Who knew doing something creative would improve your academic self-care quotient? Experts agree, art helps you learn.
Summertime brings with it vacation and leisure time, the perfect time to learn a new hobby or spend time doing something you love. This month is all about how hobbies can help your self-care quotient. If you’re not convinced you need self-care, take the free assessment at the bottom of the page.
If You Can’t Write, Doodle
“When the bell rings, you should have your journal open, your pen ready to write, and be in your assigned seat,” I reminded the class the second week of school?
“What if I want to use a pencil?” one of the kids asked.
“That works, too,” I assured him. “I’ll start the timer and you’ll write for five minutes. No talking, no staring into space, no fooling around.”
“Will you give us a topic to write about?”
“You can use the word of the day, or anything that strikes your fancy.”
“What if I can’t think of anything to write?” someone whined. Evidently, my students hadn’t practiced free writing before.
I felt a little desperate, so I offered the first thing I could think of. “If you can’t think of anything to write, you may doodle or draw. I’ll write, too, so I won’t answer any questions once the bell rings.”
Students mumbled and groaned a bit, but they settled down before the bell and sounds of scribbles and the scratch of paper filled the room before the last chime faded.
Without knowing it, the out I’d offered students from writing turns out to be a gateway to academic learning. Who knew the humble doodle can clear the way for academic learning?
The Connection Between Art and Learning
According to Girija Kaimal and fellow researchers, in an article published in The Arts in Psychotherapy, art triggers the reward pathway in our brains—even if we aren’t good at it. And we don’t have to do art for extended periods of time to reap the benefits, “even short spans of artistic activity can improve self-perceptions of creative abilities.”
By letting my students doodle before they wrote, they could feel an instant reward in their brains and attempt the creative act of writing.
Art not only releases our creativity, but it also teaches critical thinking skills—something we can use in the classroom, in life, or at work. “Arts experiences boost critical thinking, teaching students to take the time to be more careful and thorough in how they observe the world,” says Jay P. Green and fellow researches in an article in Education Week.
And the more arts experiences a person has, the bigger the boost to academic success—especially for children from the lowest socioeconomic status (SES), according to another study authored by J.S. Catterall. “Overall, students in the high-arts group outperformed their low-arts counterparts on all measures of academic achievement, and a positive relationship was found between arts participation and academic achievement for students in the lowest quartile of SES.”
While much of the research focuses on children, the benefits of pursuing creative endeavors doesn’t stop with adolescence. We can take a page from kids and use art experiences to benefit our academic (or work) endeavors.
Hacks to Help You Improve Your Academic Self-Care Quotient with Art
Fortunately, the term ‘art experiences’ covers a wide range of things. Visiting an art museum can benefit us as much as attempting to paint a picture. Doodling on a napkin in a restaurant at lunch can help us as much as attending a live theatre or ballet. Working to take the perfect photo of a flower with your phone camera provides the same benefits as quilting or knitting.
You don’t have to be artistic to be creative. If you want to improve your academic self-care quotient, try what Robert Stebbins calls a project-based leisure time activity. A project-based leisure activity “results in something new or different, showing imagination, skill, or knowledge.”
With project-based leisure activities, you start the endeavor with no plan to turn into an expert. You simply do the activity—whether you attend an arts festival or the symphony. Doodling falls into this category. I’ve doodled all my life and have no aspirations to go pro. The immediate reward of doing something artistic helps flush our brains of whatever has us feeling blocked or stymied.
These hacks will help you check your use of creativity and improve your academic self-care quotient.
1. Analyze what You Already Do
I spent most of my life thinking I wasn’t very creative because I couldn’t draw or paint. But I’ve participated in a variety of artistic experiences over the years. Some of them on a regular basis. I doodle when I need to concentrate on something but feel blocked. Photography makes me feel carefree and energizes me. And I’ve always found it easier to draw out directions to someone’s house than to just listen to a person explain where they live.
Analyze how you use creativity in your life and give yourself credit for the ways you already use it. Then ask yourself what artistic activities you’d like to try.
2. Identify the Daily Gaps
If you go through life feeling stressed and in a brain fog, you may want to consider adding a creative hobby to your schedule. Does your job make you feel unappreciated, frustrated, or burnt out? Can you identify a time of day when you feel the worst? Identify when you need a boost the most and set an alarm on your phone or watch to remind you to take a small break to do something creative.
You can doodle for five minutes, analyze a painting, listen to classical music, or color in an adult coloring book. Any one of these activities will trigger your brain’s reward center and boost your energy so you can get back on task. Your brain will thank you.
3. Identify the Big Picture Gaps
Make a list of artistic activities you enjoy and identify the last time you participated in each of them. As our lives fill up with children, work, and responsibilities, we tend to cut out the things we deem frivolous or unnecessary. Just like schools, the arts get axed first. But if we want to improve our academic self-care quotient, we need to schedule in regular artistic experiences.
Sign up for an art class, buy tickets to the local symphony, schedule in regular art museum visits, or join a community choir or band. Take time to put art on your calendar, and you’ll reap the benefits in other areas of your life.
4. If You Have Kids
If you have kids, make sure you teach them the importance of art experiences. Take them along to the theatre, the symphony, or the art museum. Let them see you try new things, whether you choose to decorate cakes or learn to play the clarinet.
According to an article from Walden University, art activities help foster resiliency, tolerance, empathy, and critical thinking. We can’t rely on budget-conscious schools to supply a full range of artistic experiences for our kids.
5. Art and Grace
Art appreciation and artistic endeavors can leave us feeling vulnerable. What if it looks horrible? How can an art critic think that piece should hang in a museum, all I see is a soup can? Remember to have grace (tolerance) for other people’s endeavors, opinions, and conclusions. What speaks to me might not speak to you when looking at the same painting.
Give yourself grace, too, as you learn, participate, and evaluate all things artistic.
How Do You Incorporate Art into Your Life?
I’d love to hear from you. How do you incorporate art into your life? Do you find creativity a helpful tool for figuring out academic problems? What is your favorite artistic hobby?Who knew art could help you become a life-long learner? #art #lifelonglearner #selfcare Click To Tweet