The healing power of art & creativity (Photo by Sage Ross)

Summer is often a time of fun and creativity, especially for children. School is replaced with activities such as vacation Bible school, arts and crafts, and plays. But everyone can benefit from a little more creativity in their lives, as art can be healing and very therapeutic.

In fact, an entire healing profession — known as art therapy — is built around the healing power of art and creativity.

Art has been shown to help with physical, emotional, mental and social health. Art not only offers an escape from illness, but it also can actually heal the body physiologically.

There are numerous research studies demonstrating how art can help with mental health, cancer, pediatric cancer, pain, chronic disease, trauma, heart disease, influenza and many other illnesses. Art can be a healing force for people with emotional and mental disorders, including patients with dementia. And art can contribute to the psychological well-being of anyone.

The number of creative activities that have tremendous healing potential is vast, including music, poetry, drama, songwriting, painting, writing, drawing, dance, movement, crafts, pottery and sculpting. The word poetry comes from the Greek root “poesis,” which means “making.” Patients can take their pain, grief, anxiety or hope and give it a new and different form, ultimately helping move those emotions toward healing.

Art therapy is even used by the military, veteran’s organizations, and in disaster relief. It can be used to both assess for post-traumatic stress disorder and help heal it. Art therapy is used with traumatic brain injury and other traumatic events. When applied in disaster relief situations, it can be used to heal emotions, create relaxation, establish security and support, and process traumatic experiences for both children and adults.

Hospitals use art therapy for patient care throughout every level of the organization, including inpatients, outpatients, nursing home, cancer care, long-term care, rehabilitation, and in palliative care. Research has shown that art therapy can help improve vital signs and quality of sleep for those staying in the hospital. Art and creativity can even decrease the need for pain medication, as well as decrease recovery time spent in the hospital.

Spend your summer finding a creative activity you enjoy, either along with your children or on your own. You will create not only art to share, but also good health.

Les Moore is a doctor of naturopathy, holds a master’s of science in Oriental medicine and is a licensed acupuncturist. He is director of Integrative Medicine at Clifton Springs Hospital in Ontario County.

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