Expressing Yourself Creatively Gives Mental Health Boost, Poll Finds

FRIDAY, July 7, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- One way to get real peace of mind: Start doing something creative.

Americans who engage in creative activities -- from crafting to playing the piano to painting --- report better mental health, according to a new poll from the American Psychiatric Association.

“We live in stressful times, and sometimes our jobs and responsibilities can drain our energy and our mental health,” said APA President Dr. Petros Levounis.

“Creative activities aren’t just for fun, they can help us take a step back from the daily grind, use our brains differently, and relax. Picking up that paintbrush or solving a tricky puzzle can truly move us to a different mindset,” Levounis said in an APA news release.

About 46% of American adults say they use creative activities to relieve stress or anxiety. Those who rate their own mental health as “very good” or “excellent” tend to participate in this kind of creative fun more than those who say their mental health is “fair” or “poor,” according to the Healthy Minds Monthly Poll.

This poll was conducted in June among 2,202 adults.

Things are looking up: About 77% of American adults said their current mental health was good or better, compared to 63% in early 2023.

Of those reporting very good or excellent mental health, about 7 in 10 engaged in creative activities, compared to 50% of adults who reported good mental health and 46% of those citing fair or poor mental health.

Of course, the survey can't prove that tapping into your creative side will improve your mental health.

Still, “creative activities are an excellent way to express oneself and to take some time off from the everyday routine,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Dr. Saul Levin.

“When we think about positive actions that boost our mental health, creative pastimes are along the lines of talking to friends, walking in nature and exercising, among other good options. APA is pleased to call attention to these positive actions as part of the public discussion on mental health,” Levin added.

About 65% of those polled said they engaged in creative activities in their free time. About 37% took up these hobbies because they were bored, 19% while working and 14% in times of crisis.

When asked what they did creatively to relieve anxiety or stress, 77% said they listened to music, 39% solved puzzles, one-quarter engaged in singing or dancing and about another quarter pursued drawing, painting or sculpting.

Crafting, creative writing, and concert-going were other popular stress-relievers. Some folks said they created online content for fun, others played a musical instrument or visited art museums. Roughly 1 in 10 engaged in other activities such as gardening or cooking.

More information

The University of Washington has more on the benefits of art for mental health.

SOURCE: American Psychiatric Association, news release, July 6, 2023

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