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Year : 2002  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 7 Table of Contents     

Art: A Healing Force?


Date of Web Publication22-Jun-2010

Correspondence Address:
Rachel Hajar

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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How to cite this article:
Hajar R. Art: A Healing Force?. Heart Views 2002;3:7

How to cite this URL:
Hajar R. Art: A Healing Force?. Heart Views [serial online] 2002 [cited 2023 Mar 29];3:7. Available from: https://www.heartviews.org/text.asp?2002/3/3/7/64481

[Additional file 1]

Can the arts be successfully utilized as therapy?

Creative outlets such as art, music, or dance are techniques employed in mind- body therapy, one of various therapeutic approaches in complementary and alternative medicine. Traditional (non-Western) systems of medicine appreciate and incorporate into their practice the complex and powerful relationship between the mind and the body. A growing body of literature suggests that addressing patients' psychological needs produces both psychological and physical health benefits by stimulating the body's innate healing potential. Healing, using mind-body medicine usually begins by promoting physical and mental relaxation, and developing better ways of coping with stress.

How does art heal? Emotions and mental processes can be successfully expressed and explored through media such as the visual arts, writing or music and this is demonstrated in paintings by psychiatric patients, which often dramatically reflect their mental state and thus can be useful for diagnosis and prognosis. It has been claimed that self-expression through art and music can effect healing by changing a person's physiology and attitude. The body's physiology changes from one of stress to one of deep relaxation; from one of fear to one of creativity and inspiration. A new scientific field called psychoneuroimmunology, which interlinks psychological, autonomic, immune, and nervous system functioning is slowly giving us insights into the complex and little understood relationship between emotions, brain function, and disease.

[Additional file 2]

A recent randomized study evaluating the effect of writing on symptom reduction in patients with asthma or rheumatoid arthritis showed those who wrote about stressful life experiences had clinically relevant changes in health status at 4 months compared with those in the control group (JAMA.1999;281:1304). The study underlines that an exercise in self-expression such as writing can effect clinical improvement of symptoms and highlights the importance of psychological and social factors in preventing and treating illness. Stress is a major contributor to high rates of cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality. Stress reduction programs such as transcendental meditation (TM) have been found to be very effective in reducing blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease risk factors such as smoking, alcohol abuse, psychosocial stress, and lipids. Furthermore, recent studies have demonstrated reductions in myocardial ischemia and regression of carotid atherosclerosis in subjects randomized to the TM program compared with controls. A decrease in vasoconstrictive tone during TM is thought to be the hemodynamic mechanism responsible for reducing blood pressure. Changes in the levels of stress-related neuromodulators, such as cortisol, catecholamines, and serotonin, have also been found to occur during or after TM practice (Circulation. 1999;99:2192) The transcendental meditation program is the most widely researched standardized meditation technique for stress reduction. Other mind-body techniques such as art, music and dance are still considered complementary and alternative medicine and have not been incorporated into mainstream therapy. Art and music are fun and fulfilling activities as well as cost-effective. Considering that their pursuit induces relaxation and keeping in mind the health benefits of stress reduction, it may be worth encouraging patients to take up art or music or writing as a hobby. The simple act of keeping a diary may even be rewarding. Emotional distress does cause disease and Rene Descartes, the 17th century French philosopher who wrote, "I think, therefore, I am" was wrong. I feel, therefore I am, is closer to the truth. And it may be possible to bring about healing through art for the language of art is universal and expresses the inexpressible.


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