Drawing your feelings

Drawing your feelings?  I can hear my darling old GP doctor cringe. Fact is that this beautiful narrative arts experience has earned itself a new term in neuroscience: Neuro aesthetics – and scientists call it our new superpower. The scientific conclusion is simple: people who regularly engage with the arts, are more successful, happier people.

The narrative arts therapy prescription "Draw your feelings" can have several therapeutic effects on the brain, causing it to create new neural pathways. 

Here are some insights from neuroscience to help us understand why a simple aesthetic experience, be it a drawing or seeing a good movie, can have powerful therapeutic effects:

1. Emotion Regulation:

 Engaging in the act of drawing activates brain regions associated with emotional processing. This may contribute to the regulation of emotions by providing a tangible outlet for expressing and exploring feelings.

2. Integration of Senses:

 Drawing involves visual, tactile, and sometimes kinaesthetic sensations. The integration of these sensory experiences can stimulate various neural pathways, enhancing overall sensory processing.

3. Neural Plasticity:

 The creative process of drawing promotes neural plasticity, allowing the brain to form new connections. This can support cognitive flexibility and adaptability, potentially influencing how individuals perceive and manage their emotions.

4. Self-Expression and Communication:

 Drawing serves as a nonverbal form of self-expression. This mode of communication engages brain regions associated with symbolic representation and may provide an alternative means for individuals to convey complex emotions.

5. Cathartic Release:

 Expressing feelings through drawing may activate brain areas related to cathartic release. This process can contribute to stress reduction and a sense of emotional relief.

6. Visual Memory and Reflection:

Creating visual representations of feelings engages visual memory and reflection. This reflective aspect of the process may involve brain regions associated with self-awareness and introspection.

7. Positive Reinforcement:

The act of drawing and witnessing the creation of a visual representation (in a museum or art gallery for example), may activate brain reward centres, providing positive reinforcement and a sense of accomplishment.

Whala! At last, we have a scientific language for stuff we have always known but keep forgetting. If you love the sound of all this, as I do, head over to Stanford professor Andrew Huberman’s podcasts where he explains why the brain is wired for storytelling.

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