Drawing, painting, working with clay, even doodling. Research shows that "engaging in any sort of visual expression results in the reward pathway in the brain being activated...Which means that you feel good and it's perceived as a pleasurable experience." You don't even have to be good at it!
A team of researchers reported the results of an experiment in a 2017 paper published in the journal The Arts in Psychotherapy. They measured blood flow to the brain's reward center, the medial prefrontal cortex, in 26 participants as they completed three art activities: coloring in a mandala, doodling, and drawing freely on a blank sheet of paper. The researchers found an increase in blood flow to this part of the brain when the participants were making art.
So, get that blood flowing to the brain! Make some art.
A number of studies have shown that coloring inside a shape — specifically a pre-drawn geometric mandala design — is more effective in boosting mood than coloring on a blank paper or even coloring inside a square shape. And one 2012 study published in Journal of the American Art Therapy Association showed that coloring inside a mandala reduces anxiety to a greater degree compared to coloring in a plaid design or a plain sheet of paper.
At Dreher our two art teachers, Jennifer Gorlewski and Katie Pfrommer, already knew that! Each year students in their classrooms make mandalas. Pictured below are two ninth graders - Dominik Stewart and Emily Montague - working on this year's Art I mandala project.
Even viewing art can be stress-reducing, so visit a gallery or museum, or just walk around Dreher and view the art on the walls!