Take Yourself to an Art Exhibit, or Museum
You may have had a mind-stretching, body tingling experience where you were looking at a painting, sculpture or other artwork, you know what I’m talking about. Perhaps you are unsure about art, or have the idea that art is not for you. Rest assured you don’t have to be all artsy to enjoy art. You don’t even have to understand it to be able to get something from it. Just remain curious and allow your body to have it’s natural response to what your experiencing. If you have just one moment where you can experience wonder, then, that is what counts and is having a positive benefit on you.
Emotions are processed by a special area of the brain and when our pleasure centres are activated by contemplating a painting or other artwork even, when it’s not immediately clear what the artwork is about. Our brains, bodies and emotions are positively rewarded. Signals to the brain are the same as when we’re daydreaming, or thinking about the future and enhances the pleasure and reward mode even further. There is also an area called, ‘the interior insult’ that is associated with the experience of pain that is activated, and this may be due to our brains trying process and find meaning in the art work. Taking time out to go to an art exhibit, or museum, even taking a painting class can be very rewarding as a result and will often change your brain’s neuroplasticity by activating and enhancing the reward centres through repetitive positive signals.
Why Not Start Writing a Daily Journal?
Are you stressed out? When was the last time you wrote in a journal? Most people are too busy replying to a full inbox each day, a huge to-do list to even consider the benefits of journalling for themselves each day. But, before you discount it completely there are many health benefits to writing worth considering. Many people are walking around with a huge amount of stress too big to handle. The cortisol produced through constant activation of stress hormones is very harmful and taxing to our immune systems leading to serious health problems, if you don’t put a stop to it in time.
The British Journal of Health Psychology published a study that showed how releasing the stress caused by emotional topic through writing or journaling actually lowered people’s cortisol levels. It is well known that expressive writing of a personal nature is very relieves long term suffering from any kind of psychological trauma. The study showed who wrote in a journal slept better, and this led to improved mood, as well as the ability to heal faster.
Reading Challenging Literature
Most people love to read, isn’t that what you’re doing right now? Did you know that reading topics that provide a challenge for example, Shakespeare provides many health benefits for brain and your mental health? Scans of the brain have found the more challenging texts, prose and poetry show more electrical activity is sparked off in the brain than, reading easier text, or more conventional and predictable language.
Philip Davis, an English Professor in the Magnetic Resonance Centre, at Liverpool University, UK after a research study on the effects of reading William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, T.S. Eliot and others has on the brain, says, “When you read literature of a higher level leads to mental shifts in pathways and help to create new thoughts, shapes, and connections whether you’re young or old.
Read More Poetry
The same study found regularly reading poetry, leads to an increase in activity in the right hemisphere of the brain, the area connected to ‘autobiographical memory’. Poetry is very helpful in being able to reflect on our own life experiences and compare them to what we are reading. It also lights up the part of the brain concerned with language. Professor Davis says, “Poetry is not just a matter of style. It is a matter of deep versions of experience that add the emotional and biographical to the cognitive,”.
There is also evidence poetry affects our brains in the same way music does. Everyone knows the feeling when they hear a song, they really connect with. This is because the areas of the brain affected by music are the same that are aroused by reading poetry, particularly, the musical resonance of poetry, like rhythm, tone, cadence and word usage.
Some experts equate the benefits of creative flow from craft activities with the meditative experience, in that it helps to regulate your emotions and focus your attention, much like a mental exercise would. Whether you’re building and restoring furniture, doing wood turning, painting ceramics, doing craft activities can create a state of deep relaxation, one that completely alters your physical and emotional responses to stress.
Being crafty is a combination of self-expression, problem solving, creative improvisation and mindfulness, slowing down your breathing, decreasing heart rate, lowering blood pressure and releasing muscle tension.
Sculpting, scrapbooking, sewing, throwing ceramics and pottery, gardening even, doing home repairs all of these tasks activate your brain’s reward centres releasing dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter, also known as a natural antidepressant. The other important factor is the building of community and friendships with these activities and this is one of the best antidotes to depression. Imagine how blissed out you can be when you get crafty or arty!