Papercut and colored pencil art by Sheryl Aronson X 5

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Drawing Distracts, Helps People Feel Better

We have spent the past several days at the 22nd Annual Conference of The Association for Psychological Science.  My husband is a psychologist, I am a psychiatric occupational therapist, and tomorrow morning our oldest son, who is a doctoral student at Boston U. will be presenting a poster session.  (There will be a room full of people presenting their research, each with a section of a wall on which to mount their research info. People walk around and stop to talk to any of the presenters they want to to get more info on the topics that interest them.)

During a previous poster session two days ago, I talked to a young lady about a poster that is relevant to this blog.  The research topic was 'Drawing Improves Short-Term Mood Not by Venting but by Distraction'.  The researchers were Jennifer E. Drake, Katelyn Coleman and Ellen Winner, all of Boston College.  I feel bad that I don't remember which one of them I talked to, I hope she will forgive me, but she was very informative. 

What they did was have the subjects watch a distressing film, then divided the subjects into 2 groups.  One group was told to write, the other group was told to draw.  They could either focus on the topic of the film in order to vent/process it, or on any other topic in order to distract themselves.  They were given a mood assessment before the film, after the film, and again after the writing or drawing intervention. 

What they found was that the people who drew on other topics to distract themselves had significantly higher mood afterward than those who drew on the topic, or either of the writing groups.  In fact, the ones who wrote on the topic of the film had the lowest mood afterward.  Keep in mind that they wrote or drew for only 10 minutes, so it was not the same as most journaling, which goes on as long as you need, or is an ongoing activity.  It does, however, show that if you feel like you need to do something to feel better, a good option is to pull out some paper and crayons/pencils/markers and draw on a topic you like.  Every person is different, so experiment with different media, and pay attention to what helps you feel better, what helps you get away from your issues for awhile. 

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