Artistic Expression and Creativity: Harnessing the Arts for Youth Mental Health Empowerment

by | Sep 1, 2023 | Lifestyle

Pakistan is a young country. Reportedly, over 50% of the population is under 21 years of age[1]. Simultaneously, because of external factors such as unemployment, insecurity, and cultural taboos, Pakistan also has an escalating mental health problem. By some estimates, as of 2020, almost 50 million people in the country were dealing with mental health concerns, including anxiety and depression. This is coupled with a lack of resources, where poverty exacerbates the situation for many[2].

While it is important to ensure that those in need have access to care, something that could facilitate mental well-being is creative and artistic expression. Research has revealed that creative endeavors and activities can help with a range of mental health concerns[3].

The Power of Expression

In an experiment conducted by UCLA Neuroscientist Alex Korb[4], participants looked at pictures of people with various expressions. It was noted that the amygdala, which is the part of your brain that has an important role in emotional reactions, was activated based on the expressions they saw. But, when participants named the emotions, the amygdala’s reactivity lessened as did the impact the emotion had on the participant. Essentially, when they expressed themselves, the intensity of the emotion was lessened.

It was also found, that when we suppress negative emotions as opposed to expressing them, their impact can be a lot more severe.

Creative therapy, which can include dance, art, music, and writing among other things, can be beneficial precisely because it encourages people to express themselves[5].

Here are some ways in which specific creative activities can help your mental health.

Art Therapy

Administered by trained professionals, art therapy entails individuals using art to express how they are feeling[6]. This form of creative therapy is beneficial for a range of mental health concerns. It has been shown to be particularly beneficial for children because it encourages them to express themselves in non-verbal ways, and can have positive impacts on their self-esteem, concentration, problem solving skills, and communication skills[7]

This can be particularly significant for Pakistan since it was discovered that approximately 20 million children in the country are struggling with mental health concerns[8].

Expressive Writing

Expressive writing requires that individuals write about specific events that took place, and detail how they felt[9]. Studies have shown that writing in this way can help people deal with traumatic events. One study that looked at male survivors of childhood abuse found that asking them to write about the events that took place and their feelings allowed them to make sense of what happened to them, and benefited their overall mental wellbeing[10].

Music and Dance

Musical activities have been shown to be powerful ways of improving our mental health. Studies have indicated that people who are trained to use a musical instrument actually have greater connectivity between the two hemispheres of the brain[11]. Dancing, apart from being a great form of physical exercise, can also have positive impacts on our mental health. A UCLA study showed that free-moving dance had a positive impact on participants who were dealing with anxiety, depression, or trauma[12].














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