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The Art of Well-Being

Artist Jennifer Hudnell drawing

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so I'm embracing this opportunity to highlight the incredible impact art can have on our well-being by sharing a glimpse into the start of my artistic journey. It began in a serendipitous way of sorts. During my senior year of high school, I was required to take an art class, so I signed up for painting for no apparent rhyme or reason. I certainly wasn't aiming to be the next Cézanne or Monet (see proof of this in my very first canvases below!). While I didn't create any masterpieces, I found the class incredibly rewarding. The simple act of creating provided a calming space amidst the pressures of schoolwork and waiting on college acceptances.

Painting of living room

Landscape painting

Fast forward to my sophomore year of college. Facing a daunting semester, I decided to take an elective painting class. It wasn't just about filling up college credits; it was a deliberate choice to revisit that feeling of calm I discovered in high school. My college creations (two of which are below) became a way to manage the stress of academics again, offering a space for relaxation, self-reflection, and self-discovery.

Still life painting
Still life painting

Years later, when I moved to Washington D.C., art played another crucial role. In a new city, taking art classes provided me a way to build community and develop a sense of belonging.

So, what exactly is it about art? Studies have shown that creating or engaging with the arts can lower stress, boost mood, improve focus, and increase self-esteem. Artistic activities can also improve cognitive function, memory, and problem-solving skills. What's more, the arts provide a safe and healthy outlet for expressing and processing emotions.

With all that said, this Mental Health Awareness Month, I encourage you to keep art as a vibrant, central part of your life! Whether you decide to unleash your inner artist by creating your own work, or if you prefer to appreciate the artistry of others, there are endless possibilities. Take a painting class, try your hand at writing poetry, or simply go out and experience the arts – visit a museum, attend a concert, or catch a play. Celebrate the power of art not just in our homes and galleries, but also within yourself for your overall well-being.


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