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Stress-related hormone cortisol lowers significantly after just 45 minutes of art creation Whether you’re Van Gogh or a stick-figure sketcher, a new Drexel University study found that making art can significantly reduce stress-related hormones in your body. Although the researchers from Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions believed that past experience in creating art might amplify the activity’s stress-reducing effects, their study found that everyone seems to benefit equally. “It was surprising and it also wasn’t,” said Girija Kaimal, EdD, assistant professor of creative arts therapies. “It wasn’t surprising because that’s the core idea in art therapy: Everyone is creative and can be expressive in the visual arts when working in a supportive setting. That said, I did expect that perhaps the effects would be stronger for those with prior experience.” The results of the study were published in Art Therapy under the title “Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants’ Responses Following Art Making.” Kendra Ray, a doctoral student under Kaimal, and Juan Muniz, PhD, an assistant teaching professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences, served as co-authors. “Biomarkers” are biological indicators (like hormones) that can be used to measure conditions in the body, such as stress. Cortisol was one such the hormone measured in the study through saliva samples. The higher a person’s cortisol level, the more stressed a person is likely to be. F or Kaimal’s study, 39 adults, ranging from 18 to 59 years old, were invited to participate in 45 minutes of art-making. Cortisol levels were taken before and after the art-making period. Materials available to the participants included markers and paper, modeling clay and collage materials. There were no directions given and every participant could use any of the materials they chose to create any work of art they desired. An art therapist was present during the activity to help if the participant requested any. Of those who took part in the study, just under half reported that they had limited experience in making art. The researchers found that 75 percent of the participants’ cortisol levels lowered during their 45 minutes of making art. And while there was some variation in how much cortisol levels lowered, there was no correlation between past art experiences and lower levels. Written testimonies of their experiences afterward revealed how the participants felt about the creating art. “It was very relaxing,” one wrote. “After about five minutes, I felt less anxious. I was able to obsess less about things that I had not done or need [ed]to get done. Doing art allowed me to put things into perspective.” However, roughly 25 percent of the participants actually registered higher levels of cortisol — though that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. “Some amount of cortisol is essential for functioning,” Kaimal explained. “For example, our cortisol levels vary throughout the day — levels are highest in the morning because that gives us an energy boost to us going at the start of the day. It could’ve been that the art-making resulted in a state of arousal and/or engagement in the study’s participants.” Kaimal and her team believed, going into the study, that the type of art materials used by participants might affect cortisol levels. They thought that the less-structured mediums — using clay or drawing with markers — would result in lower cortisol levels than the structured — collaging. That, however, wasn’t supported by the results, as no significant correlation was found. The study did find a weak correlation between age and lower cortisol levels. Younger participants exhibited consistently lower cortisol levels after they’d created art. Those results made Kaimal wonder about how young college students and high school students deal with the stress that comes from academia — and how creative arts can help. “I think one reason might be that younger people are developmentally still figuring out ways to deal with stress and challenges, while older individuals — just from having lived life and being older — might have more strategies to problem-solve and manage stress more effectively,” Kaimal said. In light of that, Kaimal plans to extend the study to explore whether “creative self- expression in a therapeutic environment can help reduce stress.” In that study, other biomarkers like alpha amylase and oxytocin will also be measured to give a more comprehensive picture. Additionally, Kaimal also plans to study how visual arts-based expression affects end-of-life patients and their caregivers. “We want to ultimately examine how creative pursuits could help with psychological well-being and, therefore, physiological health, as well,” she said.
VISUAL ART AND ARTS THERAPY FOR HEALING Abstract Studies have revealed positive evidence of the use of art therapy programs and visual artworks to facilitate the healing process of patients and staff in healthcare facilities. These researchers have highlighted a strong link between the content of the images and their impact on the reactions of patients to pain, stress, and anxiety. In this regard, hospitals are choosing artworks based on the positive evidence recorded. As a result of the contribution art has, in the provision of a better healing environment for patients, staffs and service users, this article is a literature review that highlights the results of various researches on cancer patients and a pilot study, which explores the effective use of visual arts and art therapy programs in healthcare facilities. The objective is to create a foundation for further investigations into the subject of healing with visual art and other art therapy programs in health care. Furthermore, a pilot study was conducted at the Near East hospital to evaluate the visual arts used within the hospital interior. INTRODUCTION Research has shown that there has been a rapid awareness and global increase in the issue of healing environment in recent years (Anantha, 2008). Generally, the whole idea of the healing is centered on the fact that the quality of the hospital environment can make a great difference in the recovery of patients (Altimier, 2004). Ulrich advocated that a patient in a hospital ward with a view of trees and landscape will have a quick recovery compared to one facing a view of a plain wall (Ulrich, 1984). Similarly, artists and professionals in the healthcare sector have the perception that art may have positive benefits in the healing process and healthcare in general. There has been evidence of the increasing display of artworks, with themes of natural images, which have positive effects on health outcomes. These effects ranges from decreased anxiety in patients, increased tolerance to pain and reduced periods of stay in hospitals (Staricoff & Loppert, 2003). Likewise, Florence Nightingale in 1859, affirmed the relevance of art in hospitals, which raised issues that are highly useful today. Moreover, she believes that beautiful objects of various forms and colours that are not often appreciated, sometimes have as much physical effect, as regular forms and colours have on us (Nightingale, 1859). Studies conducted in recent years, supported the notion that paintings and other forms of visual art can facilitates patients healing process. Furthermore, the result of these researches reveals that there is an association between images in a piece of art work and the positive impacts they have on patient’s response to traumatic pain, anxiety and stress (Landro, 2014; Nanda et al. 2012; Ulrich, 1999). As such, the use of artworks in hospitals has now been highly prioritized so as not to be seen as ordinary decorations for boring corridors and rooms. The use of art interventions as a positive distraction is significantly recognized for the rehabilitation of hospital occupants. On the other hand, positive distraction has been defined as an environmental factor that promotes positive energy or feelings of individuals without exposing them to any form of stress, as such, taking the person's mind off his or her worries (Ulrich et al., 1991). To further buttress this fact, a study has shown that patients with breast cancer, testified adverse reduction in anxiety during chemotherapy sessions when exposed to a view of a virtual realistic display of underwater sights (Hickman et al., 1992). History of Art in Healthcare Visual art as a western tradition started in ancient Greece, where architecturally-pleasing halls known as Asklepiea encouraged a sense of calmness and health for patients. The spaces were designed in a way that permits patients to participate in the treatment programs often drawn in their dreams by the god Asklepios. This treatment with dreams later became archaic with the development of modern medicine and the establishment of monolithic faiths in Europe. (Cork, 2012). However, the aesthetically pleasing traditional Athenian hospitals in the fifth century, which was forgotten for a long period was revived in the fourteenth century in Siena (Baron, 1996). Founded in the cathedral in Siena, the Spadale DI Santa Maria Della Scala was a space used to accommodate traveling pilgrims to the various shrines in the city. By 1100, it had expanded from its original use and had started serving the population of Siena as a hospital for the treatment of illnesses. A frescoes, painted by Simone Martini in the fourteenth century, which depicted a Marriage of the Virgin and the Return of the Virgin to the house of her parents, were commissioned by city officials to be displayed in the hospital.