There is speculation that dopamine enhancing medications can result in a surge of creativity in people living with Parkinson’s.
Some of the reasons art-making can benefit you:
- Finding Pleasure. Art making is enjoyable. There is no such thing as a “wrong” mark. Every expression is valid.
- Experiencing Control. Art making is an activity in which the artist — you— can experience choice (through color, medium, line, subject matter, etc.) and control over your environment.
- Valuing Individuality. Free creation can encourage spontaneity which can, in turn, improve confidence in your own ideas and in yourself, overall.
- Expressing Yourself. Art is another language for communication that can be done at an artist’s own pace. The pressure to communicate quickly, accurately or without hesitation does not exist.
- Relaxation. Art making has been proven to lower blood pressure, reduce repetitive and uncontrollable (anxious) thoughts and lift depression.
- Finding Flow in Mind-Body Connection. In a relaxed state with focus on the expression rather than on the physical movement itself, motion can become more fluid.
- Strengthening Concentration, Memory & Executive Functions. Art making increases the bilateral activity in the brain. When drawing or painting, you are using both the right and the left hemispheres of the brain. This is wonderful way to take greater advantage of mental resources.
ART THERAPY AND PARKINSON’S SYMPTOMS
In addition to the intangible and ethereal ways that life can be enhanced through creativity and expression, art making can be used therapeutically to address specific symptoms of Parkinson’s.
- Tremor. Approximately 70% of people living with Parkinson’s are affected by tremor, and this can be exacerbated by stress. Relaxation is key. In an art studio or other safe space where acceptance is nurtured and focus is on the process rather than on the product, art making can lower blood pressure, slow down breathing and calm the central nervous system. Acceptance of a tremor can actually soothe the tremor.
- Freezing. When the body is on autopilot, often during repetitive movement, and is interrupted, neuromuscular freezing can result. When you are deeply immersed in art making, the focus shifts to creating with deliberate, novel motions, and you are less likely to freeze.
- Impaired speech. The physical and cognitive symptoms of Parkinson’s can result in impaired speech. Self-expression and communication with others is essential to well-being. Art making opens a door for non-verbal communication. The act if creating benefits you, the artist, and the act of sharing what you’ve created strengthens your relationships with others.
- Isolation and Depression. The social and emotional connections you form by sharing a safe, creative space are invaluable for combating isolation and depression. An art therapy support group can be beneficial for those living with Parkinson’s as well as for care partners and caregivers. I have witnessed first hand the emotional support, information, and inspiration that members of these groups provide to one another in a way that only someone that has experienced living with Parkinson’s could do.
7 Ways the Arts Can Help People with Parkinson’s Disease
- Singing has been found to help people with Parkinson’s disease improve voice strength and volume.
- Besides being relaxing, playing an instrument, painting and other arts endeavors can help people with Parkinson’s maintain motor skills.
- Use your craft to help raise awareness about Parkinson’s disease. Whether you’re painting a self portrait, writing a personal essay or even penning a play, creative works can help others understand your experience better.
- Many people with Parkinson’s have found that dance helps improve their balance, and that moving to a rhythm helps them avoid freezing episodes. Any exercise has also been found to improve Parkinson’s symptoms such as gait and flexibility.
- Art isn’t limited to painting and drawing. Any engrossing activity that you enjoy can help you relax and potentially manage symptoms.
- Enjoying a hobby can also be a way to connect with others who also have Parkinson’s, or who simply share your interests.
- If there’s a hobby you enjoyed that your Parkinson’s symptoms have impacted, our community recommends trying them again and making the most of your new “style.”