Art and creativity isconsidered one of the most important aspects to us as humans. We have made artfor thousands upon thousands of years. Our modern era however is the first oneto really study another important factor of our attributes as humans which is ourmental health, more specifically, depression. There have been clear examples ofpeople who exhibit both a more creative way of thinking but have also shownsigns of major depressive disorders. Researchers have found clear correlationsthat showed how taking part in creativity focused activities helps people withdepression.
I can also confirm that this is an effective type of therapy forpeople with anxiety or depression because as someone who has both of those,embracing my creative side has done wonders to me. I found my niche in scalemodels and figures a few years ago and ever since I’ve been using theseactivities as a form of therapy when I feel very stressed or down. I will tendto just drop everything and engage in that specific artistic activity.
Doing soallows me to forget the world around me, and become engrossed in something Ican feel proud of. Someone who is depressed generally feels all aroundworthless, or hopeless to everything around them. It has been seen clearly thata disproportionate amount of people who have depression later become or areartists. Many have admitted though that their art helps give meaning in theirlives. Art allows people to express themselves and create something that givesthem more worth or meaning in their life.
There could be big steps for ourfuture generations of artists if we decide to push schools and parents topursue programs that help children with depressive disorders to find theircreative side to help them in the end. There are millions of people around the world that dohave depression. Something that has been observed by both myself and othersover history is how there seems to be a clear correlation between those whohave a strong artistic leaning and them having depression. In Sabina Dosani’swork titled, DefeatDepression: Relief for Troubled Minds, sheprovides large amounts of evidence for this theory coming from mental healthcenters. She said how there is a huge amount of work coming from these placesand appear to be a way that people cope with their illness, express themselves,or both.
Dosani describes their work as “metaphors of distress and suffering.” (41)When I was spending time in a mental health center, I noticed that there weremany extremely talented artists there as well. The patients, according to Dosani,also said how they used their art as not only a way to express themselves, butalso to help them deal with their struggles in an external manner rather thaninternally. (41) Something else that has been found that supports the ideaof artists being depressed is how depression can cause people to “think” muchmore than normal. What this means is, people with depression have been seen tobe more closely in tune with not only their emotions but their minds according toTanner Christensen in his articled titled “TheLink between depression and creativity, and how it can be good for you.” In Christensen’s article about studying thelinks between artistic expression and depression, he mentions how as depressedpeople think, they stray more toward negative thoughts rather than positiveones. He discusses findings centering around how those with depression havebeen seen to improve when they are encouraged to be creative.
Something hespends a good portion of his article on is what is known as “rumination.”Christensen describes rumination as “one of the major keys of thinking like acreative genius.” (Christensen 2013) He describes the act of ruminating as anatural occurrence in our brains that focuses on aspects that are important toour health and wellbeing, but is especially prevalent in creative types.Christensen does make the comparison that while this attribute is more in-linewith creative types, most, if not everyone else acts this way too. I feel thatif we were to keep introducing positive things like art to people who think ina more depressed state, this could allow them to then instead of only focusingon sad and traumatic aspects of life, they could find something or be more intune with something that detracts their minds from sad events in life.
Artcould allow them to become distracted from the outside world for at least asmall amount of time thus causing them to not think about such depressingtopics as they normally would. From the findings that Christensen suggests thata majority of creatives are depressed, then we could untap so much potentialfrom so many young people. They should, in theory, be able to latch on more andembrace their artistic side much more easily than most “normal people” could.
My own experience from such activities stemmed from mundane things such ascoloring books or listening to music. This allows me to detach myself from thereal world for a moment and focus on something that I like. It helps even moreso when it’s something I created myself. It also places a sense of pride withinmyself because I was the one who made it.
An excerpt from a piece that Assen Alladin wrote titled “Rumination” in chapter 1 titled “An Integrative Approach for Understanding andTreating Anxiety Disorders” which was published in his work titled Integrative CBT for Anxiety Disorders: anEvidence-Based Approach to Enhancing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy withMindfulness and Hypnotherapy, provides insight of the negative aspects thatcome up in this way of thinking and further evidence for Christensen’s theory. Earlyin his article, he presents a diagram he adapted from another study on asimilar topic conducted by a “Wolfe” in 2005. The model he adapted shows thedownward spiral of thinking that occurs when someone has a prevalent case ofanxiety. (3) His diagram essentially describes anxiety as something that eatsaway at itself over time. On page five, Assen provides examples from varioussources on how “Rumination can be defined as repetitive negative thinking” (qtd.
in Hazlett-Stevens, Pruit, & Collins, 2009), discussing how as people withanxiety and depression think, they tend to go around and around on themselvesin a never-ending spiral. Art can be seen as something great that can counteractthat repetitive cycle he mentions due to its encouragement of freedom ofexpression and constant state of improvement. There are downsides to this however,if someone that is in a deep depressive and negative spiral style of thinking,then that person could come to resent their art. They could constantly thinkabout how they could be doing better or that they aren’t doing good enough.This has the possibility to extend outwards into other paths of life and causeeven more self-doubt. I’ve seen this mindset in people before. Specifically,friends of mine who are very artistically inclined. They would never feel thatthis certain drawing or painting wasn’t good enough.
Not only did theythemselves feel it wasn’t good enough, they’d think everyone else they showedit to wouldn’t like it either. Friends of mine would also take creativecriticism too strongly, end up totally resenting all their work and then becomediscouraged to pursue what they used to love most. This is why this sort ofidea doesn’t translate well into everybody. Not everyone can feel better aboutthemselves just by drawing or painting something.
All cases of depression areunique in their own way. However, it wouldn’t help to at least test the waterssome with most people if they were to be enrolled in some sort of program. Thisprogram would be provided by a school or foundation that is made to help peoplewith depression. Hopefully paid for via state or local funding. If people wereexhibiting signs of depressive behavior, you could introduce new things to themover time and wait and see if you can find one that really sticks. Art couldcertainly become one of them and I feel it could help the majority of peoplewho are feeling this way.
Manystudies have been conducted throughout the years to see if this theory iscorrect. There are many psychologists and therapists around the world that usedwhat is known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT for short. This form oftherapy centers around the main idea of saturating the mind with activates thatallow it to provide positive feelings. Art and other creative types of activitiesare used in these forms of therapies. While in the hospital, the doctors wouldrepeatedly engage us in these artistically centered activates. These would thenhave the effect of allowing our minds to help see what we accomplished, thus providingourselves a form of self-worth. There would always be pieces of paper availableor even simple coloring pages on hand at a moment’s notice since they felt thatif they allow us to engage in these activities, we could find something thatcould help us cope through what we were going through.
The CBT model of therapywhich can be implemented in various programs. These programs can really helpstudents and other people who are struggling with their own self-worth. If theyare treated to an environment that expects them to do what makes them happy viaintroducing stimulating brain activities, then it could be easily found thatembracing their creativity will help them tremendously.
In Brian Tracy’s booktitled Creativity& Problem Solving, He accesses how exactlycertain people will be able to respond to various forms of encouragement totreatment. He separates them into three different categories: “Visual,Auditory, or Kinesthetic.” (Tracy 14) Each of these could be attributed tocertain forms of art. The visual category which he describes as “They have to ‘see’the problem or information in order to understand it.” (Tracy 14) From anartistic standpoint, this could translate into encouraging and embracing thosewho are drawers or painters. Their problem being depression and anxiety, couldbe treated through encouraging them to put it out on paper in a visual format.
Tracy’sdescription of those who are auditory can translate into art as well. The artisticmedium such as music is the most useful for those who are more auditory minded.Something we need to remember is that art doesn’t only pertain to drawing orpaintings. Art can be anything you are passionate about. Whenpeople say, “my art” they refer to their passion or what they feel is theircreative essence. By embracing someone who is more of an auditory thinker orproblem solver, we could encourage them to write more music that conveys theiremotions. The final type of thinker Tracy describes, Kinesthetic, is differentfrom the other two and happens to be the type of thinker I am as well. Tracydescribes Kinesthetic thinkers as those who “Like to pick up things turn themover in their hands, and feel them” (Tracy 14) From an artistic standpoint thiseasily allows those who feel something physical and substantial allows them tobetter pursue avenues of artistic expression such as sculpting or working withscale models like I do.
This can help grow that person’s imagination andembrace their feelings of creative expression. If we can access what type ofthinkers someone who has depression, anxiety, or a combination of the two isthen we can easily transition into to the encouragement aspect of treatment andhealing of their minds and souls. Whenwe factor in the amount of people from my own generation that have been diagnosedwith depression, we truly see the scale of people who are suffering every day.I believe we should take it upon ourselves to help them.
We need to implementmore social programs into schools to help them. These programs could prove tobe beneficial to the future of our society. Our schooling ages are the buildingblocks to step into the future that is adulthood and being a productive memberof society. If we can properly combat the negative aspects of rumination indepressed and anxious people’s minds by saturating them with positive anduplifting activities, then that can lead to the enhancement of theirself-esteem levels to new heights and allow them to feel proud about who theyreally are. What we can do to set out on this goal of saving both the currentand next generation of our society can be the implementation of more artprograms in school, alternative learning environments, and hopefully the restof society. We need to embrace our creative sides.
If people are given a toolthat can help them cope with life’s troubles, then they can turn out to be muchhappier in the end. While there could be some negative aspects that can becaused by this, I feel that they can be easily fixed by introducing somethingthat could help that specific person even better than what was originallyintroduced to them. Embracing CBT styles of therapy into more aspects ofsomeone’s life could prove beneficial to those that have depression. Not only canmany researchers back up the claims of embracing one’s creative side to helpwith depression and anxiety, I can provide my own proof as well. As someonewith severe depression, anxiety, and having been exposed to these styles oftherapy, I can safely say they are affective. I use my physical approach to artvia scale models as an important coping mechanism to deal with daily stress.Should you always encourage escaping away into a fantasy world where everythingis okay and perfect just to make you feel better? No, you shouldn’t.
Peopleneed to see the real world in order to become productive members of society.However, if we were to introduce some kind of coping mechanism via escapismthrough the freedom of expression of art whether it be paintings, music orsculpting, can prove to be an outstanding benefit to students and children thathave formed depressive and anxiety disorders early on in life. As the world progresses,society changes. I predict the next great societal change for the next generationto be a better understanding of the mind. Hopefully with that, will come new worksof art we can appreciate into the limitless generations after the next if we wereto encourage them to pursue it.