This has been a particularly trying month for me. When facing challenges, my default is to analyze, examine, and strategize. But thinking is not always helpful. This statement is practical heresy in my line of training. Gladly, I have had just enough exposure to the power of artistic expression to deny the charge.
(Of course, there is a lot of thinking that occurs in artistic expression. But it does not take center stage the entire time, and…I am overthinking this.)
So my interest was piqued when I recently ran across a study titled “How Art Changes Your Brain: Differential Effects of Visual Art Production and Cognitive Art Evaluation on Functional Brain Connectivity,” in PLOS ONE, an online journal (found at: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0101035)
The ten-week study divided “post-retirement” individuals into two groups. One group received cognitive art appreciation instruction at a museum. The other group received visual art classes with hands-on instruction. The differences in brain region interaction and psychological resiliency were significant. The study concluded, “visual art production leads to improved interaction, particularly between the frontal and posterior and temporal brain regions,” and that this interaction is related to improved psychological resiliency. The study’s authors found that, “Visual art represents a powerful resource for mental and physical well-being.”
What this means for me as a person in a difficult season is that I need to make room for artistic expression in my life. Interestingly, I had been taking time for this pursuit regularly, but my practice fell away when “life got busy” the past few months. I wonder now whether I would be weathering this season with more resilience if I had not forgone the practice.
What this means for me as a teacher is that I need to continue to provide opportunities for my students to engage in artistic expression. Not just for “art’s sake,” but for the brain’s sake.