(HE)ART Health

Embrace your artistic tendencies and improve your heart health simultaneously.

Numerous studies claim stress can increase the risk for cardiovascular disease, but did you know that there might be a non-medical way to reduce this risk? While you should still get regular physicals and do what you can to reduce your risk factors, embracing your artistic interests will reduce your stress level. Creative activities stimulate our brain function and alter our brain chemistry, but they can also boost mental and physical health.

Painting, drawing, reading, crafting, yoga or dance all contribute to lower stress levels, decreased anxiety and can even increase productivity and self-esteem.  Doing what you love in your spare time can help you focus your attention in a way that is similar to meditating––it all depends on the “flow.”
Go with the “flow”

According to cardiology expert, Harlan M. Krumholz, M.D., professor of medicine and epidemiology and public health at Yale University School of Medicine, “creative pursuits allow people to find their ‘flow state,’ a mental state in which they are so fully involved in an activity they become unaware of passing time,” (bottomlineinc.com). The benefits of flow include lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, and reduced anxiety.

So, what if you can’t decide which art form to explore? Take the time during the colder winter months to think about the kinds of creative things you liked in the past. As a child, did you like to draw, color or journal? Adult coloring books are popular these days, mostly because of the meditative respite they provide. Coloring is a workout for the creative “muscle.”

In the winter months when it might be too cold to venture outside for long periods of time, indoor activities might be just the key to unlock your creative juices. Scrapbooking, jewelry making, quilting are all crafts that lend themselves to quiet contemplation. For those who might want company in crafting, crochet and knitting circles are all the rage. Cooking can also be very creative. Cooking classes are popular among all age groups and meals are always better shared with friends and family.

If you are unsure about your artistic abilities, the love of art––in all forms––may also offer peace of mind. Reading classic literature, going to dance and music concerts, visiting museums can all bring about feelings of pleasure and emotion that are good for the brain and the heart.  Share these activities with a friend or start or join a book club. Any art form, whether you are actively doing it, or appreciating it, can reward your heart with a sense of meaning and uplifted spirits.

At the start of a new year, many people make a resolution to do something new, get organized or get healthy. Why not add a little something new to your life and pursue a long forgotten hobby or interest? Many older adults welcome a chance after a lifelong commitment to work and raising families to take up a new hobby or craft. FiftyForward centers and other community groups and centers offer a multitude of groups, activities and clubs for those who might want to delve into something new. So, this winter, find your “flow” and make it your own.

Get (HE)ART healthy!

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