Happiness Series Part 1 – Color Me Happy

You don’t need the ability to paint like Van Gogh or draw like Picasso to find happiness in art. In fact, one of the benefits of art is that there are no rules at all, no color too bold or too subtle, no brush stroke too fat or too thin. Each splash of paint and each drawn line is an expression of your creativity and imagination making art – in whatever way you do it – right.

For any parent who has a refrigerator decorated with watercolor paintings and drawings of colored pencil creativity, you know how important art can be for children. But there is more than just imagination at work when children engage in creative pursuits such as art. There is a science behind all those finger paintings and doodles. For students, engaging in art helps to develop fine motor skills, helps them to express themselves and understand the world around them, and encourages neural connections by using all five senses in an incredibly engaging way.

But maybe most importantly, art makes children happy. In a study done by researchers at Brooklyn College and Boston College, they found that drawing helps improve children’s mood because it helps distract them. And while happiness and creativity seem to go hand in hand for children, another study by researchers Michael W. Ceci and V.K. Kumar offers one important caveat, the creativity should be self-directed meaning you can’t force kids to be creative, you just need to be there to nurture it.

Art is no less important for adults. Back in 1996, Psychology Today published an article entitled “Capturing Creativity” by Robert Epstein who stated, “…greater creativity breeds greater happiness. The creative process is itself a source of joy for most people. And with new creative powers we’re also better able to solve the little problems that beset us daily.” For adults, art of any kind improves our wellbeing, helps cope with chronic illness, and lowers stress levels. But more than that, it just makes us feel good. A 2016 study out of New Zealand found that engaging in creative activities contributes to an “upward spiral” of positive emotions.

You don’t need formal training, and you don’t need incredible talent. As Oprah Winfrey famously once said, “You are an artist, and you are an artist, everybody is an artist!” – or something like that. The point is, now is a great time to dust off those paints and sharpen those pencils. You might want to even invest in sidewalk chalk. The options are as limitless as your imagination and potential for happiness. So clear off some space on the refrigerator; your world is about to get a little more colorful.