Art therapy offers an outlet for anxiety and depression


Painting by Nastia Webber.

Art is not just creation; it has a meaning that goes deeper than learning a skill and presenting it to a community of people. According to the American Art Therapy Association, art can be “used to improve cognitive and sensorimotor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress and advance societal and ecological change.”

Art therapy has been around for a long time, but recently it has become more popular due to an increase in anxiety and other mental illnesses during the pandemic. Some students at Guilford College have used art to help them cope with everything going on in their lives, and several of them say that it has been really helpful. 

Many college students, including those at Guilford, are struggling with social isolation and the inability to participate in normal activities because of the pandemic, and often need an outlet for feelings of anxiety and depression.  

Many famous artists, like painter Jackson Pollock, dealt with mental illness, and art was a way for them to get into the zone and focus on how they were feeling. Instead of talking to someone, they would create art to express the emotions they had.

Junior Ananya Benardo revealed that art is “helpful for me to determine my own emotions.” 

“Art is something to help distract,” added junior Lucy Reardon.

Not everyone is solely focused on being an artist. Many students take the time to get away from the worries of their majors/careers and create art just for themselves, more as a hobby. 

“Going into the ceramic studio and being a TA and helping students learn how to throw and how to work with clay, (is) kind of a win-win,” said junior biology major Eva Hart.“I benefit because I’m giving somebody hope and opening up this new world to them, and they are able to learn and gain a new perspective… able to move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. When I’m doing it on my own it really helps me to center myself and just be present and be in the moment; that is really big for me.”

Our mind is very important to our body, so taking time to process thoughts and to live in the present is important for our well-being.

According to research by the National Science Foundation, creativity is primarily driven by the right hemisphere in our brains. While students typically use the left hemisphere, the more analytical part of the brain, for classes, it is important to engage our creativity as well. For students like Ezra Wilson, art is a hobby as well as part of his major. During the pandemic it has been important to get away from the screen and listen to ourselves, and art is a way to do that.  

Art therapy is for the mind, body and soul, and is a way for one to work on themselves, build self-esteem and overall improve their daily lives. Take the time to use that right side of the brain and see how it helps you.