July 20, 2021

10 Incredible Ways Drawing Affects Our Lives & Our Brains

“I sometimes think there is nothing so delightful as drawing.” Vincent van Gogh’s words ring true for a lot of us. But why? What is it about drawing that brings us such delight? Most of us will happily doodle whilst we are deep thinking or passing the time. On the surface, it’s something we do because it’s fun and entertaining. Surprisingly, it’s not all about that temporary pleasure that we get whilst putting pencil to paper or stylus to screen. There can actually be some incredible long term benefits for our lives and our brains too.

1. Relieves stress

Let’s face it, living in the modern world undeniably comes with its stresses. The US being one of the leading countries worldwide based on stress experienced, at 55% of the population saying they experienced stress the previous day. This means that taking that bit of “me time” has become all the more essential in order to be able to function in our chaotic lives.

Drawing can be a fantastic way to step out of the day to day fast paced motion of life. One of the greatest things is, you don’t have to be Leonardo Da Vinci to reap the benefits. Simply doodling some shapes that come to mind can give you a kickstart on your journey to a healthy, stress free mind.

You’ll be pleased to know there have been studies such as The Journal of the American Art Therapy Association’s in 2016, in which results indicated that art making proved to cause a significant lowering of cortisol levels (stress hormone) in participants.

2. Encourages Creative Thinking

Contrary to popular belief, as humans, through many means, we can thrive in the use of both the left and right side of our brains. The theory of one sided brain dominance has never been widely accepted amongst scientists. Think about it, some of the greatest achievers throughout history, such as Albert Einstein are known as both analytical and creative thinkers.

Whether you think of yourself as more of a right-brain or left-brain person, drawing can be a sure-fire way to get those creative juices flowing. Once you put yourself in a space where you feel comfortable to start drawing, your mind will instinctively start to envisage vivid colors, shapes, and ideas with ease.

Art also plays a big role in the brain development of children and teenagers. Whether it be through observation of the world, imagination or simply pattern recognition, the possibilities of positive impact are endless.

3. Improves Quality of Life For Dementia Patients

On the other end of the scale, Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients may have already developed these essential skills in life and are just having a hard time trying to use them. With around 10 million new global dementia diagnoses yearly, there are continuous studies on how quality of life can be improved for sufferers.

Commonly, people with dementia are unable to verbalize their thoughts in order to accurately express their feelings. Retaining basic visual and motor skills allows them to have an outlet through art therapy. Drawing lines, shapes and colors can encourage patients to express emotions in a way that is comfortable for them. Unfortunately, dementia can also affect a person’s sense of self esteem, general focus and attention span. Having achievements through creativity can be highly beneficial in combating this.

Released in early 2021, the documentary I Remember Better When I Paint is a fantastic overview of recent studies and research into the benefits of creating art for dementia patients.

4. Strengthens Focus and Strategic Thinking

The focus strengthening capabilities of drawing do not only apply to dementia patients. As we mentioned previously, the act of creating art can actually help to develop and stimulate brain function at any age. This ability to focus on drawing creates muscle memory in the brain which in turn, subconsciously is applied to lesser enjoyed tasks.

Regardless of the complexity of a drawing, strategic thinking can be utilized greatly through the analysis of color combinations. Not only this, but the perception of an artist’s surroundings or reality when creating an artistic interpretation, exercises strategic thinking. Whether this be a simple doodle of your coffee mug or a complex portrait of a loved one from memory.

5. Improves Holistic Health

Holistic health is about caring for not only our bodies or our brains, but ourselves as a whole person. Think about it like this, at some point we have all had a stress induced headache. It’s a psychological response that also causes physical symptoms, and this can happen vice versa. That’s why it rarely works out if we only look after one aspect of ourselves.

Drawing has proven itself time and time again to improve brain function through increased focus and creativity, but what about the rest of our health? As we mentioned before, some of the improvements that happen in the brain in turn cause improvements elsewhere. Studies have shown that having a creative outlet can improve confidence and self esteem. This then tends to lead to vast improvements in social skills and confidence in other areas of life, such as work and relationships.

6. Increases Blood Flow to the Brain

We rarely think about the way our blood flows inside our bodies, however blood flow to the brain is perhaps the most important of all, and probably worth improving if we can. Scientifically speaking, blood delivers oxygen and glucose to the brain, both vital components for normal daily function.

A study completed at the College of Nursing and Health Professions consisted of 26 participants completing three different art activities. During this study, both serotonin levels and blood flow in the brain’s prefrontal cortex were monitored. In both artist and non artist participants, there was an equal and substantial increase in both levels.

Interestingly it isn’t just creating art ourselves that can have a positive impact on our brains. According to The Telegraph, studies have shown that even admiring others’ artwork can stimulate increased blood flow to the brain by up to 10%. Sounds like it might be time to take a trip to your local art gallery.

7. Activates the Reward Center of Our Brain

We previously mentioned the prefrontal cortex is affected by drawing, doodling, or coloring. The most interesting thing is that this area of the brain is related to the wiring of the brain’s reward system. Although the reward system might not be something you have ever heard of before, it’s an essential brain function we all have as humans.

Simply put, when the reward center is activated during drawing, the memory centers in the brain are told to pay attention to everything about the experience. This then enables you to repeat and enjoy the activity in the future. In simple terms, drawing can scientifically be an extremely rewarding experience.

8. Helps You to Process Your Emotions

It is well known that great artists throughout history have created legendary works, that are both full of emotion themselves and have the incredible ability to provoke strong emotions in the observer. A great example of this is Edvard Munch and his famous piece “The Scream”.

Expressionism is an art movement that was developed in the early 20th century, where the artist focuses more on the representation of their emotions rather than realism.

Of course, it doesn’t take being a professional artist to be able to process your emotions through drawing. Some emotions can be extremely difficult to deal with for both adults and children. Art can be a creative outlet to enable people struggling to process emotions, to put across how they feel or let off steam without needing to use words. This can also result in a moment of reflection and understanding of emotions once a drawing is completed.

9. Liberates Concealed Emotions

Along the same lines as our last point, drawing can work wonders to liberate concealed emotions such as past trauma or abuse. Utilizing art as a creative outlet can allow an individual to recognize and deal with repressed emotions in a way that they would not be able to with words. Drawing and expression through art is a common technique used by therapists in order to help patients to discuss subjects they may have found hard to put across otherwise.

Rooted in the theory that any sort of creative expression can encourage healing and mental well-being, art therapy has been around for decades. It is now used as both a treatment and assessment technique. Whilst drawing is just a small part of art therapy, it can be one of the most effective expressions and one that patients commonly take up themselves prior to therapy. In fact, art therapy was originally introduced as a healing method by Doctors after they had recognized that individuals who were suffering from mental illness, often expressed themselves through drawing.

10. It’s Fun!

Last but not least, it’s fun! Yes, there is of course a scientific reason that we find drawing fun, involving serotonin and brain activity stimulation. On a basic level though, drawing is a fun and enjoyable activity for any age, background, or ability. For centuries we have created artworks from desktop doodles to iconic magnum opuses, sketchbook scrawlings to animated tales, and still, as individuals, we can draw something new and find fun in the simplest of creations.

You may feel that your artistic abilities do not live up to the likes of Rembrandt or Michelangelo. Just remember, In order to have fun, and to let drawing change your brain and life, it is important to do it for yourself, not for others. Even a stick man could bring a smile to your face.