Living with rheumatoid arthritis can be emotionally taxing. Feelings of depression, hopelessness, and unworthiness can often come from constantly being in pain. It's discouraging when pain gets in the way of being able to work, function, and perform once-enjoyable activities. Losing independence can also take a toll on mental health. When going through terrible joint pain, getting creative isn't really on the to-do list.
But, for those with rheumatoid arthritis, it should be.
Creativity is medicine for the soul
Creativity can really help us get through some tough times. When you’re living with rheumatoid arthritis, it's no secret that life gets tough. But yet we still live, and we want to live as best as we can. So even though you might be miserable when suffering through a flare, try to cope with some of that emotional burden by releasing your creative energy.
There’s a little bit of creative energy in every single person; you just need to find the best way that works for you. Art is for everyone, in some shape or form. You don't have to be a world-class poet or talented painter; there is something out there for you to express your creativity!
Why should we be getting creative when we need to manage RA?
Psychologically, creative expression can really help with the healing process. Mental health contributes greatly to physical healing as well, and rheumatoid arthritis is no exception. There are even studies out there supporting the benefit of art therapy in patients suffering from a chronic disease. In 1991, art therapy was finally recognized as a true profession. The benefits of art aren’t just theoretical – they’re real!
What are the health benefits of art therapy?
When you create something, you gain a sense of accomplishment. This can help you get a sense of purpose and increase your self-esteem. Creativity and self-expression can help reduce depression and anxiety, which patients with chronic pain are often victim to. Art is a great creative outlet to relieve emotional stress and can help you cope with your disease. It adds color to a life that might otherwise be filled with a lot of pain.
There’s always something for everyone. What are the different forms of art that you can use to express yourself?
Visual art is a way to express feelings and emotions that are difficult to verbally say. Painting, drawing, photography, and even graphic design are ways that you can channel your energy and focus on creating something. The distraction that creating provides can help you take your mind of your chronic pain. Creating something also helps to reduce stress.
There are actually some famous architects and artists who suffer from rheumatic diseases. It’s amazing that these artists created masterpieces even as their rheumatoid arthritis worsened. One amazing example is the story of Pierre-Auguste Renoir, who was a famous impressionist painter from France who seemed unstoppable despite his rheumatoid arthritis. Even at a time where there were no disease-modifying drugs like we have today, artists like Renoir still created masterpieces despite debilitating deformities and severe pain from rheumatoid arthritis. Being able to produce something by fulfilling an intention to accomplish help people feel like they have a purpose in life.
Art is a wonderful way to fight rheumatoid arthritis by preventing it from taking away your life passions!
Music is another art form that can give you many positive benefits. With music, you can express emotion and distract yourself from your pain. One study found that simply listening to music actually reduces both depression and pain. Creating and playing music can help someone relax and escape from the chronic pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
It might get challenging playing certain instruments if you live with rheumatoid arthritis. Before you pick up the instrument of your choice, talk with your doctor. There are many ways to work with the limitations of your body, such as changing the instrument or even undergoing hand surgery. Even if performing on your favorite instrument becomes impossible, you can still play around with composing pieces of music. Music can help lift spirits and improve both your mental and physical health!
Writing is a creative outlet. From poets to short stories, articles, and even diary entries, writing is a way for you to put your ideas down into a tangible, visual form of communication. Sharing stories, whether from personal experiences or from fictional stories, is a great way to connect with people and express creativity. Writing can be in the form of a pen and paper, or even typing on a computer. It’s a great way to not only express yourself and distract from the pain but can also give you a sense of fulfillment by teaching others including yourself.
Crafting and do-it-yourself project are a great way to express creativity. There are so many different things you can create using almost anything you can find around the house. From custom greeting cards to knitting, scrapbooking, and floral arrangements, working with your hands to create something beautiful gives you a sense of accomplishment. Pick anything to pursue your own passion and have some fun with it!
So, let’s get creative!
If you’re nervous about trying something new, don’t worry. It’s perfectly natural to fear the unknown. Some of you have never tried any form of art before, and it can feel kind of intimidating. So where do you even start?
Find a passion to pursue.
First, figure out if there’s anything you are drawn to, or passionate about. Can you think of any pastime that makes you feel happy or inspired? Make a list!
Draw inspiration from other artists to brainstorm your own ideas.
Out of the ideas that you’ve come up with, try to figure out what you’d like to do with them. Brainstorm some of your own ideas or concepts that are related to things you love. Bring in the experiences of artists, musicians, and writers that you admire and draw some inspiration from them. One way to do this is to visit some local concert halls or museums.
Let your creativity flow!
Identify your own ideas amidst your inspirations. Recognize that you have your own creativity too and allow this to flow freely. Once you have an original idea to call your own, go ahead and develop it! Don’t worry about what others may think of it. Simply go for it! It can be anything from knitting a hat to composing a short song on the piano.
Don’t let RA stop you from doing what you love.
If RA starts to get in the way of your creativity, find some help from others. There can be adjustments that help you, such as different tools or modifications to a previous setup. Talk to your doctor too! Maybe it’s time to adjust your treatment regimen.
Everyone has a little artist inside of them. Creativity is a great way to not only stay physically healthy but mentally healthy as well. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, don’t be afraid to dive into the arts! You’ll be surprised with how beautiful life can become with just a little passion and creativity.