Thursday, November 20, 2008

Art as Stress Reducer

No matter what the illness, stress of any kind (mental, emotional, physical) only makes it worse. Legions of books and articles have been written about stress reduction, but for me personally, the best stress reducer of all is any form of art, i.e. literature, music or visual. I am fortunate enough to have been raised in a home where the arts were valued (an understatement) in all forms, and I learned to enjoy them both as an observer and as a participant.

Hanging on the wall over my computer desk is an oil painting of a still life done by a close friend. When I am feeling stressed over a work project or something in an email, I have only to look up at the gentle tulips in their blue crockery vase to immediately feel a sense of peace.

As I'm out running errands (usually in a hurry, trying to avoid too much perfume exposure), my radio is often tuned to NPR's Performance Today or From the Top, where I can listen to old classical favorites which I used to perform in orchestral and chamber music (back before my back gave out and I sold my cello).

And then, of course, there is my favorite form of art--literature. My mother once wrote in her journal, "If I didn't have some time for reading every day, I felt cheated." My sentiments exactly. There is nothing more relaxing to me than curling up in my favorite chair, wrapped in an afghan and reading a good book.

On Sunday afternoons, when I am all alone and feeling sorry for myself, nothing lifts my spirit like the tickling of the ivories underneath my fingers on the keys of my piano. Whether it's Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," Debussy's "Clair de Lune" or a quiet arrangement of "Abide With Me", the rest of the world disappears as the notes carry me into some other sphere.

While organizing some old family photos some time ago, I came across a postcard in my Grandmother Valborg's things with the following verse written on the back in her handwriting. I have no idea who originally penned these words, if they are her own or some she heard and just jotted down on the closest available paper. But they much more eloquently express my feelings about art.

We sing to ease our sorrows
Or the hunger in the heart
And this becomes the magic
And the miracle of art:

That even in the utterance
The hunger is assuaged.
And in the very singing
The captive is uncaged.

1 comment:

Susie Collins said...

I agree with you 100% on this. My personality is such that it is very hard for me to STOP and take time to relax. The "Leisure" category on my blog is the most neglected! The closest I get is what I call "active leisure," like puttering around my ponds, which are sort of like art projects in a way.

You might love this TED talk on the need for the arts in education:

Also, on another topic: There's a discussion happening on Canary that was sparked by your post on Botanie soap a few weeks back. I blogged about your post on Oct 6. Would love for you to check in maybe add something, some of my readers have questions. Mahalo! It's definitely a topic I need to explore further.