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Art for Mental and Physical Wellbeing

Understanding how ART might improve our mental and physical wellbeing.

By Francesca Geromino aka Fra’s Ceramics

Have you ever tried art to overcome challenging periods of your life?

How many of you have found a sort of relief from emotional pain and anxiety by making art?

I would like to share my experience with you.

More than ten years ago, I started suffering from chronic pain and anxiety related to my condition.

When the pain started, it was a period of my life where I was completely focused on my University and I didn’t have any time to spend on what I considered “unnecessary hobbies”, and art, at that time of my life, was one of them.

One day, I was talking to a friend and started to share how much I was missing this part of me, which I had completely neglected for so many years and had almost forgotten.

She did the best thing ever: she encouraged me to explore my creativity again.

I started finding so many excuses: I don’t have time, I don’t see the point…

And then one day I thought: why not? Why would I spend my time watching a movie but not MAKE time for my passion?

I just grabbed a pen and paper and started doodling.

It was a great day!

I completely lost myself in the process, I was so focused on creating, surrounded by beautiful colours, that I completely forgot the pain.

A few years later, I discovered a little ceramic studio in Italy and fell in love immediately with creating ceramic pieces.

I experienced highs and lows with my pain in the following years and I noticed a pattern forming: every time I gave up my passions, especially my creativity, I was felt worse.

Asking myself the questions:

Why do I feel better when I integrate in my life an activity I’m passionate about?

Why does my pain become easier to live with and even forget about it, when I do art?

Finally an explanation was forthcoming while talking to a great pain specialist.

She described it in a very easy and straight forward way. It made so much sense to me that I want to share it with you.

Scientists divide pain in two types:

  • primary

  • and secondary pain

Primary pain is the one directly linked to the physical issue, and

Secondary pain is the one caused by the stress and anxiety that the pain generates in the sufferers.

Theoretically, if you can reduce the worry and anxiety that chronic pain generates, you might diminish the physical and emotional pain due to the chronic condition.

Moreover, emotional pain (like stress) shares the same neurological pathways of physical pain.

Doing activities that decrease stress has a direct impact on our perception of physical pain.

Making ceramics works for me as a natural painkiller, due to all the hormonal cocktails that the body emits while doing a fun activity, it produces Serotonin, the “happy hormone”.

For me, ceramics was a tool to decrease my anxiety and stress, it was a mindful moment where I was completely focused on the “Here and Now”, while allowing my body to relax and to experience a mind free of thoughts and distractions.

Decreasing stress and anxiety, muscles become more relaxed, less tense and less pain is perceived.

Being aware of the positive effect of art allowed me to make it a priority in my life as an activity for my well-being.

Essential is repetition and consistency in doing what gives us joy.

I have noticed that women are the most who give up positive activities for their wellbeing to take care of their family and home, although, they are the most affected by chronic pain and mental health issues. I can’t count how many people, especially women, who have shared the same experience as me of putting aside their creativity because they don’t have enough time.

It’s also true that art activities don’t work as quickly as a painkiller.

This is not a quick fix or a magic wand. This is a lifestyle of self-care to embrace and start with little drops and improve as much as your body allows you to.

Understanding the mechanism of how ceramics was working for me, I understood that many other activities I enjoyed could work in the same way.

I truly believe, and science is finally talking about it, that ceramics, like other activities (creative cooking, gardening, play music, singing, dancing…), are able to distract our mind from our worries and give people an extra tool to overcome stressful situations.

Stress can generate pain and health issues, so let’s understand what is the activity that brings you is joy. Allow yourself to express your essence!

Ceramics is my well-being strategy, it is my self-care meditative activity.

What is yours?

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