Art has been seen as a universal medium of expression for a long time. It often allows people to convey their thoughts, feelings, and emotions in ways that words cannot. Beyond its creative appeal, recent research has indicated that different art forms could be beneficial for mental health and well-being. This article explores the therapeutic potential of art, taking a deep dive into various ways art can enhance one’s mental health

Art and Stress Reduction

Engaging in artistic activities has been linked to a reduction in stress levels. The process of creating art can act as a form of mindfulness, diverting attention away from stressors and promoting a state of relaxation. Engaging in art can help reduce the levels of cortisol, which is the stress hormone, while also increasing dopamine in the body, which promotes feelings of relaxation. Research published in 2018 suggests that people who engaged in art forms such as music, dance, drawing, and painting experienced significant stress reduction.

Art Helps With Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety can often lead to rumination or preoccupation with negative thoughts. Indulging in activities such as drawing, colouring, and painting can help people break the cycle of negative thoughts by acting as a distraction. There is also a lot of research to suggest that art can help reduce anxiety. 

  • In 2018, a study discovered that students who engaged in colouring or free drawing experienced increased mindfulness and reduced test anxiety. 
  • Another study conducted in 2020 involving 60 undergraduate students revealed that tasks such as drawing a design, colouring, or expressing negative thoughts through drawing led to decreased anxiety levels and lower heart rates. 
  • A 2019 trial indicated that 10 to 12 sessions of art therapy contributed to reduced anxiety and improved quality of life in women diagnosed with anxiety disorders.

Engaging in art can help with depression as well. Various studies suggest that indulging in art can increase dopamine in the body, leading to an improved mood. In a small study conducted in Brazil, elderly women diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD) showed significant improvement in depression symptoms after participating in 20 weekly art therapy group sessions.

Improves Self-Esteem

The act of creating art, irrespective of skill level, may contribute to a sense of accomplishment and thus lead to a boost in one’s self-esteem, As per a 2019 publication from the World Health Organization (WHO), engaging in expressive arts activities may help enhance self-esteem, self-acceptance, confidence, and self-worth. Improved self-esteem also contributes to reduced anxiety and depression.

Other Benefits of Art for Mental Health

Apart from the ones mentioned above, engaging in art has various other benefits, such as

  • Art therapy can help improve social skills among children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Art therapy can help reduce self-harm tendencies among adolescents
  • Art therapy has been effective in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Is Art Therapy Only For Artistic People?

Many people tend to resist art as they believe that they are not artistic enough to explore it. However, one does not need to be an artist to explore art therapy or engage in artistic activities to improve their mental health. Remember that the aim is not to create an artistic masterpiece but to utilise art as a medium of expression and self-awareness. So, consider exploring art as a medium of expression if you find it interesting.


Art has always been a medium of expression, but recent research suggests that it can also help boost mental health. Art is effective in boosting self-esteem while also helping to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. Art has also been integrated into therapy to provide individuals with a unique experience as compared to the usual talk therapies.


  1. 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 Psychology, 10, 1203.
  2. Ciasca, E. C., Ferreira, R. C., Santana, C. L. A., Forlenza, O. V., dos Santos, G. D., Brum, P. S., & Nunes, P. V. (2018). Art therapy as an adjuvant treatment for depression in elderly women: A randomized controlled trial. Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry, 40, 256–263.
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  4. How Art Can Help People Understand & Cope With Depression. (2021, January 7). GeneSight.
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  7. Potential Health Benefits of Art Therapy. (2023, April 20). EverydayHealth.Com.
Dhruva Koranne

Dhruva Koranne has completed his Masters in Applied Psychology from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, BALM. He has been practicing as a counsellor since 2020 and works to create a safe space for clients where they can open up. In addition to this, Dhruva loves researching and studying about upcoming theories in the field of Psychology. Connect with him on Linkedin