overstressed? Get out your smock and put on your beret.

A Beluga paints a picture at the Hakkeijima Sea Paradise aquarium in suburban Tokyo. Photo Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images.

Overwork got you down? Anxious about your financial situation? A new study indicates that art-making can help, even if you’ve got no skills at all, says a new study, reports Science Daily.

A paper from the College of Nursing and Health Professions at Philadelphia’s Drexel University, published in Art Therapy, the journal of the American Art Therapy Association, suggests that just 45 minutes at the easel may reduce levels of cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress.

The paper was authored by Girija Kaimal, EdD, assistant professor of creative arts therapies; Kendra Ray, a doctoral student under Kaimal; and Juan Muniz, PhD, an assistant teaching professor in the department of nutrition sciences.

Some 75 percent of the participants in the study had lower cortisol levels after their brief stint as artists. As part of the study, 39 adults between 18 and 59 years old put on their berets and picked up markers, modeling clay, and collage. An art therapist was on hand to help.

Half of the participants reported limited experience in making art, and the results didn’t indicate that those with less art-making skill benefited any less.

“It was very relaxing,” one participant wrote. “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 if your massive to-do list is getting you down, get out your smock, paintbrushes, and palette, and head to the studio. You might not turn out a masterpiece, but you’ll probably feel better.

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