Why creating works of art is so fulfilling

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New York, June 14 (IANS) Activities such as colouring, doodling and drawing can lead to significant bloodflow in the section of the brain related to feeling rewarded, says a study by an Indian-origin art therapist.

“This shows that there might be inherent pleasure in doing art activities independent of the end results,” said Girija Kaimal, Assistant Professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

For the study, 26 participants wore brain imaging headbands while they completed three different art activities.

For three minutes each, the participants coloured in a mandala, doodled within or around a circle marked on a paper, and had a free-drawing session.

During all three activities, there was a measured increase in bloodflow in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, compared to rest periods where bloodflow decreased to normal rates.

The prefrontal cortex is related to regulating our thoughts, feelings and actions. It is also related to emotional and motivational systems and part of the wiring for our brain’s reward circuit.

So seeing increased bloodflow in these areas likely means a person is experiencing feelings related to being rewarded.

The findings, published in the journal The Arts in Psychotherapy, are compelling for art therapists who see art as a valuable tool for mental health.

In fact, in surveys administered to the participants after the activities were complete, respondents indicated that they felt more like they had “good ideas” and could “solve problems” than before the activities. Participants even said they felt the three-minute time spans for art-making were not long enough.

“There are several implications of this study’s findings,” Kaimal said.

“They indicate an inherent potential for evoking positive emotions through art-making — and doodling especially. Doodling is something we all have experience with and might re-imagine as a democratising, skill independent, judgment-free pleasurable activity,” she added.

–IANS

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