I remember the day in March 2011 when I was told to pack my bags and get ready to leave the country in a couple of days. It is still chilly and gloomy in Belarus, the country of my origin, in March. Those last days felt charcoal dark despite my long-awaited dream coming true. I was finally moving to a brighter place, in a country with one of the most fertile environments for growing talents in the world – Philadelphia, PA, United States of America.
My Soul Awoke: How Art Healed Me, and Can Help You Too
It was quite a journey. I was allowed to bring only two bags of luggage. I also had to travel to St. Petersburg, Russia first, on a business trip, and from there to America. It all happened so fast and unexpectedly. There was no time for farewell parties. Literally, in a matter of two days, I filled my bags with the necessities and gave away the rest to my friends and family who showed up to say goodbye.
I knew I was doing the right thing, and it gave me strength to cope with everything I was going through at that time. I was also fresh out of a long-term relationship — divorced, with all papers finalized in February 2011, to be exact. As hard as it seemed looking back, I was following my heart after a long period of having abandoned it.
Two days packing, the goodbye hugs and tears, a week in St. Pete coaching others, an 18-hour flight – and finally, I made it to sunny Philadelphia.
My first year there was pretty loaded with stress. I worked 50-60-hour weeks to escape facing inner insecurities after my failed marriage. Equally stressful was the fact of being emerged in a totally different culture. The language, food, people, streets, buildings, apartments and all appliances, even the air – all was novel to a recent professional immigrant. I needed to build a new family of friends too, because I had no relatives in the USA.
Everyone who knew me would describe me as a cheery, always happy girl. They were saying that I’d fit in well in this society because of my smile. Little did they know how many nights that girl cried herself to sleep. It’s all water under the bridge now, but still uneasy to talk about.
These are just broad strokes of those first years of living in the USA.
How did I not only survive, but manage to turn my whole life around? How did I resurrect my childlike exuberance and love for life? Where did I find the light that brightens my days and brings me my smile and colorful dreams at night?
Art revived me
Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one.
– Stella Adler
I had felt a deep longing to create running through my blood from a very young age.
I almost lost it while trying to be like others, and to pursue what was considered “a successful life.” Everything seemed perfect on the surface.
But humans are very complicated creatures. We all have souls that need to be fed and exercised, just like our physical bodies. If we don’t care about these sacred parts of ourselves, we get sick. Mental health is not less important than physical health, and the two are interconnected.
I was on the edge of depression, although materially satisfied. But I believe that we have an intrinsic ability to heal ourselves. We just need to learn to listen to our inner voice. I had been focused on being logical, responsible and rational for pretty much all of my adult life, until my heart could not stand being neglected anymore. That is when I decided to revive my old passion for the arts. I began painting again. I became a fan of art museums and festivals. Art filled my soul and breathed a new life into it. I felt reborn, and I hope that this childlike curiosity and joy that are with me now will remain forever.
So how can art benefit your life, as it did mine?
Art helps you reconnect with yourself
Painting is a means of self-enlightenment.
– John Olsen
Creating art is a form of self-expression, and helps the artist reconnect with their inner self.
For the observer too, experiencing the art evokes our emotions and touches different parts of our souls and minds. Those who truly appreciate art tend to be more connected to their emotional bodies and therefore more “whole.”
Art relieves stress
Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.
– Twyla Tharp
Whether you are creating it or just enjoying some great artwork, it helps you to disconnect from the everyday hustle. It focuses your mind on beauty and helps you forget all your worries.
Art boosts creative thinking
The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination.
– Albert Einstein
Art by definition is something that is produced with imagination and creativity. Studies show that art enhances problem-solving skills.
And unlike math or physics, there is no one correct answer in art, and there are no rules to creating it. Art therefore encourages creative thinking that leads to unique solutions. This form of divergent, outside-the-box thinking also stimulates the brain to grow new neurons.
Art makes you feel good
To be an artist is to believe in life.
– Henry Moore
Art increases the level of the “feel-good” neurotransmitter dopamine.
But you don’t have to produce fine art to get the mood boost. When you do anything creative, like a crafty hobby, it gives you a sense of achievement, and that “I did it!” lift you get when you accomplish what you set out to do.
Dopamine stimulates the creation of new neurons, which is good for learning and also prevents your brain from aging.
Art feels like falling In love
Art must be an expression of love or it is nothing.
– Marc Chagall
It was found that simply the act of viewing art gives pleasure, much like falling in love.
Brain scans revealed that looking at works of art trigger a surge of dopamine into the same area of the brain that registers romantic love.
Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life. — Pablo Picasso
Art is used as a therapy to help patients forget about their illnesses and focus on the positive aspects of life. Art has been found to reduce stress by lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Art increases empathy and tolerance
The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.
– Auguste Rodin
A study of over 10,000 students found that a one-hour trip to an art museum changed the way they thought and felt. Students who visited a museum not only showed increased critical thinking skills, they also exhibited greater empathy towards how people lived in the past and expressed greater tolerance towards people different than themselves.
Art inspires and helps you express yourself better
I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way — things I had no words for.
– Georgia O’Keeffe
Owning artwork is about more than just decoration; it inspires us to look at the world in a different way. Art can inspire thoughts and questions, engaging the viewer to think and learn about the subject matter.
Your favorite art is also an expression of yourself and your individual personality.
Putting art in your home or office thus humanizes the space you’re in. Art gives it character and warmth, transforming any room into a livable, and more inspiring, environment.