Art Can Alter Your Hormones


A SPASH student coloring during her free period

Brooke Cherek, Hour 5B

Have you ever ended your day feeling overwhelmed?  Maybe it was because you did something embarrassing in class, or you didn’t get the grade you wanted on the math test.  It could be the rush or rude customer at your work.  Whatever it was, these things happen all the time throughout our lives and we don’t always have control over these moments.  What we can control is the tension and anxiousness that is felt afterward.  Creating art is one of the best ways to get rid of daily stress, but there are many misconceptions around how it works and its effectiveness.  Making art can improve your mood, alleviate seasonal depression, and you can get involved with art around the community.

Anxiety on the Rise

The well being of people’s mental health is becoming a serious concern in the US, with almost 20 percent of the population suffering from some form of anxiety disorder, according to, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.  Out of those who are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, less than half actually seek treatment. With mental health disorders on the rise, it is imperative for people to find ways to reduce stress and anxiety.

Drexel University, from Pennsylvania, recently released findings from a study on cortisol levels.  Cortisol is one of the primary stress hormones in the body that helps trigger the fight or flight response.  During the study, the participant’s cortisol was tested through saliva samples.  After this initial data was collected, the participants were given an array of materials to create art with for 45 minutes.  Overall, 75 percent of the participants’ cortisol levels lowered, according to the Drexel report.  This means that creating art does have a significant impact on stress levels in people.  More people could use art to help them, especially those with higher anxiety levels.

Shari Pfeffer, an art teacher at SPASH who studied art education and art history, often creates watercolor paintings and jewelry; she explains how it brings positivity into her day.  “For me, it just gives me time to decompress and let go of everything that’s going on each day.  It helps you relax and sets your mind into a different state…”  Pfeffer believes art can help anyone, no matter their age or background, and often says that, “Art saves Lives.”  Art is a broad term.  Think about what you enjoy the most, whether it be drawing in coloring books, writing poetry or short stories, woodworking, baking and so on.  Everyone would benefit from taking time each week to work on what they love and throwing away unnecessary stress and negativity. 

The Effects of Seasonal Depression

Anxiety disorders aren’t the only problem that people face.  In central Wisconsin, the long gray winters have a lasting effect on the mental health of many.  According to the Mayo Clinic, some symptoms of seasonal depression include having feelings of listlessness, loss of interest, loneliness, and being consistently sad or down.  A survey of SPASH students revealed that 83 percent suffer from some form of seasonal depression.  27.7 percent reported that they experience severe symptoms.  These numbers are staggering, especially since symptoms can create a lower quality of life and a loss of motivation in school and at home.  With the winter months upon us, it is important to focus on mental health and how you can take care of yourself.  Using your creativity can improve your mood and alleviate the extra stress felt during this time of year.

How to get Involved

It is helpful knowing the benefits of making artwork, but sometimes it is difficult to figure out activities to do.   There are many local events, volunteer opportunities, and competitions to help fuel your creativity and get involved with the community.  There are local events that can be found through Facebook, such as the downtown “Chalk Party.”  Every summer, volunteers supply chalk for anyone who wants to color the sidewalks in Pfiffner park.  There are also events throughout the year put on by UWSP, such as pumpkin carving and classes available to the public.

Since the increase of technology use after COVID, the internet has become a new way to create and connect with others who enjoy art.  Ms. Pfeffer shared that she recently joined an online class where she creates jewelry with other artists through Zoom.  She explains that, “Ever since COVID, these types of classes are available online.  It’s been a fun experience doing it this way so you’re not just all by yourself creating on your own.”  There are forums and classes for all types of art online.  This tool is very convenient and helps to get people engaged with an online community.  You can even meet people with the same interests as you. 

If you are up for a challenge, art competitions are a good way to test your skills, set goals, and even win prizes.  The Schmeeckle Reserve has their annual “Friends Writing, Art and Photo Contest” that is available for anyone to enter.  The winners of each category are invited to a contest reception and have their artwork displayed in the Portage County Public Library.  This event, along with others around central Wisconsin, are a great way to get involved with the community art scene.  Being involved in these competitions also brings a great sense of pride, even if you don’t win.  At the least, participants get to bring home a beautiful piece of art that they created with their own hands.

It is important for everyone to take time to de-stress, especially in a world where anxiety and depression are a prominent issue.  People can use their creativity to bring positivity into each day, whether it’s the small doodle in your notebook, or the addition you make on your masterpiece.  What will you create next?