Islamabad (Online): Feeling stressed? Get drawing. A new study suggests that creating art can reduce stress levels – regardless of a person’s artistic skill.
Cortisol is often referred to as the “stress hormone.” Produced in the adrenal glands, situated above the kidneys, cortisol levels increase in response to stress. Therefore, the higher a person’s cortisol levels, the more stressed they are.
The team notes that around half of the participants reported little experience in creating art.
Before and after the art-making session, researchers took saliva samples from each participant, which they used to measure cortisol levels.
The researchers identified a reduction in cortisol levels among 75 percent of the participants, indicating a reduction in stress. This finding remained even after accounting for participants’ experience of art-making.
“That said, I did expect that perhaps the effects would be stronger for those with prior experience.”
The remaining 25 percent of participants, however, demonstrated an increase in cortisol during the art-making session, but the researchers say this is to be expected, noting that cortisol is also needed for functioning.
“For example, our cortisol levels vary throughout the day – levels are highest in the morning because that gives us an energy boost to us going at the start of the day,” Kaimal explains. “It could’ve been that the art-making resulted in a state of arousal and/or engagement in the study’s participants.”
Additionally, the team found some evidence that younger participants were more likely to experience a reduction in cortisol during art-making than older subjects.
Kaimal says one explanation for this finding might be that younger individuals are still identifying ways to manage stress and deal with day-to-day challenges, while older people – having had more life experience – may have found better ways to deal with stress.
Overall, the researchers say their findings suggest art-making may be an effective way to reduce stress, and they plan to investigate this association further in future studies.
“We want to ultimately examine how creative pursuits could help with psychological well-being and, therefore, physiological health, as well,” adds Kaimal.