I began creating art at the ripe old age of four, and every painting contained an angel. Funny thing, my angel is still with me and is placed on the back of the canvases of my original art. And why, you ask?

In 2004 I died in an MRI Tunnel after a 10.5 hour brain surgery and then a terrible bout of spinal meningitis. It’s a long story, but it took me nearly three years to learn to walk, drive, paint, etc. again. During that time, I learned much about western medicine, because standard western medicine had never seen someone survive and really did not know what to do with me. I learned a lot about the wiring of the brain and went on to become certified in therapeutic art in order to help folks with brain injuries or sometimes life’s traumatic issues.

I have learned that even drawing and coloring a rainbow will help a child out of sadness and creating vision boards with adults will help to unfold dramatic healing to body, soul and spirit. I am always amazed at the how and why of me going through the brain damage so that I can help others.

In 2010, a review of existing literature on the benefits of the arts (music, visual arts, dance and writing) by Stuckey and Noble considered more than 100 studies, concluding that creative expression has a powerful impact on health and well-being on various patient populations. Most of these studies concur that participation and/or engagement in the arts have a variety of outcomes including a decrease in depressive symptoms, an increase in positive emotions, reduction in stress responses, and, in some cases, even improvements in immune system functioning; visual art therapy, for example, is trending toward many of these health gains and more. Even viewing art can have an impact, but if you really want to benefit from the arts for wellness, studies continue to show that your active participation is the most productive.

Since 2015, additional studies indicate that creative self-expression and exposure to the arts have wide-ranging effects on not only cognitive and psychosocial health but also physical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, various forms of dementia and cancer. One of the most compelling studies was recently conducted by the Mayo Clinic and proposed that people who engage in music and art activities (playing, painting, drawing and sculpting; crafts, like woodworking, pottery, ceramics, quilting, quilling and sewing) in middle and old age may delay cognitive decline in very old age. My mother is going to be 91 in a week and still paints every day. She is youthful, creative and great fun to be around!

These findings underscore the idea that it is possible to build a “cognitive reserve” through engaging in novel, creative experiences that have a protective effect on the brain. My mother says that when she looks in the mirror, she still sees a sixteen-year-old girl. As well, according to the principal investigator, “Our study supports the idea that engaging the mind may protect neurons, or the building blocks of the brain, from dying, stimulate growth of new neurons, or may help recruit new neurons to maintain cognitive activities in old age” (American Academy of Neurology, 2015).

I believe the mind is immensely powerful and that we were always meant to create. My doctors are amazed by my recovery…. even though walking is still a little troublesome. But I am thankful every day to still be here….and especially able to create! As my momma says, “It’s our Happy Place!”

SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LIFE SKILLS

Music & Art can be used to develop essential lifelong skills in an exciting and informative way, for all ages and abilities. Whether you are able bodied or disabled, big or small, clever or average or young or old, there are things that can be learned by exploring creative media such as creative writing, design or sculpting or making music.
Research has shown that these programs keep the mind sharp, enhance coordination, sharpen your reading skills, increase listening skills, promote a sense of achievement, boost concentration, reform time management skills, lower stress and blood pressure, regulate mood, help with problem solving and handling conflict, help to prevent dementia and depression and help treat Alzheimer’s disease.

The World Economic Forum reports that there is ‘A new vision for Education’, Fostering Social and Emotional Learning Through Technology. The report states that traditional learning falls short of equipping people with the knowledge and skills they need to thrive. The gap between the skills people learn and the skills required to succeed within their career is becoming more obvious. Today’s job candidates must be able to collaborate, communicate and problem solve. These skills are developed mainly through Social and Emotional learning. Combined with traditional skills, this social and emotional proficiency will equip people to succeed in the evolving digital economy.

Ken Robinson was one of the world’s most influential voices in education and an internationally recognized leader on creativity and human potential. He focused on one of the most critical issues of our time: how to transform the nation’s troubled educational system. At a time when standardized testing businesses are raking in huge profits, when many schools are struggling, and when students and educators everywhere are suffering under the strain, Robinson pointed the way forward. He argued for a highly personalized, organic approach that draws on today’s unprecedented technological and professional resources to engage all students, develop their love of learning, and enable them to face the real challenges of the twenty-first century.

Creative, Social and Emotional Skills are essential life, health and wellness skills. Find an outlet that you love and create one for your child.

Linda Brandt is the art director at JAM-OLOGY and also has a private art studio in St. Augustine. She and JAM-OLOGY help develop essential social & emotional life skills in an exciting and informative way for all ages and abilities. Find out more at https://jam-ology.com/.

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