Making Art Can Relieve Stress at Any Skill Level

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Even if you weren't born with a natural knack for art, that doesn't mean you should retire your brush and paint set. According to Science Daily, a new study supports the theory that making art has stress-relieving benefits at any skill level.

The Drexel University study, published last month in the journal Art Therapy [PDF], looked at 39 adults with varying backgrounds in art. Participants were given access to markers, paper, modeling clay, and collage materials and were encouraged to use them as they pleased. After a 45-minute art-making session, levels of cortisol—the main hormone associated with stress—had dropped in 75 percent of the test subjects. Whether the participants were art experts or amateurs didn't appear to make a difference.

The results fit into a growing body of evidence about creativity's health benefits. They also support what many casual artists have likely known all along: You don't need to be making a masterpiece to find the process therapeutic.

"It wasn't surprising because that's the core idea in art therapy: Everyone is creative and can be expressive in the visual arts when working in a supportive setting," Girija Kaimal, one of the study's authors, told Science Daily. "That said, I did expect that perhaps the effects would be stronger for those with prior experience."

Before conducting the study, the team suspected that the types of materials chosen might affect cortisol levels, with less-structured mediums like clay and markers lowering stress better than more structured activities like collaging. No significant correlation was found to support this, but they did see a different trend. Age was a factor that played a role in the final results, with younger subjects exhibiting lower levels of the hormone after art-making compared to their older counterparts.

If a lack of confidence is still keeping you from tapping into your inner artist, another recent study suggests that just pretending you're creative may be all it takes to follow through in real life.

[h/t Science Daily]

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