The Joy of Creating

File photo of a student creating a sculpture at a clay open studio session at White Bear Center for the Arts.

From the time the earliest humans marked their handprints on the walls of caves, art-making has been synonymous with the human experience. Even in our busy days, we find ways to make art: doodling, humming, dancing, taking pictures, or even composing beautifully written emails.

We do art because it feels good, in ways deeper than we even fully understand.

When drawing or painting, you might think you’re merely making forms on a page but studies have shown that engaging in any sort of visual expression has neurological benefits. Art activates the reward pathway in the brain,which then perceives it as a pleasurable activity. Scientists have also found that just 45 minutes of creating art with an art therapist significantly lowered cortisol levels, the hormone related to stress. Making art also helps our focus. When we enter what scientists call the “flow state,” or being in the zone, it activates the brain’s reflective state which results in focused attention and a sense of pleasure.

So, what type of art should you do? That’s easy: follow your heart. Thanks to art education centers like White Bear Center for the Arts (WBCA), art in the community is accessible to most everyone, offering a number of carefully curated classes and programs stimulating connection, creativity, and most importantly, joy.

People are often drawn to ceramics for its versatility, but it’s also therapeutic to the mind and body. It engages our muscles, vision, and imagination. Those who crave movement might explore yoga, which enhances relaxation and focus, or dance that can help manage pain while being rhythmic and expressive. 

Creating art with others, whether they be friends or strangers, is a form of collective practice; a way of sharing experience that puts people in relation with the people they engage with.

For those who don’t consider themselves artists, you’re in luck. No matter your skill level, you’ll be able to feel all the good things that come with making art. Or, start with something less intimidating. Studies show that even consuming art in a gallery can help reduce stress, combat loneliness by connecting with the artwork and other gallery goers, and make life a little more meaningful.