The Health Benefits of Being Creative

1480“…I must study politics and war, that our sons (and daughters) may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons (and daughters) ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.”

From the Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife – May 12, 1780

When I first discovered that quote what really struck me was that this was a small part of the beginning of the American dream and the fact that one generation would make it their sole purpose and goal to sacrifice their lives for sake of their children.

And in this quote we also see that the idea of making the creative process a part of our lives has been floating around for a long time before we were born.

Yet according to recent reports ( 80% of the schools in the United States have cut funds that support disciplines such as music, art and foreign languages.

In another study sponsored by the American Journal of Public Health ( it is very clear that there is a direct relationship between creative expression and health. And while there are many forms of creative expression (music, visual arts, movement-based creative expression, and expressive writing, etc.) my focus for this blog is art.

Having been a part of the Cheap Joe’s team for more than 25 years I have seen first hand the health benefits of artistic expression. In the early days we would regularly see people show up at our front door and say that since they were in the area they wanted to stop by and see our company. As one story goes, the couple in mention were on their way to New York from Florida and on US Highway 95. Seems reasonable until you realize that US Highway 95 is 3 hours and 45 minutes from Boone.

For almost 15 years we have been hosting artist workshops that feature national and regional artists who travel to the mountains of North Carolina to teach people the finer aspects of their artistic endeavors. Most of the participants I have had the pleasure of talking with are having the time of their life and enjoying the fellowship that is available during a week long workshop.

In many ways making art is still about painting and drawing and so forth with the end result something that one puts into a frame and mounts on a wall. However the creative arts landscape is in the process of change and truthfully has been for some time.

We recently hosted a full class taught by Leslie Fehling ( that was all about sketchbook journaling. And while she did cover some drawing and watercolor painting techniques, most of the week was spent teaching the students about turning their sketchbooks into an illustrated journal of their lives. The students in this class were excited and thoroughly engaged all week even though this class fell somewhere in between the arts & crafts spectrum. And that’s the point: these students were being challenged to problem solve and think creatively. They were happy and fulfilled and no doubt felt the health benefits during their stay in Boone, NC.

And so the definition of making art and participating in the creative process continues to evolve.

Cheap Joe’s recently added to their catalog offerings in what is currently being called “Artist Coloring Books“.  With these books you are “…encouraged to step away from the stress of life and into grown-up coloring books.” In fact these books have become so popular that colored pencil manufacturers were caught off guard and are having a hard time keeping up with the demand for their product.

The success of these coloring books has of course spurred mixed reviews from the established “art” community. Yet the point of our article is not to explore this avenue but to openly suggest that this current coloring book trend and other more “crafty” avenues of creative expression all embody many of the the health benefits that have been mentioned in the Public Health Journal article above.

As most of us know (or at least have heard said) the purpose of life is not in the destination but in enjoying the journey. Take time to smell the roses, take a hike in the woods, spend time with your grandchildren and do yourself another favor: find something artsy to do. Your health and happiness is important to us.




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