Art, Music and Pet Therapy
Art, Music and Pet Therapy

Art and mental health

Many of us involve ourselves in creative arts simply because we like it, because it makes us happy and we know it’s good for us. A lot of us intuitively know that it’s just something that’s good for us, but what does scientific evidence have to say about how art can affect our mental health?

An Australian study conducted among 702 adults chosen at random found that on average those who spent approximately 2 hours a week engaging in creative arts reported significantly better mental well-being than those with none or very little time spent engaging in art.

Art is thought to relieve stress, encourage creative thinking, encourage alternative perspectives on life and life’s challenges, boost self-esteem and encourage brain activity. To benefit from the positive influence of art you don’t have to be an expert or even very good at it actually! Just express yourself, draw, paint or create something.

Music and mental health

Music has been around for as long as time in one form or another. It has been used as a medium for comedy, discussing serious issues and recently many artists are using it as a medium to break the stigma around mental illness. Many artists are opening up about their struggle with mental health, breaking the stigma and starting the conversation. Examples being: Logic, Ellie Goulding, Sia, Shawn Mendes and many more.

But what about the effect that music has on our mental health? How does music affect our mental health and can it be used to improve it?

A 2013 study in which participants were exposed to stressors found that those who listened to music before the experience recovered the fastest. It is possible that listening to music before stressful experiences or starting your day can help you to de-stress faster.

Another study, established 3 groups to test the effects of music on sleep. The first group listened to music for 45 minutes before sleeping, the second listened to audiobooks and the third had no intervention. The group which listened to music showed that music significantly improved sleep quality and reduced depressive symptoms (insomnia). If you have trouble sleeping at night, maybe try listening to music before bed the next time you’re trying to get a good rest.

It’s also thought that music can improve mood and aid in relaxation. Music may also help to inspire us and motivate us – there’s a reason so many people listen to it while working out right?

Music may just be a useful, everyday tool that we can use to foster good mental health, whether it be listening to music or even expressing yourself through it.

Pet Therapy and Mental Health

Pet therapy, otherwise known as Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is an alternative or complementary form of therapy. It involves guided interaction between a person and a trained animal (most commonly a dog or cat). Pet therapy involves ‘petting’ the animal, playing with it and asking the handler questions. According to a 2011 report from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Health Statistics, almost 60% of hospice care providers that provide alternative/complementary therapy offer pet therapy.

According to UCLA Health, based on research, AAT releases an automatic relaxation response promoting the release of serotonin and oxytocin and prolactin (all of which play a part in elevating one’s mood). AAT lowers anxiety, helps people relax, provides comfort, reduces loneliness, can provide a distraction or escape, and can deter depression and even improve depressive symptoms.

These alternative/complementary forms of therapy may prove to be more useful than ever thought. Their benefits on mental health make them definitely worth giving a shot.

©2020 Do No Harm Foundation

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