How Creating Art Can Improve Your Mental Health

Maya Capasso May 20, 2024

Getting into arts and crafts was a game changer for my mental health. As someone who lives with long-term, treatment resistant depression, I make art as a part of my recovery journey. Being crafty and creative can help with de-stressing, understanding our emotions, and can even make you feel happier overall. 

Here are some key research-backed benefits of creating art for mental health. 


Art Can Reduce Stress


There’s something soothing about sitting down to draw, knit, paint, or sculpt. Working with my hands gives me something pleasant to focus my mind on instead of ruminating on my anxieties. Research from Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions suggests that regardless of whether someone is a fully-fledged artist or just getting started, making art can help reduce stress hormones in the body.

High stress levels can negatively impact both physical and mental health. When I go through troubling times in my life—like when I have car troubles or a close family member faces challenging health issues—I can feel my stress levels rise and my anxiety and depression increase with it. As a ceramic artist, spending time in the pottery studio creating new mugs, bowls, and vases helps me relieve the stress of the day perfectly. 


Art Can Improve Social Connection


Data from the HEartS survey in the United Kingdom suggests that engaging with performing arts or group crafting activities such as an art class or craft club can help improve feelings of social connectedness. Last year, I faced a low period with my depression that forced me to seek hospitalization. In my program, we did some art therapy in a group setting that helped me feel less alone. Soon after I was discharged, I started taking pottery classes and joined a local arts and crafts club. 

Meeting up with other like-minded people to create helped me feel like a part of a community rather than isolated and alone. This is important—because research links loneliness to increased levels of depression, sleep problems, and personality disorders. 

Plus, engaging with arts in a group setting helps improve feelings of connection over a common interest, and even more studies suggest that social connection directly and positively impacts a person’s mental health. 


Art Can Help You Express Your Emotions


Many with mental health issues struggle to understand and express their, sometimes difficult, emotions. But doing so can have a huge positive impact on mental health. Not only does expressing emotions help us process and understand them, but the vulnerability of sharing your deepest thoughts with another person can help bring you closer. One recent study shows that painting and drawing in art therapy encourages people to open up about their emotions, both with themselves and their loved ones. 

I love using art as a way to express myself and my feelings. When I’m angry, I like to sit down with a pen and a blank piece of paper and scribble away before taking a step back and turning those scribbles into an abstract coloring book. When I’m sad, I can grab some watercolors and paint a scene that reflects my feelings more accurately than words. I even love to express my happiness through my art by creating silly, whimsical monsters. Creating art for mental healthreasons helps me to better understand myself and process my feelings in a healthy way. 

You might consider the Central Adaptive Crossbody bag to help carry your art supplies and help you express yourself in a fun, creative way thanks to the beautiful colors it comes in.


Art Can Increase Happiness


Psychological research shows that low levels of chemicals in the brain like serotonin and dopamine can be linked to mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Dopamine, in particular, is linked to pleasure and happiness. 

While one avenue, medication isn’t the only way to get higher levels of dopamine. Studies strongly link creating art  to increased dopamine levels—and therefore more happiness. When I make art, I have no way of knowing exactly what’s going on chemically inside my brain. But what I do know is that after spending a couple of hours at the potter's wheel or with paint and a canvas, I feel calmer and happier than I did before. 


Empowering Disabled Artists


Unfortunately, people with mental health issues and other disabilities can face barriers that prevent them from pursuing their dreams of becoming an artist. Opportunities for abled-bodied artists simply aren’t as accessible for some. 

ArtLifting’s co-founder and CEO, Liz Powers, created her business to change just that. “I founded ArtLifting to create opportunities and reimagine a more accessible creative economy,” Powers shares. Founded in Boston, ArtLifting’s central goal is to create opportunities for disabled artists across the nation to help advance their careers and earn an income from their art. 

ArtLifting paired up with JanSport to create colorful and unique designs for backpacks, bags, and more, like this super cute design for the Fifth Avenue Waist Pack. Check out their incredible work to both find your new favorite bag and support disabled artists.