Art and creativity have always played a fundamental role in our evolution and personal development; however, it seems like institutions are starting only now to notice their potential in education. Artistic disciplines appear kinda of “placed in the background” compared to the others, but fortunately..
I’m not alone in this belief!
In the whole philosophical and pedagogical history, many brilliant minds have agreed in a possible connection between creative activities and communicative, physical, cognitive and emotional development, especially during childhood. Many studies confirm that, from the very first years of our lives, art helps to improve our expressive abilities, favouring logical and linguistic learning, to strengthen self-awareness and to free creative potential. Basically, it is decisive for the individual’s inner evolution. (1)
John Dewey, an American philosopher and pedagogist active in the first years of the twentieth century, firmly affirmed in his text “Art as experience” (1934) the idea that art is the most suitable mean to constructively use the creative energy enclosed in the child.
Maria Montessori developed a similar concept of “experience”, in which doing represents the external manifestation of thoughts (2). In this conception, the artistic experience assumes a central role, and the hand can be considered a sort of “prosthesis” of the mind. In this case, the artistic activity is a form of “reasoning”, and the “visual perception” and “thought” are connected.
Basically, a child that is painting, writing, dancing, and so on … is just thinking with his own senses!
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”Albert Einstein
Through creative activities, children learn to express the “mysterious” mentioned by Albert Einstein – their rapidly growing understandings, thoughts, and feelings. The process of making art allows us to give image, word, sound, or movement to something that is often intangible; this is what young children do every day! They are born artists and scientists, since they explore the world with both a creative and a scientific approach. When the artist in them searches for a creative expression, the scientist figures out ways to do it!
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Okay but.. brain growing?
Not a joke!
Art, music, movement, and general creative activities not only develop language, mathematics, and social skills, but they also literally strengthen the synapses between brain cells! Researches, in fact, show that these synapses grow stronger thanks to active participation in the arts and creative exercises.
If you’re not familiar with the term “synapses”, here’s a fast explanation of what are they:
“Synapses are part of the circuit that connects sensory organs, like those that detect pain or touch, in the peripheral nervous system to the brain. Synapses connect neurons in the brain to neurons in the rest of the body and from those neurons to the muscles.” (3)
And why are they important? Well.. Synapses are really important for our brain to function correctly, especially when it comes to memory and its overall performance.
[Hey! You can find some of our creative exercises to bring into your everyday life here!]
These essential activities at an early age can actually create new neural pathways and fortify those that are already present! So, thanks to art, our brain not only grow during our first years of life, but it also continues to strength over time!
But the positive effects of arts on the brain are not over yet. There are SO many functions that are improved by the presence of creative stimulations in our everyday lives.
How Our Brains Benefit From Art
As we have already seen, arts and creative activities are crucial in education, since they help the children to learn through action and to develop both their rational and their emotional side. Also, arts can make the learning experience more fun and entertaining, making it easier for kids and teens to learn and remember the lesson.
These activities have the strong power to develop curiosity and problem-solving skills, since they make kids (and not only) DO things, instead of just passively thinking.
INCREASES BLOOD FLOW IN THE BRAIN
First of all, an optimal blood flow is essential to our brains, because blood supplies the brain with the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function properly.
Professor Semir Zeki, chair in neuroaesthetics at University College, London, conducted an experiment in which he submitted beautiful paintings to people, to see what was their brain’s reaction. As a result, he discovered there is a strong activity in the part of the brain related to pleasure! When viewing art participants liked the most, their blood flow was comparable to the one we have while looking at a loved one!!
There are SO many studies and articles about art improving healing processes, and I’m so happy that this is true!
Dr Dacher Keltner, psychologist of California University in Berkeley, said that awe, wonder and beauty promote healthier levels of cytokines, and suggests that the things we do to experience these emotions – a walk in nature, losing oneself in music, beholding art – have a direct influence upon health and life expectancy.
Hey… If you don’t know what cytokines are, don’t worry! I got your back:
“Cytokines” are small proteins that are crucial in controlling the growth and activity of other immune system cells and blood cells. When released, they signal the immune system to do its job. Cytokines affect the growth of all blood cells and other cells that help the body’s immune and inflammation responses. (4)
Also, the Research Center for Arts and Culture (RCAC) at the National Center for Creative Aging (NCCA) established that artists suffer less loneliness and depression than the general population. (5)
It is established that being involved in arts and creative activities leads to a reduction of cortisol, the primary stress hormone. Stress is totally one of the worst conditions when it comes to illnesses; it’s in fact established that many diseases come (or even get worse) from too much stress.
In our article about Art Therapy you can go even deeper into the health benefits from arts and creative activities! [Check it here.]
How To Use Creative Activities to Learn Better and Feel Good
Arts are not the only way we can trick our brains to learn better and faster, and our bodies to feel well and heal. Many other activities, which are still considered in the creative field, surely will help us to reach the same results.
First, let’s consider these activities with a more open perspective: what I mean is not to think only about drawing and painting, but also include singing, dancing, moving and so on…
So, what are these miraculous activities? Nothing magic or difficult at all! Many of these could already be a part of your routine!
Analyse and observe art to develop critical thinking: This helped me a lot when I was in school to learn to look beyond. In a work of art, a tree can have several symbologies, and it’s up to us to think and understand the symbology about it. The same is life: many things are not evident, and we must develop the ability to know how to go further with our reasoning, to better understand.
Use images, drawings and maps to learn or remember difficult concepts: I don’t even remember to take the trash out if I don’t physically write it down; not even my phone’s notes can help. Writing down on paper helps to visualize and print in your mind what you need to know or remember. It really improved my long-term memory and saved me from low grades for my whole school years.
BRAINSTORM!! When you’re stuck trying to find an idea for a new business, for a personal project or just trying to find a solution to a problem, start writing down everything that comes to your mind to “set your thoughts and organise them”. It really helps with EVERYTHING.
Express yourself differently: Fortunately, we do not have only speech as a communication tool: dancing, singing and sports are the amazing alternatives that you can do to achieve your physical and psychological wellness. Letting go your inner thoughts or worries through different means is really important, especially if you manage to develop a skill or even exercise in the meantime!
Also, art applied to therapy has been proved an amazing relationship! This type of therapy, in fact, shows astonishing results when it comes to heal trauma, to cope difficult situations in an individual’s personal life or to physically recover. [Read more here!]
So.. ready to make your brains grow?
Well.. If we were convincing enough about the potential of art and creativity in our personal development and wellness and you’re interested in implementing those activities in your life, we have some articles that can be perfect to start!
Weekly Exercise 5 – Draw the same object everyday changing technique/style
Does an apple a day keep the art block away? For sure this exercise helped me a lot, even well 6 years after doing it the first time in art school!
Weekly Exercise 4 – Draw One Subject a Day
If you don’t know what to draw, you can always find help in the objects around you. A good excuse to warm up your hands and wrists, and imrove your creativity and thinking skills. I looooved this challenge!
Weekly Exercise 3 – Get Inspired by Your Name
If you don’t know what to draw, you can always find help in your own initials, some words and a bit of creativity! A good excuse to warm up your hands and wrists, and imrove your creativity and thinking skills. I loved this game.
(2) “Art does heal: scientists say appreciating creative works can fight off disease” – http://www.telegraph.co.uk
(3) Definition taken from: https://today.tamu.edu/2018/01/05/how-do-synapses-work/
(4) Definition taken from: https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/immunotherapy/cytokines.html
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2 thoughts on “ Art and Learning – How Art Literally Makes our Brains Grow ”
Amazing, thank you for this Post!
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We’re glad you appreciated it! 🙂