Art activities and mental health

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

In a national survey of over 31 thousand college students, about 31% of college students report stress impacting their academics, followed by anxiety (25%), and depression (16%). (1).

Excessive stress can also lead to depression and anxiety (2).

A previous post looked at leisure activities and mental health.

Activities involving ART may also help with improving mental health which can then help with academics.

Are there examples of research on art activities and mental health?

  • Sandmire and colleagues showed that art making therapy can help with pre-test anxiety among undergraduate students, done upto 1 week before exams (3).
  • Abbing and colleagues showed that art making therapy can improve symptoms of anxiety among women diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder or panic disorder, with moderate to severe anxiety symptoms.  These were 10-12 sessions lasting 45-60 minutes (4).
  • In a study of 85 undergraduate students, free choice coloring, where they could color an image using any colors they wanted; showed an improvement in anxiety and mood (5).
  • In an experimental replication study, after inducing an anxious mood via a writing activity, participants were randomly assigned to three groups that colored either on a mandala design, on a plaid design, or on a blank paper (6). They found that coloring a mandala reduces anxiety to a significantly greater degree than coloring on a plaid design or coloring on a blank paper (6).

What are some caveats?

  • These are small studies in specific populations which does not tell us about all populations.
  • Further research in this area is needed.

Anything else that can help?

In addition to art, the following activities can also help with physical and emotional health:

  • Healthy lifestyle habits(healthy eating habits, healthy exercise, relaxation skills, healthy sleep habits, etc.) (7)
  • Avoiding harmful habits(smoking, drug use, excessive alcohol, etc) (7)
  • This balance might vary from person to person.
  • Healthy ways of thinking and managing emotions through counseling and medications when appropriate.

Different people might benefit from different types of art. What type of art is best for you?

Campus resources:

Any other useful resources on campus:

Learn more about play and mental health:

https://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2017/09/22/mental-health-benefits-of-leisure-activities/

https://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2016/09/28/study-play-and-leisures-impact-on-mood-stress-and-wellbeing/

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. American College Health Association. American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II: Reference Group Executive Summary Fall 2017. Hanover, MD: American College Health Association; 2018.
  2. Khan S, Khan RA (2017) Chronic Stress Leads to Anxiety and Depression. Ann Psychiatry Ment Health 5(1): 1091.
  3. David Alan Sandmire, Sarah Roberts Gorham, Nancy Elizabeth Rankin & David Robert Grimm (2012) The Influence of Art Making on Anxiety: A Pilot Study, Art Therapy, 29:2, 68-73, DOI: 10.1080/07421656.2012.683748
  4. Abbing, A., Baars, E. W., de Sonneville, L., Ponstein, A. S., & Swaab, H. (2019). The Effectiveness of Art Therapy for Anxiety in Adult Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Frontiers in psychology10, 1203. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01203
  5. Judy Eaton & Christine Tieber (2017) The Effects of Coloring on Anxiety, Mood, and Perseverance, Art Therapy, 34:1, 42-46, DOI: 10.1080/07421656.2016.1277113
  6. Renée van der Vennet & Susan Serice (2012) Can Coloring Mandalas Reduce Anxiety? A Replication Study, Art Therapy, 29:2, 87-92, DOI: 10.1080/07421656.2012.680047
  7. Trainor, P. Delfabbro, S. Anderson, A. Winefield. Leisure activities and adolescent psychological well-being. Journal of Adolescence, 33 (1) (2010), pp. 173-186.