How Creative Expression Can Support the Healing Process

Updated: Jan 18

Frida Kahlo, the famous Mexican painter, spent many months of her life in bed recovering from a painful accident and illnesses, but she did not let that stop her from creating. She painted self-portraits as an outlet to express what she was going through physically, mentally, and emotionally. She refused to be a victim of her circumstances. She used her creativity to give her “wings to fly.”

How does creative expression enhance the healing process?

"We can allow ourselves to be empowered, to induce self-healing through the creative aspects of poetry, music, art, and images and let them work within us to help cure our diseases and heal our lives." —Bernie S Siegel, MD

Creativity promotes healing of our minds and bodies by allowing us to unwind, releasing physical stress anxiety. In his book Creative Healing, Dr. Michael Samuels describes how art heals: “Our physiology changes from one of stress to one of relaxation, from one of fear to one of creativity and inspiration.” Dr. Michael Samuels states the following:

1. Making art puts a person in a different brain wave pattern and affects the autonomic nervous system, hormonal balances, and brain neurotransmitters.

2. Making art affects every cell in the body instantly to create a healing physiology that changes the immune system and blood flow to the organs.

3. It changes attitudes, emotional states, and pain perception.

Creating art can reduce your pain. This is art as medicine! A study done at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and published in the European Journal of Cancer Care showed that patients who participated in a brief bedside visual art intervention (BVAI) had “significant improvements in positive mood and [reduced] pain scores.” In this study, BVAI allowed patients to create art without a “specific psychotherapeutic goal,” meaning they could create whatever they wanted.

Shaun McNiff, art therapist and the author of Art Can Heal Your Life, feels that creating is all about energy. This element is frequently overlooked in the art-making experience. He describes the circulation of creative energy as a part of the art-making process, which provides healing energy to the body.

While going through a difficult time, experiencing yourself as a creative person can help you see yourself in a more positive and life-affirming way. Creativity is in our DNA, and you don’t have to be a master painter or a musician in order to express it, you just have to trust the process. Instead of asking yourself why me? which is from a place of powerlessness—can you shift your perspective to one of what can I do? The second question empowers you to shift to things that you can control.

To Explore this Process

Creativity is your “prescription” to reduce stress, raise spirits, and gain a sense of control over your own healing. Think of your “creative” time as “self-care” time.

Let’s start exploring creativity and wellness with these journal questions:

  • Do I have tools to distract my mind, ease my pain, and soothe my soul while I am going through a difficult time?

  • What do I give to myself on a regular basis that feels healing, creative, and nourishing?

  • When can I carve out some time to weave creativity into my life?

If you would like more information on the Creative Prescription process click below for a free mini-book with printable activities and drawings-

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