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Commissed Glass Installation, Deep Reflections by Camilla Jarvi

Featured Article

The Art of Being Well

How creating and viewing art combats anxiety and loneliness

Article by Alison Kartevold and Annette Palmer

Photography by Conroe Art League, Presley Daniel

Originally published in Conroe City Lifestyle

Like striking a match in the dark, art can illuminate beauty and hope where previously people found nothing but anxiety, stress, and loneliness. Study after study supports the notion that whether you participate directly or view the work of others, art is therapy.

Since the mid-20th century, doctors have used art therapy to treat trauma victims. Soldiers returning from World War II suffering from what was known as “shell shock,” now known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), painted, drew, and sculpted art to help process what they’d witnessed and experienced on the battlefield. 

Research shows that creating art helps PTSD and depression by activating reward pathways in the brain that reduce stress, lower anxiety levels, and improve mood. It can also help improve a patient’s sense of control and even reduce pain. As a result, its use has expanded to include children of war-torn countries and victims of sexual abuse and other trauma.

“Experiences like trauma are very difficult to articulate into words,” Girija Kaimal, an art therapist at Drexel University and a president of the American Art Therapy Association, told Smithsonian magazine, “so therapies that can support and connect patients with nonverbal expression are really the foundation of the creative arts therapies.”

The Escape of Creation 

You don’t have to be a trauma victim for the creation process to help. Melissa Osburg’s life was good until an unannounced anxiety attack changed everything. The fear of having another attack grew to such an extent that she became agoraphobic, too anxious to leave the house.

Stumbling upon an online course in neurography art, a practice that uses art as a tool to find peace and create calmness from chaos, helped Melissa immensely, providing an escape and an opportunity to lose herself in something other than the stress of living with anxiety.  

After someone offered to buy her work from a social media post, Melissa’s confidence grew, and she continued to paint more. She often found inspiration in the joy brought by nature and flowers.

“I found my passion. Flowers bring so much joy,” she states. Forming blooms and petals from clay as a 3D element in her paintings, flecks of gold and iridescent finishes create a result reminiscent of vintage fabrics and ornamentation.

How Aesthetics Matter

Increased awareness of the benefits of mindful and engaging experiences with art has caused entities, including museums, arts-based nonprofits, and hospitals, to acknowledge the relationship between arts and wellness. The study of neuroaesthetics explores artistic beauty's impact on the human psyche and physical well-being. You need to go no further than Houston Methodist of The Woodlands to see an example of applying neuroaesthetics. 

A trip to the hospital usually means you or a loved one is unwell. It's stressful. To help alleviate the pain and anxiety, when you walk into the facility, you’re greeted by music that echoes through the giant glass atrium and paintings that adorn the walls. In essence, your treatment has already begun.

Arts on Prescription, a project backed by the Arts Council of England, has shown that consultation rates dropped by 37% and hospital admissions decreased by 27% when people actively attended galleries and museums.

Loneliness is also a public health problem, associated with a 26% increase in the risk of premature death and poorer cardiovascular and mental health outcomes.

It should be no surprise that 82% of people feel more connected to their community when engaging with the arts. Whether it is live performances of music, theater or enjoying local galleries to partaking in a multitude of classes, be sure to check out Conroe’s robust Arts scene. ` 

The study of neuroaesthetics explores artistic beauty's impact on the human psyche and physical well-being.

  • Melissa Osburg with one of her 3-D Flowers
  • Melissa Osburg finds the calming effects of creating art
  • Commissed Glass Installation, Deep Reflections by Camilla Jarvi
  • Art in a patience's room
  • Art is seen throughout Houston Methodist, The Woodlands Hospital's Common areas.
  • Art is seen throughout Houston Methodist, The Woodlands Hospital's Common areas
  • The Entrance of Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital