The Arts, Sustainability and Mental Health

Part four of the series on convergence of environmental and mental health (see part 1 here,  part 2 here and part 3 here ).

When a person is troubled by symptoms and problems that cause pain to self and others psychotherapy is an invaluable curative process.  Yet, the process of exploration should not be confined only to the therapist’s office. Exposure to and involvement with the arts is also an important strategy for alleviating psychological symptoms.  Further, artistic expression is for the most part a green activity, see here, here, here. The practice of engaging with the creative arts supports psychological well-being as well as sustainability  See more after the jump.

Five ways that artistic activities of all types are good for the environment and helpful to people:

1) Arts activities – music, dance, theater, or visual – can take place with minimal use of fossil fuels.  They also require a person to depend less on what is being done for them and more on their own agency, their own ability to create.  This supports confidence as well as the ability to understand any situation from multiple angles.  Doing something with one’s own hands, so to speak, generates mental agility and open mindedness. It is a small scale activity that is friendly to any ecosystem.

2) Arts activities nurture the sensory system which can be mood regulating.  In addition the arts take care of any environment’s sensory organization by utilizing its resources in a generative and renewable manner.  The sounds and colors of nature are borrowed . . . not taken.

3) The arts foster collaboration between people, and between people and their environments.

4) A soliloquy, a solo, a poignant close-up, an arabesque, a stanza, an aria, or swaths of color upon a canvass can all  express the deepest secrets, feelings and truths of the human heart and help us all understand that we are human.  Likewise, these art forms also symbolize something of the earths’s voice and communicate its secrets and truths as well. The earth we know is one that we protect.

5) When times are difficult, the arts can bestow hope upon humanity.  It is the poet’s call – or the actor, musician or sculptor – that reminds us that beauty can be formed from anything and so too can life.  This is also the essential message of sustainability –  that life, meaning and love can be generated from what we often are inclined to discard.

And so as a complement to the self work of therapy, make it a habit to see the ballet, hear jazz, spend time in museums, read poetry, attend the opera, see live theater. Artistic expression is an aspect of the psyche that nourishes and heals and opens us to the wide expanse of experience beyond our ordinary reach. And the sensory apparatus of any artistic expression gives life, breath and voice to our environments in a manner makes use of their gifts while also protecting them. The artist’s vision is always renewable.

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One Response to “The Arts, Sustainability and Mental Health”

  1. Limits Sustain People and the Environment « Ordinary Earth ™ Says:

    […] Ordinary Earth ™ Sustainability: What's good for mental health is also good for the environment « The Arts, Sustainability and Mental Health […]

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