“The arts” encompass a range of creative expressions, including literature, music, painting, dancing, and more. Through the arts, humans have told stories, taught values, recorded history, and expressed both individual and collective experiences. Unfortunately, the arts are becoming less valued compared to science, technology, and mathematics. Whether it’s an underfunded school music program or an artist struggling to get paid for their work, the world is wrestling with its relationship to the arts. Why does this matter? Here are ten reasons why the arts are important:
#1. All arts are forms of storytelling and humans are natural storytellers
The arts are about storytelling in different forms. In the past, humans drew on cave walls. Stories were then passed down orally. They taught cultural values and history. Why stories? They’re more memorable. Ancient storytelling traditions weren’t necessarily about getting every single detail right, but they related something worthwhile to the listener. Humans are still drawn to stories and much more likely to remember a story than a piece of raw data.
#2. The arts speak truth to power
Stories and art are also important to society because of their political implications. The arts have always been about more than just creating something nice and pretty. Paintings, books, music, and more comment on politics, take hard stances, and call out abusive systems. There’s a reason why art is so frequently censored in authoritarian regimes. It’s labeled as “obscene” or “dangerous” because authoritarians know that the arts have the power to influence people.
#3. The arts encourage strong imaginations
Strong imaginations have many benefits, including the ability to think outside the box and boost self-confidence. All the change-makers in society are imaginative. The arts encourage imaginative thinking, especially in kids whose brains are still developing. Reading, painting, and storytelling are all linked to better imaginations.
#4. The arts improve concentration
The ability to focus on a task is important for many areas of life. If you find your attention constantly shifting, participating in the arts can help. Research shows that reading is a great way to improve your focus. The harder the book, the more you need to focus. You can sharpen your concentration by choosing books on a topic you’re unfamiliar with or with harder vocabulary words. Making art is also linked to what’s called “flow,” where you’re so focused and relaxed in the present moment that you lose sense of time.
#5. The arts encourage critical thinking
Many forms of art require problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Imagine that you’re drawing a picture. You’re bound to make mistakes at some point, so you need to figure out how to respond. How can you fix it or adapt your plan to get a picture you like? Even an art form like dancing requires critical thinking. Dancers remember patterns, connect movement to their thoughts, and correct errors.
#6. The arts improve communication skills
Considering that all art forms are essentially vehicles for stories, it makes sense that they would improve communication. Art – whether it’s writing, painting, dancing, or anything else – is about expression. The artist’s goal is to communicate an idea or feeling. If you struggle with processing or expressing your emotions, taking up one or more of the arts can help.
#7. Participating in the arts helps relieve stress
There’s extensive research showing that the arts reduce stress and anxiety. It’s the whole point of art therapy, which uses evidence-based interventions and art techniques to help treat poor mental health. The “flow,” which we talked about earlier, is a big reason for this. You’ll know it when you feel it. It creates a sense of calm and mindfulness. This gives your brain a break from stressful thoughts by releasing feel-good chemicals.
#8. The arts can help your physical health
The arts help with mental health, but there’s reason to believe it can help your physical health, too. Studies show the benefit of art therapy for pain relief and management, quality of life in adult cancer patients, and better mental function in dementia patients. Physical benefits are especially apparent in art forms that involve movement, like dancing.
#9. The arts can extend your life
With its benefits for both mental and physical health, the arts can help extend your life. In one study from the University College London, researchers found that people over 50 who participated in the arts regularly were 31% less likely to die during a 14-year follow-up than those who didn’t engage with the arts. This was after accounting for a range of other health and social factors. There’s always room for other factors, but it’s safe to say that the arts improve a person’s well-being. That could have a positive enough impact to lengthen someone’s life.
#10. The arts help people form social connections
There are many ways to connect with others through the arts. That can include taking painting classes, going to dances, going to book clubs, and more. When creative people get together, they can form strong, healthy relationships that last for years. Studies show that social connections are vital to a person’s mental health, confidence, and long-term wellness.