Quite by accident, I recently stumbled across a new strategy that is bringing about some positive changes for me in respect to my fibromyalgia.
After undergoing Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy last spring, I was feeling quite a bit better. (You can read all about the treatments here…) As I had a little more energy, I gradually began adding some of my old hobbies back into my life.
What surprised me was that the release of creative energy is actually very therapeutic. So, being the Research Princess that I am, I decided to do a little checking into the impact creativity has on health. Amazingly, I learned that science shows a definite connection between creativity and better health.
How did I not know about this?
Before Fibro, I used to be a very artistic person. I was involved with my church’s praise team. I sewed, I journaled and wrote stories, I crocheted, I drew pictures and painted. I loved to bake and create new dishes. I was always trying new crafts.
But gradually, as my fibromyalgia worsened, I had let these hobbies go, one by one. I thought I only had enough energy to take care of those things absolutely necessary for survival and nothing more.
So, because I thought I only had a finite amount of energy, I rationed it in order to survive and be able to work on the “productive” and necessary things.
What I didn’t realize was, that in doing so, I had cut off a potentially healing process. Up to this point, I felt a little guilty when doing the “fun” things like playing music because I “knew” I wouldn’t have enough energy to cook supper or other necessary things afterward.
But, I’ve learned the simple act of being creative is actually energizing.
And, the research backs it up.
I wish I had known about this sooner.
As I looked into the research, one study that continued to pop up in articles showed that the simple act of creating art and participating in a hobby brought significant improvement for a variety of illnesses. This 2010 study by Stuckey and Nobel reviewed the research in the area of art and healing, mostly between 1995 and 2007.
They focused on four specific areas: Music Engagement, Visual Arts, Movement-Based Creative Expression (i.e. Dance), and Expressive Writing. They concluded that in the four areas reviewed, there were “clear indications that artistic engagement has significantly positive effects on health.”
Patients were experiencing improvements, right down to the cellular level in some cases.
I didn’t know that as I was letting go of my various hobbies, I was literally turning my back on potential “medicine”.
There have been multiple other studies conducted in the past few years which also show that Art Therapy can be healing.
It’s possible that the immune system may be improved through creative endeavors. In one study by Petrie, Fontanilla, Thomas, Booth and Pennebaker it was revealed that expressive writing “could affect CD4+ lymphocyte count and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) viral load among HIV-infected patients.” In other words, it strengthened the HIV patients’ immunity.
Here is a list of some of the articles I read as I researched, in case you would like to read them for yourself:
- Medical News Today – “What are the health benefits of being creative?“
- Forbes – “Here’s How Creativity Actually Improves Your Health”
- Relax the Back – “Health Benefits of Creativity“
- Psychology Today – “Creativity as a Wellness Practice”
- National Center for Biotechnology Information – “The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature”
There were others, but these have a good overview of the research that will give you a place to start as you study this for yourself.
So, what’s the takeaway?
No longer will I feel guilty when I want to dabble in my hobbies. Now I know that they’re not just fun, they are also life-giving and healing.
Now, I will plan a little time into each day to do something creative. Whether it’s singing or listening to new music, drawing or coloring, sewing or crocheting, or whatever else I decide to try, I won’t feel another moment’s guilt about these things that I used to regard as fluff or unnecessary.
Who knows…maybe this was the missing ingredient in my health after all.
How about you? Do you have a hobby that you’ve let go? Try setting aside a little time and explore whether doing it again might make you feel better. I’d love to know how it goes for you. Drop me a line in the comments below!
As always, be smart about making changes in your lifestyle. It never hurts to check things out with your doctor if you have any doubt about the consequences of trying something new.
Until we meet again, here’s a virtual hug for you!