Painting Away the Pounds? How Creativity Reduces Stress | Sixty and Me


I have been thinking a lot about the weight gain many people have encountered this past year. I myself fell into some bad habits, gained a few pandemic pounds for a variety of reasons, and had to re-group. The most common cause of weight gain I have seen though, is weight gain caused by stress eating. I spent some time pondering how I and others managed to reduce stress during this time.

I have always been a fan of arts and crafts and often have some sort of artsy project going on. But, whoa! I was a full-on crafting machine through those COVID months. I made so many things!

Bad paintings, good paintings, decorated dish towels, loads of handmade journals, embellished glassware, on and on! Much of it was garbage. But I look back and I realize that the end product wasn’t the reason I was creating – these activities really were my stress relievers.

I felt like a kid again. I woke up each day and thought, “What can I make today?” It was very odd, but very fun!

On the heels of my craft bender, I did some research and discovered that there are actually many scientific studies that confirm the link between creativity and stress reduction.

In an Entrepreneur magazine article titled “Science Shows How Creativity Can Reduce Stress,” Deepak Chopra and Kabir Sehgal state:

“Creativity induces positive health effects, including on the heart. In a recent study, researchers provided almost forty people with art supplies such as markers and paper, and told them to create anything they wanted over a period of 45 minutes. The scientists discovered that no matter the artistic experience of the participants, about 75 percent experienced a decrease in their levels of cortisol, a hormone that the body secretes to respond to stress.”

Even just looking at art can improve your well-being according to a study that showed that “the presence of visual art in hospitals contributes to health outcomes by improving patient satisfaction as an extended form of health care.”

As a health coach, I spend a good portion of my time helping people with emotional eating. The emotions most of my clients are trying to relieve with food are stress related, including worry and fear.

There is a physical reduction in cortisol, your body’s main stress hormone. This is scientifically proven, as discussed above.

Stress and worry only happen when we are regretting or fretting over the past OR when we are dreading or worried about the future. I think when we are involved with a creative project of any kind, we are forced into the NOW. Now is not where worry is. Worry only occurs when we are dwelling in the past or the future.

When I was obsessively creating during those stressful days, it felt like pure joy. Hours would pass and I wouldn’t even realize it. And believe me, it was not because I was creating anything great. I created some of the most hideous “art” you have ever seen. (I wish I had saved them to show you, but I threw them in the trash and didn’t feel bad about it at all.)

Looking back on it, I was doing many interesting crafts, but what I wasn’t doing during all those hours of making stuff, was snacking away my stress. I was in the moment, in the now.

You might be thinking that this won’t work for you because you are not artistic. I love this quote from an article titled “Study Says Making Art Reduces Stress, Even If You Kind Of Suck At It.” They said, “Making art is actually, factually, good for the body, mind and soul. Even if said art resembles the deranged scribbles of a grumpy toddler.” 

I believe that you can get the same benefits from all kinds of creative activities. Gardening, cooking, setting a pretty table, putting together great outfits, decorating your home, planning activities or trips, taking photos or making scrapbooks, writing, or creating music – they are all forms of creativity. The list really is endless. Anything that gets you inspired and lost in the activity will work.

I hope this gets you thinking about following your creative desires no matter what they are, or how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ you are at them. It might be the most fun you can have while also improving your health.

If you need a little nudge to get your creativity flowing, you can get Robin’s free guide to an easy art project: “Stress Reducing Art Project.” It is designed to help with stress and emotional eating.

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