How art affects your brain

How art affects your brain

What is going on in my brain when I make art? Why does it feel so nice? And how can I get other people — even if they don't consider themselves artists — on the creativity train?

"Creativity in and of itself is important for remaining healthy, remaining connected to yourself and connected to the world," says Christianne Strang, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Alabama Birmingham and the former president of the American Art Therapy Association. 

How art affects your brain


Lower stress levels 

Research in the field of art therapy is still ongoing, but many are finding that engaging in art therapy reduces stress. Creating art can reduce cortisol levels for both those who identify as artists and those who don’t, so no matter your skill level, everyone can benefit from making art.

Art changes your consciousness

Art's ability to flex our imaginations may be one of the reasons why we've been making art since we were cave-dwellers, says Kaimal. It might serve an evolutionary purpose. She has a theory that art-making helps us navigate problems that might arise in the future.

Imagining a more hopeful future

A brain is a predictive machine that uses information about what has happened to make decisions about what we need to do next to survive. Creating art allows you to make decisions and interpret images, figuring out what it means and helping you face potential futures as well as imagine better, more hopeful ones. 

Deeper focus

Art and craft make your brain calm. It brings your mind at ease. Art allows people to enter a “flow state,” or that feeling when you’re in the zone and lose sense of yourself and of time. Making art can help you be more present, and it activates a variety of networks, including relaxed reflective state, focused attention, and pleasure. 

Process your emotions in a better way

Connecting with art can help anyone decrease anxiety and build coping skills, and for those going through serious distress, a professional art therapist can help to guide the process. Art allows you to express feelings and memories in ways other than words. Making art can be a cathartic experience that provides a sense of relief. 

Activate the reward center of your brain 

For a lot of people, making art can be nerve-wracking. What are you going to make? What kind of materials should you use? What if you can't execute it? What if it ... sucks?

Studies show that despite those fears, engaging in any visual expression results in the reward pathway in the brain being activated, which means that you feel good and it's perceived as a pleasurable experience.

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