The Impact of Music and Arts on Emotional Well-being 

Diverse group of teens laugh while working together on an art project

“We read to know we are not alone.” ~ C.S. Lewis. 

Reading may look like an isolating activity with one’s eyes riveted on the page and reality fading behind the words painted in the reader’s head, but reading is entirely communal. This is true for literature and many other arts. The arts balance individuality and community. Writing, painting, sculpting, and music composition all have a communal and individual element. The fast pace of modern life and some aspects of social media tempt us to focus on the negative or forget ourselves altogether. However, art helps us think of ourselves, life, and others in healthy ways. This post will explore how art and music benefit our emotional well-being. 

Art Focuses 

We can think of art in terms of the person who makes it and the person who appreciates it. Appreciating art helps people experience the world more fully. Landscapes, ironically, help us remember beauty by recreating it. Music takes something we all experience daily—sound—and mixes it in beautiful, engaging, and exciting patterns. Seeing a painting and hearing a song helps us see reality packed with meaning. Even art that renders negative experiences helps. Susan Magsamen, co-author of the book Your Brain on Art, explains, “The arts trigger the release of neurochemicals, hormones and endorphins that offer you an emotional release. When you experience virtual reality, read poetry or fiction, see a film, listen to a piece of music or dance you are biologically changed. There is a neurochemical exchange that can lead to what Aristotle called catharsis, or a release of emotion that leaves you more connected to yourself and others afterward.” A work of art helps us deal with fear, pity, and suffering constructively. We may feel more empathy toward others because of the work or be provided a non-threatening way to deal with negativity. Still, art helps us be optimistic about the negative by giving us practice using our emotions so we’re ready for real life experiences. 

Art Inspires and Cultivates 

Creating is just as beneficial. Making art helps us take all the inward emotions, both positive and negative, and express them. Instead of looking inside, the student expresses what they see. Art is, in and of itself, a charitable action. A person can’t do it and only think of themselves. The artist enters into a genre with conventions not their own and brings something into reality that is meaningful, even if they never show it to anyone else. Creating it involves public expression. Magsamen continues, “A big part of what happens when you interact with a piece of artwork, or when you find something aesthetically pleasing, is that there is an aha! moment where you feel like you’ve seen the world in a new way.” When we engage ourselves in expressing something, we must figure out how to say it to others. That act can never be entirely selfish. 

Art Empowers 

Students feel a lasting sense of accomplishment when they create art, while parents and teachers will often recognize and celebrate the students’ creativity—frequently displaying their artwork at home or in school. Even the most rudimentary creation of a tool, landscape, jewelry dish, or pencil sketch can elicit feelings of joy. Although art is often created alone, it doesn’t have to be. We can draw and write and compose with a friend—many great pieces of music and art are collaborative projects. But, even when solo-creating, the artistic process be accomplished in a room full of people creating all at once. Many groups meet for artistic reasons, and that setting fosters community.   

Art Nurtures  

Through the process of creating and experiencing various forms of art, we practice introspections, reflection, expression, and develop a sense of community—all of which provide positive emotional benefits. Physically, it has been shown to reduce harmful cortisol levels and enhance positive interactions in the brain. Psychologically, by creating new ways to view the world, it merges a sense of accomplishment with a mode of meditation. Art also gives the artist a sense of control; by controlling their art, they interpret reality and own it. What does art offer? It offers a way to release the negative, recognize and enhance the positive, communicate in unique ways, and does it all in a community.

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