Pop quiz! Answer true or false to each of the following statements:
- I maintain a healthy diet.
- I get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily.
- I don’t smoke.
- Most nights, I get at least 8 hours of sleep.
These are the typical boxes we expect to see on a questionnaire designed to determine our overall health. But what if that quiz went on to include the following statements?
- I am regularly exposed to the arts.
- I have frequent opportunities to express myself creatively.
- I often participate in the process of making art.
You’d probably assume you were no longer being asked about your health. Historical health indicators like sleep, tobacco use, eating habits, and activity, are just that — historical. They’re still important and shouldn’t be dismissed. But as we look at the larger picture of health and wellness, we now know those typical indicators are actually just brush strokes in a much larger painting.
Studies show creative expression helps maintain our immune systems and that art is clinically proven to reduce stress, elevate mood, and lower blood pressure. In fact, research also shows that patients who are exposed to art during a hospital stay actually heal quicker and have a better overall experience.
In their study published in the American Journal of Public Health, Heather L. Stuckey, DEd and Jeremy Nobel, MD, concluded there’s a direct link between creative arts and health outcomes, both physical and mental. “Engagement with creative activities has the potential to contribute toward reducing stress and depression and can serve as a vehicle for alleviating the burden of chronic disease,” they found.
They also stated, “Through creativity and imagination, we find our identity and our reservoir of healing. The more we understand the relationship between creative expression and healing, the more we will discover the healing power of the arts.”
We aren’t suggesting that painting will fix a broken bone, or that drawing will cure cancer. But art does have a positive, tangible impact on our daily lives and in many ways can act as a preventive medicine.
Making art allows us time to meditate and reflect, it brings us joy, offers social connection, values creation over consumerism, makes us better problem solvers, and gives us a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. Participating in the creative process leaves people feeling happier, less anxious, more resilient, and more self-confident.
At Intermountain Healthcare, we know there’s a healing power in the arts. That’s why you’ll find art in patient rooms and lobbies throughout our facilities, art therapy programs in some of our hospitals, and the Intermountain logo proudly displayed at art events in our communities.
Art is a form of self-expression. It is permission to find, become, and live our lives as our authentic selves.
What could be healthier than that?