Hands-on art promotes better mental health

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Remember how much fun it was as a kid to play with dough or finger paint or use whatever materials that were around to create something new and different? As it turns out, hands-on art is not only a good thing for children to engage in to stimulate motor skills and creativity, but it’s also beneficial for promoting positive mental health for people of all ages. While so much emphasis is placed on engaging in physical exercise and activity to enhance overall wellness, there also are tremendous benefits to engaging in hands-on art for improving overall mental health.

Mental health benefits of pottery

Using pottery-making as an example, in addition to benefiting from the pure sensory experience of the process, including the coolness of the clay, its malleability, and earthy scent, there are many physiological and emotional aspects that participants experience, which can enhance mental health – at least temporarily. Some of the benefits include:

  • Stress reduction and a boost in one’s mood due to the activation of brain pathways
  • Increased serotonin levels (a natural body chemical that controls mood)
  • Improved brain plasticity from engaging in a creative and movement-based activity
  • Enhanced brain and nervous system function 

Other benefits to hands-on arts programs

  •  Redirect one’s mind to the enjoyable activity at hand
  • Help individuals express emotions. Putting feelings into art can be simultaneously cathartic and creative
  •  Encourage the ability to better problem-solve through art and understand that this skill can be translated to many other situations
  •  Generate a sense of confidence and self-satisfaction by creating something unique and of personal value
  • Help participants make meaningful connections with like-minded people through art created in a group setting. This can be beneficial for overall well-being and acceptance

While life presents many challenges, one of the best things about creating art is that there are no wrong answers or absolutes, so there is no pressure. Individuals can simply focus on the process, foster creativity, and build self-confidence while setting aside daily worries and challenges. If the project doesn’t work out, the artist can start over. Clay is pretty forgiving in that regard. And, while life might not always be that forgiving, hands-on art exploration is an excellent reminder that you can (and should) try again, both in art and in life.

To learn more about current art programs for youth and adults at the Naperville Park District (including pottery), visit www.napervilleparks.org/programguides.