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Columnist Josie Haneklau recommends that students use some of the time they normally spend on their phones to create art. 

Many people who deem themselves as “left-brained” wouldn’t think of themselves as being creative and probably wouldn’t be found in an art class. Yet, it’s important to question how and by whom creativity is measured. After all, an original and inventive line of thought looks completely different for a mathematician than it does for a musician. Perhaps everyone is imaginative in some way, even if it’s not the stereotypical sense. Nevertheless, even if someone doesn’t consider themselves creative in the slightest, creating art can still be mentally and physically beneficial and has proven to be therapeutic for many people. 

Studies show that art has stress and anxiety-reducing effects. With 8 in 10 college students stressed, this fact could be extremely beneficial to them. While most college students have a packed schedule, there are still ways for art to fit in. For example, one recent study found that college students can spend 8 to 10 hours on their phones daily — even though they may be busy people. It may prove beneficial for students to use some of that “idle time,” that almost everyone has, creating art instead of using a phone. 

Art is usually a calming and mindful activity that lessens the flow of anxiety-creating hormones. This is part of the reason why art is used by many psychotherapists in a technique simply coined “art therapy.” Art therapy can help those with a learning disability or brain injury and even allow those with repressed emotions a voice. Because many people often have trouble expressing emotions in words, art proves as a great communicator even when the person creating it doesn’t realize communication is happening. For example, a child may mindlessly draw a stick-person sketch of themselves crying next to their divorcing parents, unknowingly communicating emotion in effect. 

Attention deficit disorder affects over 11% of American children and a heightening number of American adults. A main struggle with attention deficit disorder is an ability to focus for long periods of time. Missing notes in class or important information in a meeting for work due to a lack of focus can be stressful and frustrating. A helpful technique that those with ADHD or anyone else who has trouble focusing can use is doodling. Drawing something simple and mindless like squiggles or flowers is scientifically proven to improve memory recall. One study found that participants improved information recall by almost 30% more than those who were instructed not to draw. 

An article titled “Why We Make Art” by Greater Good Magazine focuses on multiple artists and why they choose to make art. All of them have at least one varying response. Artist Pete Doctor said, “There is also that universal desire to connect with people in some way, to tell them about myself.” Artist Gina Gibney said, “The body of my work is like a catalog of the events and thoughts of my life.” Almost every artist featured lists some kind of mental benefit as a reason why they enjoy art. 

In society, everyone is told to dress, look, speak and act a certain way. Even those unfamiliar with making art are often afraid they'll “mess up” or that their creation will “look bad.” In reality, art is emancipated from this thought-process. Perhaps this is why many see art as a liberation, or an outlet for expression — it’s a lawless process. In recognizing and applying this, many may find a sort of therapy they’ve never known. 

 

Josie Haneklau is a sophomore political science and psychology double major. Contact Josie at hanekljr@dukes.jmu.edu.