By Gia Marson, Ed.D
This weekend I was fortunate to take part in a celebration of the opening of the Marciano Art Foundation in Los Angeles. I was awestruck. This art space presents us with inspiring contemporary works, a restored, historic building, and the vision and talent of a large number of hands, minds, and hearts that generated this coming together. Much of our healing comes from art. Whether making it or taking it in, art gives us a pathway to connect with our emotional life, witness the complex workings of the human condition, and be fully present in the moment.
Pick your favorite art forms and engage with them on down days. You don’t need your own words to make rational sense of the art or the process. Participating in it has the potential for reaching in and contacting your soul. You can be there, feel it, and be changed by the artists’ expressions. Maybe the art —whether visual, musical, literary or movement based— will soothe you, bring you words, help you accept your emotions, or inspire action. Even the World Health Organization defines health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, not only the absence of disease.
In psychology, we depend primarily on words as the mechanism for understanding thoughts, emotions, actions, connections, for self-reflection, and for growth. The potential for change and healing is tremendous, too; including recovering mental health and learning to thrive. The practice of psychology is, at its best, empowering for clients and an honor to participate in for providers. However, sometimes words seem partially or wholly inadequate in deep pain, yearning or rapture. That is where art comes in. There is evidence that music, visual arts, writing, and movement-based creative expressions all have the potential to lead to positive outcomes while promoting mental and physical healing. Art can relieve the burden of illness, decrease stress, reduce depression and help heal trauma.
I am not an artist so I take it in, grateful for artists’ abilities to illuminate conflicts, moments of tenderness and beauty, the journey of becoming and universal truths. Whether you are someone who takes art in or one who creates it, make it part of your overall health plan. Visualize how art can help you heal and take you further toward a well-lived life.
World Health Organization (1978); Traditional Medicine: Proposed Programme Budget for the Financial Period 1981 Geneva, Switzerland.
Stuckey, H. & Nobel, J. (2010); The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature; American Journal of Public Health.
Bessel van der Kolk (2014); The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.