Do we really feel better when we paint?

Posted by Aimee Coles on 08/07/2021 at 01:43


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At Abstract Art Canada, we believe absolutely, yes!

Abstract PainterAccording to the Institute for Health Metrics Evaluation (IHME)’s Global Burden of Disease, about 13% of the global population – some 971 million people – suffer from some kind of mental disorder. Also, one in four people will experience some sort of mental illness in any given year. The UK, for example, faces huge public health challenges with mental ill-health accounting for more than 20 per cent of these challenges – more than cancer and cardiovascular disease.

However, creativity and the arts have been proven to have positive effects on the human psyche and, in turn, our mental and emotional health. Numerous studies show that both observing and creating art can reduce cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’.

According to there is already widespread recognition of how great a role the arts could play in helping people to stay mentally healthy. This is both in the act of appreciation of the arts and as a participator in or creator of art.

Harvard Medical School art therapist, Megan Carleton, highlights the beneficial effects of creating not being dependent on a person’s skills or talents but rather on the process of painting itself.

At no other time in recent history has our mental and emotional health needed revitalising more.

2020 will always be remembered as the year of the COVID-19 pandemic.  As of July 2021, there were more than 185 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, more than four million lives lost, and countless more left mentally and emotionally scarred by the effects of lockdown, enforced physical distancing, social isolation, muddled vaccination processes and, for some, loss of income, not to mention grief from the loss of loved ones to the virus itself.

Early on in the pandemic, Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay stated that ‘[art] brings us closer together than ever’.

mental health through art The pandemic forced the closure of cultural institutions, including art galleries worldwide. Nonetheless, the arts have remained resilient with many providers moving online and becoming increasingly accessible as the world locked down. People could view concerts, operas and plays from the comfort of their living rooms. Not only that, people started to crave participation in artistic activities. In the UK there were reports of an increase in demand for online art classes themselves.

Professor and arts educator, Brittany Harker Martin, makes the case for the arts having a positive effect on mental health both in our home lives and in education settings.

Social prescribing

In the UK, ‘social prescribing’, where healthcare practitioners refer patients to community-based services such as art classes, was pioneered in the late 20th century. Since then, it has become a ‘go to’ for treating mental as well as physical ill-health for the last 20 years.

Social prescribing has also been gaining traction around the world including in Australia, Singapore, parts of Europe and more recently, Canada, through the work of the Alliance for Healthier Communities

Just as the pandemic was hitting global news channels, Kate Mulligan, Director of Policy and Communications at the Alliance for Healthier Communities, and Kavita Mehta, CEO of the Association of Family Health Teams of Ontario, wrote a piece extolling the virtues of weaving social prescribing into the tapestry of Canada’s healthcare system noting that Ontario is ‘poised and ready to scale up social prescribing’ after a pilot programme reported 90% of participating physicians observing that it has improved their clients’ health and wellbeing.

It is clear though that many countries, including Canada, have a way to go before alternative therapies such as art therapy become readily available.


Learn to paint with Abstract Art Canada

At Abstract Art Canada, we believe passionately in the role that art and painting can play in improving our mental and emotional wellbeing. Whether you join us through a prescribed route or not, we are here to teach you the basics and to get you started on your artistic journey.

abstract artBorn in the UK, abstract artist and founder of Abstract Art Canada, David Brooks grew up in Canada and has spent his life in the US, the Middle East, and Asia. David has a natural gift for abstract painting but growing up as the son of psychiatrists, David has also had an insight into mental ill-health and how art can play a therapeutic role in people’s lives.

Bringing the two areas together, David now feels the time is right to announce our plans to launch Abstract Art Canada’s online art classes. These virtual sessions will show how the mindfulness act of creating a painting has the potential to improve your mental or emotional wellbeing.

The courses will be tailored to beginners and a package will also be made available for businesses seeking to boost the wellness of their workforce after a difficult time through COVID lockdown.

“At Abstract Art Canada, we don’t claim to be psychotherapists but we do bring our experience as creators, educators and communicators. Through our own lived experiences our courses promise to be authentic and empathic as well as simple and engaging. Painting has been a lifesaver for me. I’m more at peace now than ever before. It’s my sincere hope that we can provide an outlet or even a lifeline to others.”

(David Brooks, Founder and Artist, Abstract Art Canada)



At Abstract Art Canada, we sell original paintings by established and new artists. All our artists are global citizens originally from or with a connection to Canada.

Please note that all users of Abstract Art Canada’s art classes are responsible for their own medical care, treatment and oversight. All content in our classes are for informational purposes only and does not constitute the providing of medical advice nor is it intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgement, advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Abstract Philosophy

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