The Power of Creative Expression in Mental & Physical Health

By engaging in creative expression, we gain insight into our own emotions, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve overall mental and physical health.

Creative expression

Key Takeaways

Creative Expression Mental Benefits

1. Neurological Benefits

Creative expression boosts brain activity, increasing dopamine and enhancing decision-making. It promotes a sense of well-being and motivation, linking creativity to positive experiences in the brain.

2. Physical Benefits

Creative expression can lower blood pressure and reduce chronic pain. It boosts the immune system by increasing white blood cell production.

Creative Expression 

Many people struggle with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and lack of motivation. However, there is a simple and effective way that could help; it's “creative expression”. 

Creative expression is any activity that allows you to express yourself through art, music, writing, or any other form of creativity. It can help you cope with negative emotions, release tension, and boost self-confidence.

1. Neurological Benefits

According to recent studies,[1] creative expression can have a range of neurological benefits, including:

  • Increased activity in the brain's reward center.
  • Increased activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in decision-making, planning, and impulse control.
  • Increased production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and motivation.

When you express creatively, you will get a positive neurological boost in several brain regions. The default mode network (DMN) is activated, allowing you to become more present in the moment. In the temporal lobe, you experience a dopamine rush that provides a natural high and a sense of overall well-being. [2]

Also, it provides a sense of flow and creates a positive feedback loop in the brain, increasing your motivation to take action toward your goals.

The brain cannot tell the difference between a positive experience and a creative experience; they are often interrelated.

2. Physical Benefits

In addition to neurological benefits, creative expression can also have physical benefits, including Lowering blood pressure and heart rate, reducing symptoms of chronic pain, and boosting the immune system. 

Creativity makes you experience a heightened sense of happiness and positive emotion. These emotions help to release endorphins and other neurotransmitters that increase the body's production of white blood cells. [4] 

Creativity can also reduce stress hormones such as cortisol. [3] It is a non-pharmacological way to reduce the physical symptoms of chronic stress.

Examples of Creative Expression

1. Music Therapy

For centuries, music was a means of communication and expression. Recently, scientists used it as a therapeutic tool. Music therapy is an evidence-based practice that uses music to support physical, emotional, cognitive, and social well-being.

Music therapy is the clinical use of music to support individuals in achieving therapeutic goals, such as reducing stress and anxiety, managing pain, improving communication and social skills, and enhancing cognitive function.

A study found that music intervention significantly reduced anxiety scores before surgical debridement compared to standard care. [5]

Another study is a meta-analysis published in 2013 that reviewed 26 trials involving 2051 participants and concluded that music listening has a beneficial effect on preoperative anxiety. [6]

Music therapy can be beneficial in different ways and models. One is the neurological model, as music activates various areas of the brain, which can enhance cognitive function and memory. [7]

In the psychodynamic model, music is a tool for self-expression and communication, providing a safe and non-judgmental space for individuals to explore and process emotions.

Lastly, the behavioral model uses music as a positive reinforcement to encourage behavior change and skill development. 

2. Writing Therapy

Creative writing is a powerful tool for promoting emotional expression, self-reflection, and personal growth. Writing helps individuals to understand themselves and their experiences, develop coping skills and strategies, and improve their overall mental health.

Therapists use creative writing to help patients process difficult emotions or events, such as trauma or grief, and gain insight into their beliefs and values.

According to studies, writing about traumatic, stressful, or emotional events improves physical and psychological health.

A meta-analysis of 13 studies with healthy participants demonstrated specific benefits in physical health, psychological well-being, physiological functioning, and general functioning outcomes. [8]

Another study focused on poetry as a type of writing therapy, and its role in cognition enhancement. Poetry hones critical skills in imagery, metaphor, analogy, analysis, observation, attentiveness, and clear communication. All of these are commonly useful in understanding and problem-solving skills. [9]

3. Art Therapy

Art therapy, such as drawing, painting, or sculpting, helps individuals to explore emotions and experiences that may be difficult to put into words.

Through the creative process of making art, individuals can gain insight into their feelings and develop problem-solving skills they can use in everyday life.

Studies have found numerous benefits associated with using art as therapy, including improved mental health outcomes such as reduced anxiety levels; increased self-esteem; better coping strategies when dealing with stressors; better emotional regulation abilities, and a more positive outlook on life overall. 

These results suggest that engaging in artistic activities could benefit everyone regardless of age or ability. [10]

One study investigated the impact of visual art-making on the cortisol levels of 39 healthy adults. Results indicate that art-making has statistically a significant effect on lowering cortisol levels. [11]


Creative expression is a powerful tool for promoting well-being. Therapists have incorporated creative expression into mental health treatment.

The neurological, emotional, and physical benefits of creative expression are supported by scientific research.

By engaging in creative expression, we can gain insight into our own emotions, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve overall mental and physical health.

Additional Readings

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[1]The effect of creative expression program in neurocognitive networks performance measured by task and resting-state functional MRI - PubMed (

[2]Effects of creative expression therapy for older adults with mild cognitive impairment at risk of Alzheimer's disease: a randomized controlled clinical trial - PubMed (

[3]Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants' Responses Following Art Making (

[4]Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants' Responses Following Art Making (

[5]Music interventions for preoperative anxiety - PubMed (

[6]Music therapy for reducing anxiety in patients undergoing total knee replacement surgery under subarachnoid anesthesia - PubMed (

[7]The cognitive effects of listening to background music on older adults: processing speed improves with upbeat music, while memory seems to benefit from both upbeat and downbeat music - PMC (

[8]Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing | Advances in Psychiatric Treatment | Cambridge Core

[9]Frontiers | Creative Expression of Science through Poetry and Other Media can Enrich Medical and Science Education (

[10]Handbook of art therapy, 2nd ed. (

[11]Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants' Responses Following Art Making - PubMed (

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