Let me ask you a question:
When you find yourself with some extra time on your hands, do you think: "Cool! Time to make some progress on that painting I started yesterday." Or something along those lines?
If you answered "yes", then you belong to the vast number of people who enjoy painting as a hobby. A hobby can be any activity you enjoy doing during your leisure time and can take many forms but it's always something we find enjoyable.
As a hobby, painting lets us pass the time and keep boredom at bay but did you know that it also helps improve mental health and wellbeing?
In this article, we discuss the science-backed facts on how painting as a hobby helps improve mental health.
So, let's get started:
Hobbies Improve Mental and Physical Wellbeing
Talking of hobbies as a whole, simply enjoying a hobby can make you healthier both mentally and physically.
In a study by Dr. Sarah D. Pressman et al., subjects were asked to participate in ten different types of leisure activities while also measuring their positive and negative psychological states. The study assessed their resting blood pressure, cortisol (the stress hormone) over 2 days, body mass index, waist circumference, and perceived physiological functioning.
The study found that the subjects had lower blood pressure, total cortisol, waist circumference, and body mass index plus better perceptions of physical function.
Hobbies Improve Focus
Another mental benefit hobbies offer is the ability to better focus on the task at hand. You can achieve this by getting your mind into the flow state, which is when you focus all your attention on a particular activity.
In a study by Dr. Kenji Katahira et al., 16 participants were attached to an electroencephalogram (EEG) and made to enter the flow state. They were then given an arithmetic task, developed in a prior study, to verify the positive effects of flow and develop a method to utilize it.
The results found that entering a flow state increased theta activities in the frontal areas of the brain which related to a high level of cognitive control and immersion in tasks. The flow state also showed moderate alpha activities in the frontal and central areas of the brain which suggested that the load on the participant's working memory was not excessive.
While painting may seem dissimilar to arithmetic, it still presents its own unique set of challenges that require your full focus. If you've ever tried to paint a mural or portrait or miniature figures, you'll likely have already experienced being in the flow state.
Art Reduces Stress & Anxiety and Prepares You Against Future Stressors
Art hobbies like painting, drawing, coloring, etc have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety.
One study by Dr. Girija Kaimal et al. investigated visual art's impact on the cortisol levels of 39 healthy adult participants. Participants provided saliva samples after 45 minutes of art making and written responses about the experience at the end of the session.
The results showed that art-making resulted in statistically lower cortisol levels. The participants also wrote how they enjoyed and felt relaxed during the art-making session, and that it helped them learn new aspects of themselves, attain a sense of freedom, and a sense of flow/losing themselves in the work.
A similar result was found by Associate Professor in Psychology, Nicola Holt in her study "Tracking momentary experience in the evaluation of arts-on-prescription services: Using mood changes during art workshops to predict global wellbeing change". This study found that, after an arts-on-prescription session, participants experienced a significant positive change in mood which continued to improve over time as they arrived at the workshop each week.
120 Minutes of Simply Being in Nature Improves Wellbeing
What is it about painting al fresco that makes us feel so good and relaxed?
The benefits of simply being in nature were observed in the study by Mathew P. White et al. The study let one group of participants have some recreational nature contact while depriving another set of participants of the same. After one week, all participants then submitted their health and wellbeing reports.
The results showed that participants who spent 120 to 179 minutes a week were more likely to report good health and wellbeing when compared to those deprived of recreational nature contact. What's even more interesting is that it didn't matter whether the participants got their 120 minutes of recreational nature contact all in one day or through several minutes across the whole week.
So, head out and paint in nature's open air. Not only will your landscape painting look more realistic, but your mind and body will also benefit as well.
Drawing, Arts, and Crafts Helps Avoid Dementia
Earlier, we discussed how art hobbies reduce stress and anxiety. But, there's more. Did you know that art hobbies can reduce your risk of dementia?
In recent research by Sharon A Gutman et al. on the neurological basis of human activity and its relationship to occupation and health, the researchers split certain activities into three categories: those that activate the brain's reward system; those that promote the relaxation response; and those that preserve cognitive function into old age.
The researchers found that:
"Purposeful and meaningful activities could counter the effects of stress-related diseases and reduce the risk for dementia. Specifically, it was found that music, drawing, meditation, reading, arts and crafts, and home repairs, for example, can stimulate the neurological system and enhance health and well-being."
Creativity Makes Us Happier and Happiness Makes Us More Creative
You may already know that being happy has a way of kindling our artistic interests and makes us want to pursue our hobbies. But there's a study that says the relationship between happiness and creativity goes both ways and we're all for it.
In two studies by Cher-Yi Tan et al., one set of subjects was made to do a creativity priming task followed by a divergent thinking test while another set of subjects simply got the thinking test. After the thinking test, the researchers then collected self-reports on stress and wellbeing from both sets.
The results of the first test showed that the subjects who received the creativity priming task outperformed the other set of subjects in the thinking test. The second result showed that subjects who did the creativity priming task also reported less stress and better wellbeing than the other set.
Both studies show that practicing our creativity makes us perform better and be happier. And since happiness also nurtures our creativity, it creates a positive upward spiral in our lives.