Many of us have experienced the therapeutic power of creativity. When you’re in a dark place, feeling lethargic, or mourning a personal loss, the simple act of creating can invigorate your senses. Tasks as banal as cooking, redesigning a room, gardening, or sketching can boost your spirit immensely. All of these activities require you to give physical form to an idea, desire, or state of mind.
Looking at or making art can improve mental well-being and liberate repressed urges, fears, and emotions. Many artists throughout history—notably Mexican painter Frida Kahlo—have understood art’s capacity to heal.
As a young woman, Kahlo survived a nearly fatal bus accident that fractured and broke many bones in her body, including her spine and pelvis. Kahlo’s healing process was psychologically and physically painful. For months, Kahlo lay on a bed in a body cast, unmoving. With nowhere to go, and nothing to do except mend, Kahlo taught herself how to paint. Her mother purchased her a lap easel, and positioned a mirror above her head. Kahlo began crafting self-portraits that served as emotional outlets.
Art would prove to nurture Kahlo’s body and soul throughout her life, functioning as her therapeutic tool. She worked through physical and mental ailments by describing them visually with paint. Her body of work reads like an autobiography, expressing particular episodes of trauma and joy. Some interpret Kahlo’s paintings as illogical and surreal—they often position familiar objects in unfamiliar settings—but the artist insisted that she painted her own reality.
Like exercise, art is good for the body and mind. It encourages personal growth by asking that you look deeply at the world around you, from a variety of perspectives. Even if you’re not an artist, you too can benefit from the restorative power of art.
- Research. Conduct an online search for images of paintings with subjects that appeal to you. For example, if you are attracted to flowers, simply search “paintings with flowers.”
- Make a selection. Select a painting that depicts an appealing environment—a place where you would like to be.
- Visualize yourself in a new environment. Sit alone with the image, free of distraction, for five minutes, and visualize yourself there. Allow the colors and forms to awaken your senses so that you not only see but also hear and smell the painted scene.