Text and image by Rick McVicar
The idea of the arts helping the brain is not just a personal feeling. The idea is backed by scientists, such as Girija Kaimal at Drexel University and Brittany Harker at University of Calgary.
Kaimal is featured in an NPR-WKSU broadcast on Jan. 11, 2020, "Feeling Artsy? Here's How Making Art Helps Your Brain Health," by Malaka Gharib. Gharib describes how cartooning brings pleasure and stability during hectic days. That prompted an interview with Kaimal, who notes that the arts help people imagine brighter days ahead. Gharib writes, "It helps you to imagine a more hopeful future." Kaimal is quoted, "This act of imagination is actually an act of survival."
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The benefits of the arts include providing a feeling of pleasure while increasing communication and problem-solving skills. The arts help with projecting different outcomes of behavior so a person can make better choices. Further, the arts help to decrease stress and enhance attention. Nevertheless, Kaimal emphasizes that major distress requires professional help. The arts are not a substitute for mental health professionals.
Still, the arts bring "flow," a state of mind that comes from deep concentration. Flow stimulates the brain's reward center, bringing pleasure, notes Kaimal.
Brittany Harker, in "Brain Research Shows the Arts Promote Mental Health," also writes about flow. Her article is found on theconversation.com, June 9, 2020. Flow is a mental state often associated with mindfulness, which comes when someone is focused on their own thoughts. Harker agrees with Kaimal by writing that flow brings pleasure.
The need for greater attention given to mental health is urgent, notes Harker. "Mental health issues affect nearly half of the global population by age 40," Harker writes. The concern is especially urgent now because of the pandemic.