December 31, 2019

Essay #3: The cerebral and therapeutic value of art

Essay: The Cerebral And Therapeutic Value Of Art

Art Therapy Cerebral

Our first essay in our newly serialized selection of op-ed pieces focused on the special attributes of music, film, and art in the context of time, legacy, and user experiences. Our third essay will be focused now on the third characteristic, and how it forms this basis for self-reflection and its physiological, therapeutic value.

What is the cerebral and therapeutic value of art?

To get started, it should be noted that the core concept of art’s value as a therapeutic device is its ability to tap into the wide range of human experience. When people absorb or create art, several factors come into play. These are time, place, and the artists’ life experience, outlook, and intention in creation. Depending on the level of practice and ability to tap into subconscious levels, all of these characteristics come together to create a wholly unique serving of expression. Whether it is highly regarded or forgotten, the artists themselves are “in the zone” of creativity, and exercising their brain with a therapeutic and meditative exercise. Others consuming art, too, have the same ability to become immersed by and pulled into the world of the artist’s imagination with each film viewing, music listening, or visual experience. Each of these paintings, compositions, sculptures, or films, leave viewers with a degree of understanding and an experience to take away. Whatever that experience may be could be abstract and up to interpretation, or it could be simplistic in its execution and effect, but even what might appear simple could have even deeper levels of meaning that come out of either intentional or subconscious creation. No matter what the medium or the message is, art in all its forms has a therapeutic value for all to benefit from.

To try and not sound too preachy, this idea should largely be known or recognized already when it comes to the arts and the humanities. What some people in life might not realize though is the importance of the arts to maintain a healthy and balanced mind state and how it directly supports problem-solving and creative thinking in many of life’s struggles and situations. How exactly does AirdriftSignals support this? Through the past couple of decades, there have been mounds of research on the subject, which will be detailed below in several examples.

As a young music listener, I have had the joy of discovering many musicians in different genres. Also, as a movie lover, I have enjoyed watching many classic and current science fiction and horror films growing up. There is an argument to be said for different genres of music and art. When the Columbine High School massacre took place in '99, the mainstream media needed to put the blame on something, or someone. At the time, the main culprit was shock jock metal frontman Marilyn Manson, while other "dark" or heavy metal music became the main scapegoat for future shootings or violent incidents involving adolescents. Now, nearly 20 years later, society has come to the realization that mentally disturbed individuals with prescriptions could cause harm with or without the "help" of metal music, meanwhile multiple studies on the genre suggest the opposite that was proposed 2 decades ago. The documented results that metal music can calm aggression in listeners may be a shock for some people, but for those who understand the power of art as a vehicle of escapism, it isn't that hard to comprehend. 

The heavy metal genre of music specifically maintains documented mental health benefits, and other interests of my own, including science fiction and horror movies have stirred my imagination growing up and built up my fascination with the macabre and fear of the unknown. Little did I know growing up that these films too, have a positive impact on viewers' brains. Most people who know no better when asked, may dismiss horror films as something negative and ridiculous. Of course, there are no shortages of bad films that leave viewers in their seats screaming at the main characters what they should be doing to survive. This practice in worst-case-scenarios is in actuality our fight-or-flight response, learning from the mistakes of those who meet untimely ends on screen. The studies done suggest that scary movies also counter-balance the stresses of life, bolster our immune systems, and even lead to positive mental health benefits.

After tackling these two most controversial genres of art, it is easy to see how most other genres fall into categories of therapeutic effects. Classical music has already been studied to death, with the many calming benefits aplenty that don't need to be referenced here. A good film or just very good storytelling gives viewers an escape from the daily stressors of life. Even beautiful architecture or paintings fill people with a sense of wonder as they ruminate on the time and place of its creation. Hip-hop, one of the primary genres covered by AirdriftSignals, has been found to be a "strong source of self and community empowerment." Video games (which I will argue is an art medium), is the newest scapegoat for teen aggression, but has since been proven to not be a link to violence. While there are those who suffer from gaming addiction, The Psychological Bulletin recently revealed that the activity hosts a wide range of benefits, including cognitive improvement, boosted creativity, motivation, and emotional and social well-being. With no stone left unturned, it's clear to say that all mediums of art carry variations of the same positive mental health benefits. Besides all of these positive results, how does this carry over into our daily life?

From some of the articles that have been referenced, there are clear indications that consuming these different forms of art bleed into our daily life. From the reduced stress levels from heavy metal listeners or horror movie fans, to the empowerment felt from hip-hop, to the boosted cognitive functions and creativity of gamers, to the increased intelect of avid book readers, all who enjoy their choice of art benefit greatly. And while the arts can seem abstract, the benefits can absolutely be measured. In another report, the benefits of arts education in schools far outweigh the cost of funding it, such as academic improvement, increased self-esteem, less interest in drugs, and reduced criminal activity, among many others. The National Institute of Health even admits that engagement in the creative arts results in positive health outcomes, and improves overall public health. What does this mean for us? 


As a fan of many forms of art, I cannot stress enough how important it is to support independent artists. I have had the privilege of meeting so many talented individuals through the years, and it is a great honor to have great minds collaborate on something special. Overall, the support and spread of art is one of the most important indicators of our excellence as a human species, and a way to improve our communities from the ground up, which always start from within our minds' eyes. Artists always receive great benefits from being a creator, and the critical thinking and problem-solving skills involved when making something out of nothing helps them in their daily life as well. Still, even if you are a person who thinks they aren't that "good" at art, there's even a study that supports that you should participate anyways! Working on something, whether it is just sketching with a pad and pencil, painting, or even the act of knitting could significantly reduce stress levels in the body from just 45 minutes of activity! The studies are numerous, and the results are in, so what are you waiting for?! Make some art today!