Most of us are living ‘above the red line’, our cortisol and adrenaline levels
are up. We all know that living in a constant stressed state leads to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, but also pathophysiological responses, such as stroke, heart attack, hair loss etc.
'Mindfulness helps us sit below that red line'. When we sit below that red line, we are able to live in a higher state of wellbeing. Art helps us to reach the ultimate release from ruminating and often destructive thought patterns by getting in to a state of ‘flow’, leading to more productive and happy lives.
Many of us have been privy to the concept of ‘mindfulness’ or ‘living in the moment’ and know that by practicing these mind states are a grounding and wholistically healing experience. Getting in to the state of ‘Flow’ is closely linked to these experiences. According to Csikszentmihalyi (2000), who originally proposed this concept, flow is the “holistic sensation that people feel when they act with total involvement.”
Being creative allows a person to ‘just be’ instead of being carried away with anxiety or negative self-talk.
As the unconscious mind comes to the front center stage, and inhibitions are released, we are removed from stress, frustrations and other negative emotions and time moves more quickly.
Practicing the state of flow lowers stress, anxiety, depression and increase creativity and motivation. Psychologists and art therapists have observed children who initially come into the therapy as highly wound up, will more often than not, leave in calmer state of mind and body. This is because of the physiological responses getting in to the state of flow achieves. Cara, a Child Counsellor and Art Therapist, explains that she will observe their breath rate to slow and their body will physically show signs of relaxing.
Art therapist Sharron Veness, has observed children who are self-selective mutes, will start to speak. She says that “They will not be looking at you, they are immersed in the creative process and don’t realise that they are speaking to you.” Over time, she says that these children who came to her mute, start speaking again, forming lifelong friendships with other children in the class.
Research confirms that art allows us to use the brain in a way that makes us feel good.
With the advancements of neuroimaging, we have been able to uncover shifts in brain functions from hyper-activity to hypo-activity when a person reaches a state of flow through participating in creative practices. Studies also show that “the beta wave activity of the brain (spikey, fast and furious) calms when in a state of flow to a steady alpha wave (smooth and free-flowing). In this alpha state, the noise generated by relentless neural firing dullens, literally creating the ‘headspace’ for fewer and deeper connections.”
Furthermore, the prefrontal cortex area in the brain coordinates decision making and processes conscious thoughts, self awareness and time recognition. During a state of flow, this area takes a back seat giving way to the sub-cortical brain regions. This is when we start making new brain neuron connections through our creative processes, igniting an intrinsic feeling of reward. (Katahira, K, 2018)
Engaging in art allows us to enter that crucial state of flow, giving us healthy, adaptive responses to daily stressors. It’s an opportunity to express and process our thoughts and emotions. So even if you have never picked up a paintbrush or pencil, just give it a go. I always say to my art students; It’s not about the end picture, but about enjoying the experience. The of engaging in the experience far outweigh fear of what your picture might look like at the end.
If you have a child that is artistically inclined, or that you think would benefit in learning how to be creative, I would like to invite you to join our weekly art classes. Simply click on the button below now to find out more about the next upcoming art class times.
Seligman, M. E. P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55(1), 5–14. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.5
Rieniets, A., https://www.kidsthrive.org.au/kids-as-catalysts/ (2021)
Katahira, K., Yamazaki, Y., Yamaoka, C., Ozaki, H., Nakagawa, S., & Nagata, N. (2018). EEG Correlates of the Flow State: A Combination of Increased Frontal Theta and Moderate Frontocentral Alpha Rhythm in the Mental Arithmetic Task. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 300. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00300
Pepper, E “KEY MINDFULNESS - THE KEY FOR ME”, 2021 -Psychotherapist
Shi, B., Cao, X., Chen, Q., Zhuang, K., & Qiu, J. (2017). Different brain structures associated with artistic and scientific creativity: a voxel-based morphometry study. Scientific reports, 7, 42911. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep42911