Art has always been a good opportunity to disconnect from the real world, helping us to shape ideas and reach a deeper understanding of our emotions. With many implications in maintaining our well-being, artistic works are an integral part of the world we live in, influencing the development of life skills.
According to the World Health Organization, life skills are conceptualized as psychosocial competences: self-awareness, empathy, critical thinking, creativity, decision making, problem solving, interpersonal relationship skills, effective communication, stress management and coping with emotions. Therefore they constitute “a person’s ability to maintain a state of mental well-being and to demonstrate this in adaptive and positive behaviour while interacting with others, his/her culture and the environment”.
The health benefits of art
Artistic activities can be considered as complex or multimodal interventions that combine several different components that support maintaining health. They may involve components such as: aesthetic engagement, imagination, sensory activation, emotion evocation and cognitive stimulation. Depending on its nature, an art activity can also include social interaction, physical activity, engagement with themes of health and interaction with health-care settings, having thus a physical, emotional, mental, energetic and spiritual impact.
Each of these components targeted by the link between art and health can bring about the following benefits: psychological (e.g. emotional regulation and coping methods), physiological (e.g. lower response level of stress hormones, strengthening the immune system), social (e.g. reducing loneliness and isolation, improving social behaviours) and behavioural (e.g. developing skills and adopting healthy behaviours) that have visible health-related outcomes.
How does play, dance and meditation help in developing life skills?
Dance, through its visible aesthetic aspects, helps to express and regulate emotions, reducing stress and anxiety. When words do not find a way out of a child’s mind, dance uses imagination to connect the mind, body and soul, being a perfect form of expression harmonizing the person and generating a state of well-being through non-verbal expression. This feeling leads to an easier closeness between people, dance and movement activating the social component of it. Moreover, music, a supporting element of dance, has been shown to help in reducing anxiety, calming and preventing emotional blockages, and has visible effects on cognition, self-esteem, confidence and maintaining good health.
Children are masters of the art of play: it seems that this is why they were born, to remind us of the power of play and the filter through which they see the world. Another catalyst of imagination is playful activity, which stimulates cognition by creating scenarios that reveal what children understand and how they react to stimuli from the outside world. Further important aspects are the coping mechanisms they employ in tense situations and the ingenious ways in which they find solutions to various challenges in everyday life. Play is thus a tool for developing life skills that challenges the child’s problem solving, critical thinking and decision making abilities. Depending on the situation, empathy and effective communication are also stimulated, supporting the child in adopting healthy behaviour.
With an emphasis on the body’s physiological response, meditation supports healthy development of the immune system, higher cardiovascular reactivity, and better functioning of the digestive system. Although it seems hard to believe, meditation gives children the opportunity to self-regulate and get rid of stress, nurturing a better emotional balance. They need a “decoupling” moment to relax and concentrate, and by incorporating mindfulness techniques during the day the brain is given the opportunity to take a break, helping children to function more efficiently and think more clearly.
We can integrate these methods for the successful development of life skills, and to ensure that children are better able to relate to the requirements and obstacles of daily life.
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