Hobbies are an important part of maintaining your mental health and wellbeing. They’re something that instantly spark joy and give you something to be passionate about, as well as giving you something to focus on instead of your daily worries and stresses.
We’ve noticed that many people come home from our painting holidays feeling recharged and refreshed, and it got us wondering about the emotional and psychological benefits of painting.
Obviously, being in Italy for a week, doing something you love, enjoying fantastic food in beautiful surroundings with fun, like-minded people – it’s bound to put a spring in your step. But is there maybe more to it than that – could painting in and of itself improve your mental and emotional well-being?
Well, we’ve put our research caps on and looked into it for you!
One interesting study by a psychologist and neuroscientist, Kelly Lambert, suggests that painting may actually alleviate depression and anxiety by stimulating parts of the brain affected by depression. Other psychologists liken the experience of complete concentration and absorption that you get while painting to mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga,
Read on to find out the top 7 ways that painting can positively impact your well-being!
1. Painting develops your creativity
This may sound obvious enough, but what might not be obvious is that painting stimulates both the right and left sides of the brain.
In painting, we use the left side of the brain to tackle rational, logical challenges – how to structure the painting, for example – while the left side of the brain is used for more creative challenges, helping the painter visualise their work before they even set up their easel.
Even as a beginner, learning how to paint will strengthen your mind as you try our new techniques and master new skills!
Painting is an all-brain exercise, strengthening the mind and triggering dopamine activity in the brain. So spending time indulging your creative spirit is basically aerobics for your brain!
2. Painting supports your emotional wellbeing
They say a picture says a thousand words, and painting can be a hugely cathartic experience, allowing you to access feelings buried deep within your subconscious.
Painting can also help us deal with those feelings by giving them a physical shape, removing the anguish involved when keeping feelings hidden. This is why psychologists often prescribe art therapy for patients who have suffered psychological trauma: it helps to release emotions in a safe, non-threatening environment.
By learning to better express yourself, through the medium of art, painting can be an act of self-care that supports your emotional well-being.
3. Builds your problem-solving skills
Although we try our best, sometimes our paintings rarely turn out as originally planned! Changes in the light, the limitations of your palette, and just plain old lack of experience and technique mean that what you start out trying to achieve sometimes doesn’t come to life the way that you expected.
Although this can be frustrating and disappointing, it turns out that this can actually be good for you! Unexpected results have two benefits: for starters, you pretty quickly learn to deal with disappointment, and in time (often through repeated error) to realise that when one door closes, another opens. You quickly learn to adapt and come up with creative solutions to the problems the painting presents, and this means that thinking outside the box becomes second nature to the painter!
Creative problem-solving skills are incredibly useful in daily life and mean you’re more likely to be able to quickly come up with a solution when a problem arises.
4. Improves memory and concentration
Your brain is essentially working out whenever you paint, which means that painting boosts memory function and sharpens the mind. In particular, painters exercise the parts of their brain responsible for memory and concentration.
People who regularly practice creative activities such as painting are shown to have less chance of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia. So not only is your painting hobby sparking joy and making you feel better, but it’s also looking after your health and safeguarding your brain functions for the future!
5. Painting can develop communication skills
Painting helps you tap into your subconscious and allows you to communicate your feelings to yourself and the outside world through the pieces you create. Not only this, but it also, in simple terms, acts as an ice-breaker – giving you a shared interest with thousands of other artists and art appreciators around the world!
Our painting holidays are pretty social affairs, and inevitably you end up discussing each other’s art. Little wonder that many come back from our holidays not just with a portfolio of paintings, but also an address book full of new friends!
6. Spending time painting relieves stress
Painters enter a world of their own as they create, and this allows them – albeit unconsciously – to separate themselves from the stresses and strains of everyday life. No mortgage, no office politics – just colour and shade, and “how on earth do I do justice to those incredible poppies and that terracotta rooftop?”, instead.
Painting allows us to escape our daily struggles, and it lifts us. By focusing on our painting, we achieve what art critic and philosopher, Arthur Danto, calls “transfiguration of the commonplace,” as our painting becomes imbued with meanings that go well beyond their literal worth.
In other words, your painting may not turn out like you thought it would, but somehow just by contemplating it, and studying it, you feel lifted by its beauty.
7. You can practice mindfulness through painting
You may struggle to capture the full beauty of that hilltop town or cypress-studded skyline, but just trying can have a hugely positive impact. Painting is a meditative act – it takes you out of yourself, freeing yourself from your physical limitations. This means you are only focusing on the present and on the artwork in front of you as you paint, freeing your mind from worries and intrusive thoughts.
Art can be a healing act, a balm for the soul and the mind. There are also cases where art has helped with physical rehabilitation as well. For instance, Renoir and Gauguin are two famous examples of artists, who through painting’s transcendental bliss, were able to move atrophied hands, experiencing a remarkable temporary healing.
As it turns out, not only is painting a generally enjoyable activity, but it’s incredibly good for your mental health and wellbeing! The psychological benefits are astounding, even though you might not notice them whilst you’re painting your own masterpiece. So, now it’s time to dig out the sketchbook and paintbrushes, and embrace your creativity! Go on – it’s good for you!