“Creativity in and of itself is important for remaining healthy, remaining connected to yourself and connected to the world,” says Christianne Strang, professor of neuroscience at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. This means that each of us should regularly engage in something creative. Yes, it can be drawing, painting, poetry, knitting, etc., but sketching your thoughts and ideas is also very suitable for this. I came across a very good article that points out various reasons why drawing is good for the brain. I will highlight the most important part of the article and link it with visual facilitation (because how else?! ;)).
Girija Kaimal, a professor and art therapy researcher at Drexel University, says that the creative mind means the ability to make connections between unrelated things and imagine new ways of communicating. Anything that stimulates it is good for us, and one way to engage our creative minds is to make art.
1. Art helps us imagine a more hopeful future
Professor Kaimal says that art can move our imaginations and this may be one of the reasons why we have been making art since cavemen. Kaimal has a theory that making art helps us navigate problems that may arise in the future. Her theory is based on an idea developed in recent years — that our brain is a prediction machine. “The brain uses the information to make predictions about what we might do next — and more importantly, what we need to do next to survive and thrive,” says Kaimal. In her practice as an art therapist, she has seen how, through the creation of art, a person in a so-called black hole is able to imagine possibilities and see a brighter future outside of the present moment, where he is desperate and depressed.
One of the features of visual facilitation is the ability to create complete images for planning and dreaming. These are pictures of the future, through which goals can be set and strategies can be established. This is a good opportunity to bring the future thoughts in your head in front of your eyes. So that the head is cleaner and it is easier to be. At the same time, to distance yourself from your thoughts for a while and look them from a distance.
Based on Professor Kaimal’s theory, it can also be a good anxiety reliever, because we get these future thoughts out of our so-called future prediction machine and can make them more clear.
2. Art activates the reward center of our brain
For many people, making art can be nerve-racking. What am I going to do? What materials do I use? What if it’s… crappy? etc. etc
Research shows that despite these fears, engaging in any visual expression activates a reward pathway in the brain. This means that one feels good and perceives it as a pleasant experience.
Consequently, if we use the visual facilitation while studying, we make the learning process pleasant for ourselves. Yes, you can also use simple doodling, but the use of conscious scribbing adds value, that the brain thinks — associates information, and creates meaning. I wrote more about this in a blog post a years ago.
3. Art lowers stress
Cortisol is a hormone that helps the body respond to stress. Professor Kaimal and a group of researchers did an experiment that showed that 1 hour of creating art with an art therapist significantly lowered cortisol levels. Moreover, it did not differ between those who define themselves as artists and so-called ordinary people. This means that regardless of your skill level, you will get a lot of enjoyment and benefit from art.
In each of my training, I experience how people take great pleasure in drawing and rejoice in their progress.
One of the main features of visual facilitation is different shapes — speech and thought bubbles, bases, road signs, arrows, etc. This makes it easy to draw and gives you a sense of success. In fact- the people who feel most anxious about the training will be the ones who leave being so happy and proud of themselves.
4. Art enables deep concentration
Professor Kaimal points out that engaging in creative activities often creates a situation where you are in a state of FLOW. It’s a feeling of losing yourself, losing all awareness. You are so in the moment and completely present that you forget all sense of time and space. And what’s going on in your brain when you’re in a flow state? A study published in 2018 found that the Flow state was characterized by increased theta wave activity in the frontal areas of the brain and moderate alpha wave activity in the frontal and central areas. Here it is also appropriate to introduce an explanation of brain frequencies. The human brain has four main frequencies:
Beta — at this frequency we do our daily tasks, talk, chat, read, and work. Most people are mostly at this brain frequency.
Alpha — At this frequency, we are more relaxed. For example, when we watch the sunset or dream about something.
Theta — At this frequency, we are awake yet deeply relaxed. It is a state of very deep meditation. Our brain is at this frequency even when we are falling asleep or have just woken up.
Delta — At this frequency, we sleep deeply.
Many people want to know how to reach the alpha and theta levels in order to contact their subconscious. This, in turn, helps you pursue your dreams and manifest a better life. There are different meditation techniques for this.
However, it turns out from the previous research that one of the ways to do this can be to engage in creative activities, to forget yourself in them.
I have experienced that when I start drawing out my plans more visually, I get so involved in the process that I forget my surroundings and find myself reaching for deeper thoughts. And it is not just me. In my trainings people share how some ideas and thoughts came to them out of the blue. Therefore, in order to get in touch with your subconscious, it may be necessary from time to time to pick up a paper and a pen and let your creativity take you and see where your ideas and dreams lead you through conscious scribbling.
I find those theories and connections really facinating and plan to play much more with those ideas. Hopefully I can share more of it in a deeper level within few years.