The Science of Calming Anxiety Through Abstract Art

Abstract art, with its unique form, color, and composition, has been known to evoke strong emotions in individuals. Studies have shown that creating abstract art can also be an effective method for calming anxiety. This article will explore the science behind how your brain reacts when you create abstract art and how it can help to alleviate anxiety.

Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety is a common mental health disorder characterized by excessive worrying, fear, and stress. Anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, and heart palpitations. The brain's amygdala, responsible for processing emotions, plays a significant role in anxiety. When the amygdala senses a threat, it activates the body's fight-or-flight response, causing physical symptoms and increased anxiety.

Anxiety is a natural response to stress and danger. It is a feeling of unease or apprehension about future uncertainties. Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life, but excessive and chronic anxiety can be a mental health disorder that requires medical attention.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorders in the United States, affecting more than 40 million adults annually. Anxiety can manifest in various forms, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Anxiety symptoms can vary from person to person and from one disorder to another. Common symptoms include excessive worrying, fear, restlessness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension, and sleep disturbances. Anxiety can also cause physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and sweating. Anxiety can interfere with daily life and lead to social isolation, depression, and other mental health problems if left untreated.

Art Therapy for Anxiety

Art therapy is a form of therapy that utilizes various forms of art-making to help individuals express and understand their emotions, thoughts, and feelings. It can be a powerful tool in treating anxiety and other mental health conditions. Art therapy is often used with other forms of therapy, such as talk therapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy, to provide a more holistic approach to treatment.

Art therapy is based on the idea that creating art can help to improve a person's overall well-being. Individuals can explore and express their feelings in a safe and supportive environment by engaging in the creative process. This can be particularly helpful for those who struggle to express themselves verbally, as creating art allows for a more nonverbal and intuitive expression.

Art therapy can take many forms, depending on the individual's needs and preferences. Some common forms of art therapy include painting, drawing, sculpture, collage, and photography. The art therapist may also incorporate other forms of creative expressions, such as dance or music, into the therapy sessions.

Art therapy for anxiety can help individuals better understand and manage their symptoms. By creating art, individuals can explore the underlying causes of their anxiety and learn new coping strategies to help them better manage their symptoms. Additionally, art therapy can be a relaxing and calming activity, helping to reduce stress and anxiety levels.

The Science of Creating Abstract Art

Creating art, including abstract art, has been shown to activate the brain's reward center, the ventral striatum, associated with pleasure and satisfaction. This activation of the reward center is thought to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in motivation, mood, and pleasure.

Creating art has also reduced cortisol levels, a stress hormone contributing to anxiety and other negative emotions. Studies have shown that engaging in creative activities can decrease cortisol levels, which can help alleviate stress and anxiety.

Furthermore, creating abstract art may help to quiet the mind and promote a state of relaxation. Focusing on creating without worrying about the final product can help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Additionally, the use of color and the act of applying paint or other materials to a canvas can be meditative and calming.

The Benefits of Creating Abstract Art

Creating abstract art can provide a range of benefits for individuals, including those struggling with anxiety. Studies have shown that creating abstract art can have several benefits, including reducing anxiety, improving mood, and increasing self-esteem. Here are some of the key benefits of creating abstract art:

  1. Reduces stress and anxiety: Creating abstract art can serve as a form of stress relief and help alleviate anxiety. It can provide a calming and meditative effect by allowing individuals to focus on the present moment and express their emotions through art.
  2. Improves mood: The act of creating art can stimulate the release of dopamine in the brain, which is associated with pleasure and happiness. This can help improve mood and reduce feelings of depression.
  3. Increases self-awareness: Creating abstract art can help individuals explore and express their innermost thoughts and feelings, leading to a greater understanding of themselves and their emotions.
  4. Boosts creativity: Abstract art allows for a high degree of creative freedom and experimentation, which can help individuals develop and expand their creative skills.
  5. Enhances problem-solving skills: Creating abstract art involves making decisions about composition, color, and form, which can help individuals develop problem-solving skills and foster a sense of accomplishment.

The benefits of creating abstract art can be significant for those struggling with anxiety. It can provide a positive outlet for self-expression and creativity while promoting a sense of calm and relaxation.

Getting Started with Abstract Art

Getting started with abstract art can seem overwhelming, but it's important to remember that it is all about expression and exploration. There is no right or wrong way to create abstract art. Here are some tips for getting started:

  1. Gather your materials: You'll need art supplies like paper, canvas, paint, brushes, and any other materials you want to use. Experiment with different materials and see what works best for you.
  2. Start with a blank canvas: Don't worry about creating a masterpiece immediately. Start with a blank canvas and let your creativity guide you.
  3. Choose your colors: Choose colors that inspire you and make you feel calm or happy. You can use a color wheel to help you decide which colors to use.
  4. Experiment with different techniques: Try different painting techniques like splattering, blending, or using a palette knife. Don't be afraid to make mistakes.
  5. Embrace the process: Remember that abstract art is about the process, not the result. Take your time making a perfect piece of art.
  6. Practice: Like any skill, creating abstract art takes an approach. Keep going even if your first few pieces turn out differently than you want them to. Keep experimenting and exploring your creativity.

Abstract art can be an effective method for calming anxiety. The science behind how the brain reacts when creating abstract art shows that it activates areas responsible for problem-solving and emotion regulation, reducing anxiety. Art therapy, including abstract art, can be a powerful tool in promoting mental health and well-being. So, grab some supplies, find a quiet space, and let the creative process lead you to calm and peace.

Grouport offers online group therapy and DBT skills group for anxiety

While abstract art can help with anxiety, it also doesn't hurt to have group therapy support with a licensed therapist guiding you. Grouport offers online group therapy for anxiety, using evidence-based modalities to help with symptoms. 

Our groups meet weekly, and our therapists teach Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) skills to incorporate so members can identify triggers, challenge negative thought patterns, and adopt more constructive behaviors to recover from and manage their anxiety. Online group therapy sessions are available to New York, New Jersey, and Florida residents.

If you are not in either of those three states, we also have a dialectical behavior skills group designed to help individuals improve their relationships, reduce emotional suffering, manage anxiety, and rediscover hope for the future. DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) enables you to learn strategic new skills to replace behaviors and emotions causing friction in your daily life and relationships.

Sign up with Grouport today and start your process toward becoming a better version of yourself. We can get better together.

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