Like any good recipe, an Inclusive Health lifestyle is a blend of many ingredients. One of the key ingredients in my own Inclusive Health lifestyle, and I believe one of the most potentially transformative for anyone, is art therapy. Research and my own experience both confirm that the act of taking time for yourself to make some form of art has real benefits that can help improve mental and physical wellbeing.
I wasn’t really aware of the healing power of art until I had a transformative experience of my own. To be honest, art was never a big part of my life. While I had always admired art, and enjoyed seeing other people’s creations, I had never tried to create any art myself. Many years ago I was attending a retreat and participated in some art classes. I enjoyed the process very much but when I returned back to “real life,” I stored my paints away and forgot about them.
A few years later I suffered an eye condition that required surgery. During the healing process, I had to keep my head facing down at all times, which was very frustrating. For the first time I was stuck in a situation where I simply didn’t know what to do with myself. At my wife’s suggestion, I dug out the paints and other art supplies I had purchased after the retreat and started to create. I allowed myself to behave like a toddler and lash streaks and splatters of color at the canvas. The process was liberating. I was so happy and engaged in the creative process I wasn’t feeling burdened and constrained by the restrictions placed on me by my eye doctor. This “art therapy” opened up my world to new passions and possibilities.
I was hooked on art and continued to paint – to the tune of over 300 pieces now. Through art, I have found a delightful way to reintroduce a sense of playful creativity back into my life – something that can benefit anyone’s mental and physical health.
I now encourage many of my patients to engage in art therapy as part of the treatment process. And I’m delighted when they share with me that they have experienced a range of benefits like stress reduction, help coping with trauma, enhanced focus, less awareness of pain and an improved overall sense of well-being.
I’m so grateful to my wife for suggesting I give art a try. It has been a transforming experience – not only for me, but for hundreds of my patients as well.
Article by Howard Murad, M.D., FAAD, a world renowned skincare expert and founder of the Inclusive Health movement. Learn more about Dr. Murad.