It’s an art: Exploring the benefits of the healing arts

At one time or another, it’s happened to all of us. We hear a song and we’re transported from the stress of our days back to some pleasant memory.

Have you ever thought about how the same phenomenon can be used in health care? Well, more and more frequently these days, music and other healing arts are being used to help promote healing and improve quality of life.

But how does it work?

Let’s explore the healing arts and how they can benefit health and wellness.

What are the healing arts?

Simply put, the “healing arts” are creative practices, or arts, that are used to promote healing and overall wellness.

Way back in 1948, the World Health Organization shifted its view from focusing solely on a person’s physical health to also paying attention to — and treating — the patient as a whole. That included focusing on mind, body and spirit.

In different settings and environments over the years, music, art, dance, spoken or written word, and even drama have been used to help encourage healing. That’s because each allows for artistic expression combined with emotional awareness and communication.

They also allow a person to more intimately connect with emotions, which is helpful for many patients who are experiencing uncertainty or new feelings because of a health condition.

When you’re thinking of the healing arts, though, think outside the box when it comes to “art.” Meditation, pet therapy, gardening and cooking all have applications as healing arts.

What makes the healing arts healing?

For years, researchers have known that there’s a connection between art and healing. But what is that exactly?

Many studies over the years have found some practical application of arts tied to an improvement in health, well-being or quality of life.

Music therapy, for example, has been shown to have many positive effects on a person’s health, including reducing anxiety and restoring emotional balance. It works by calming the neural activity in the brain, which has a calming effect on the entire body.

Beyond that, it’s been shown that auditory stimulation, including music, can help minimize pain.

Research has also taken a look at the visual arts. In one example, in a 2006 study of breast cancer patients, participants who created art were found to have improved well-being and decreased negative emotions.

In many ways, both the creation and viewing of art provide a refuge from the effects or emotions of illness. A 2007 study of female cancer patients found that activities like creating greeting cards and crafting allowed participants to focus on positive experiences, enhanced self-worth, allowed them to be social, and allowed them to express their emotions as they underwent treatment.

Can you benefit from viewing art or listening to music?

Chattanooga Ballet at Erlanger Medical Mall

Chattanooga Ballet at Erlanger Medical Mall

Yes! While participating in a creative activity promotes healing, so does engaging with the arts in a more passive manner.

Viewing an artistic piece, watching someone dance or even listening to music has been shown to promote healing in a variety of ways. The arts can help us:

  • Lower stress and anxiety levels
  • Relax and find a sense of calm
  • Connect with themselves or others
  • Find meaning
  • Cope with grief and other emotions
  • Shift focus from pain

The healing arts in action at Erlanger

You may have seen the Chattanooga Times Free Press article about this type of therapy in action at Erlanger. Performers such as the Chattanooga Ballet, pianists, and choirs regularly perform in the Erlanger Medical Mall.

Talk about the healing arts!

And that’s just one example of how Erlanger uses the arts as part of its holistic approach to healing. Through Arts at Erlanger, Erlanger strives to create a healing atmosphere for patients and those visiting Erlanger facilities.

This includes incorporating artwork from artists across the region, as well as exploring art of all forms within the walls of Erlanger.

Want to learn more about the Arts at Erlanger or view some of the pieces of art? There’s always something new on exhibit. Now through December, head to the Gallery Corridor to view a a selection of artwork inspired by the sports world of today and yesterday.