The Effect of Art on Healing

Surgical Anatomy by J. Maclise 1859 Art, health, and healing are related. Say that out aloud in a public gathering and most people will nod enthusiastically. That art and music are great healing therapies for the body and soul is accepted as an undisputed “fact”. But is it really a “fact” or just something we feel must be true?

Stuckey and Nobel took a long, hard look at the connection between art, healing, and public health (Stuckey and Nobel, American Journal of Public Health, February 2010, vol 100, no 2, p254-263). These researchers compiled a review of qualitative and quantitative research studies (1995 to 2007) focused on the relationship between participation in the creative arts (e.g. painting, drawing, music, dancing) and health outcomes. What were they searching for? Proof (or the absence of proof) that participating in the creative arts does in fact play a role in physical healing. What did these researchers find? In rounding up and reviewing twelve years of research, Stuckey and Nobel came to the conclusion that artistic expression does have a positive effect on health. Obviously, the research is ongoing and we will continue to learn more with each new study conducted. If you are not interested in reading journal articles yourself, let me sum it up for you: the evidence indicates that creative engagement (i.e. actually participating in artistic activities) decreases anxiety, stress, and mood disturbances.

But what does a decrease in anxiety and stress have to do with the way you heal?

Everyone knows that too much stress is bad for our health, but most people think that stress only reduces our sense of well being. It turns out that stress doesn’t just make us feel bad on a head level. Stress actually plays a big role in how we heal on a physical level. Gouin and Kiecolt-Glaser, in their research on the impact of psychological stress on wound healing (Gouin and Kiecolt-Glaser, Immunology and Allergy Clinics of North America, February 2011, vol 31, no 1, p81–93) found that psychological stress significantly delays the healing of wounds. Lucas’ research on psychological stress and wound healing (Lucas, Wounds, 2011, vol 22, no 4, p 76-83)  reported findings from three other studies linking anxiety and depression to delayed healing.  In simple terms, this means that stressed out, anxious people don’t just feel bad – they experience higher levels of cortisol (the “stress” hormone) which has a negative effect on the immune system. The immune systems of stressed out, anxious people don’t work as well as they should, and as a result their bodies don’t heal as quickly as they could.

Surgical Anatomy by J. Maclise 1859The news today is that participating in a creative endeavor is good for you – not just in some distant, “good feeling” kind of way, but in a practical, clinically measurable way. Science supports this. Being creative will help to lower your stress levels and reduce your anxiety. When you are less anxious and stressed out, your immune system will work better. When your immune system works well, you fight disease more effectively and you heal faster. If you want to encourage physical healing, follow your medical team’s advice while you also do your part to reduce your stress and anxiety. Start small by including creativity into your life. Not sure how to be creative? No time for such “nonsense”? Definitely see yourself as a non-artistic personality? Too sick or too exhausted to still be “arty” and  creative at the end of a long day? Try an easy-to-use, stress-reducing tool such as “Healing Patterns: A Coloring Book for Adults“. Using this book requires no artistic skill (but you will need some colored pencils), and you stay in control: you decide how long to be “arty” each day. Take a step towards better health: be creative.

Illustrations: “Surgical Anatomy” by J. Maclise (a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons) – published in Philadelphia by Blanchard and Lea in 1859.


Healing Patterns at UK’s Book Depository

Healing Patterns: A Coloring Book for AdultsHigh shipping prices are no longer an obstacle for physical book customers. The newly released “Healing Patterns: A Coloring Book for Adults” is now available with FREE WORLD-WIDE SHIPPING from the UK-based Book Depository. The good news is that you don’t have to be a school, church, hospital or large bookstore to enjoy this offer: this significant saving is not only applied to bulk or wholesale purchases. You qualify for free shipping even if you only buy a single copy. The free shipping option is available for more than a hundred countries including the popular shipping destinations of South Africa, Australia, UK, USA, Israel, Ireland, New Zealand, and Germany. Book Depository is the fastest growing bookseller in Europe, and currently offers approximately twelve million physical book titles.

If you are looking to send “Healing Patterns: A Coloring Book for Adults” to a friend or family member who lives abroad, consider taking advantage of the Book Depository’s free shipping offer. Alternatively, you can purchase the book from,, or Barnes and Noble.


Healing Patterns at Barnes & Noble

Healing Patterns: A Coloring Book for AdultsThe newly released “Healing Patterns: A Coloring Book for Adults” can now be purchased in paperback format from Barnes and Noble. “Healing Patterns” is a 64-page therapeutic coloring book that couples organic ready-to-color designs with faith-infusing scriptures.

In addition to being in the Barnes and Noble bookstore, “Healing Patterns: A Coloring Book for Adults” is also available from the following online bookstores: and

I have created a question and answer section to help you gain a better understanding of what a therapeutic coloring book is, and how “Healing Patterns: A Coloring Book for Adults” can benefit you or someone you care about. A FREE excerpt from the book has also been made available to you. You can download the free excerpt here.


Benefits of Crafts for Children and Adults

Pottery as a craftCrafts can be fun, but are they good for you?  In a Kidspot article entitled “Benefits of Craft for Kids“, the author lists a handful of the benefits for children engaging in craft activities. Did you know that crafting stimulates the child’s imagination to create their own entertainment, and helps grow their confidence in their own ability to make decisions? In response to the question “Do Arts & Crafts Help A Preschool Kid?, Naudain Academy suggests that crafting contributes to the development of a variety of valuable skills including social, communication, fine motor, and problem solving skills. Most educators and parents seem to agree that crafting is highly beneficial for young children, but the confidence wanes when asked to consider crafts for older children and adults. Is there a point at which doing crafts becomes a waste of time?

Let’s define a craft activity, because it is often confused with art. Crafting is a goal-oriented activity, where the end result is well defined (usually by some external source like a set of instructions). An art-focused activity is an open-ended, expressive activity where the end result is less clearly defined by an external source and is instead usually determined by the artist. For example, if you are doing a craft to make a paper box with specific dimensions, the end result may not be perfect, but if you followed the instructions, you should end up with an item that is clearly identifiable as a paper box with a predictable size. An art assignment may be stated this way: “paint a picture of your mother”. About all you know in advance is that the end product will involve paint and possibly something that resembles a woman, but it is the artist who decides what the picture will look like. Although creativity is most often associated with the arts, crafting activities can (and should) be designed to stimulate the imagination and motivate the crafter to think outside the box.

So let’s again visit the possibility that crafts stop being beneficial once children reach school age. Are crafts really a waste a time for older children and adults? I believe crafting remains beneficial throughout a person’s lifetime. I also believe that the most beneficial crafts are those designed to stimulate the imagination i.e. craft-oriented arts or art-oriented crafts. When the benefits of both arts and crafts are married in a single product or activity, you get the most bang for your buck (if you think of learning and developing skills as an investment in yourself or your children).

So how are crafts good for you?

  1. crafts offer an opportunity to practise the skill of following instructions
  2. crafts encourage the development of a practical skill (e.g. cutting, sewing, carving, color coordinating, etc.) that can often be used outside the craft environment
  3. crafts have a clearly defined end point which enables and develops the skill of self-evaluation (i.e. the crafter can compare their progress to their goal or expected outcome throughout the process)
  4. crafts develop patience
  5. crafts offer the reward of a sense of accomplishment once the goal is achieved
  6. crafts offer the opportunity to create practical or useful items, thereby providing a tangible return on the time and money invested in the project
  7. crafts demonstrate, in a practical way, the link between having a goal and taking steps to achieve the goal
  8. crafting helps you de-stress by forcing you to focus on the task at hand and distracting you from thoughts or activities that exacerbate anxiety and depression

If you have the choice, select a craft activity that stimulates your imagination, encourages problem-solving, and requires creative thinking. Next time you have the option to buy entertainment products, consider buying a simple craft kit instead. The benefits of crafting extend well beyond what the average video game or movie can offer you. Crafting is good for you, and you don’t need to be an artist to craft.


Healing Patterns on Amazon

Healing Patterns: A Coloring Book for AdultsThe newly released “Healing Patterns: A Coloring Book for Adults” is now available through, making it easy to purchase and ship this book to a friend or family member almost anywhere in the world.

Coloring is a relaxing, therapeutic activity that helps to still the mind, lower stress levels, and reduce anxiety. But engaging in a creative activity does more than relax you. Research shows that expressing creativity actually has a pronounced positive effect on the human body’s ability to heal. “Healing Patterns: A Coloring Book for Adults” takes art therapy a step further. Not only does it make the benefits of art therapy accessible to anyone who can hold a colored pencil, but it also presents to the user power packets of God’s healing Word. Each of the ready-to-color artworks in the book is coupled with a powerful, faith-building scripture that will inspire, encourage, and transform.

Learn more about this book and how it can benefit you or a loved one here.



Create Your Own Greeting Card Characters

Rainy Day Crafts "Make a Face" DIY Card KitDeveloping learning materials requires mental flexibility. You have to bend your thinking to wrap itself inside and around the project objectives. Some days, you are faced with heavy, academic projects, where the highlight of the day coincides with you spotting that delinquent isosceles triangle masquerading as an equilateral. Other days, the challenge is less academic and rather reminiscent of carefree playtime. But therein lies the delight of learning: there is no one right way to encourage learning. Variety keeps the learning experience engaging for the developer and the user of the learning materials. Learning materials can take the form of textbooks so heavy they could serve as lethal weapons if you tapped them a little too vigorously on someone’s head. But learning materials can just as easily evolve as toys, art assignments, woodworking tasks, sewing projects, or some other imaginative activity. Some people may not consider craft kits to be more than a pre-planned activity to keep children busy, but crafting is a wonderful way for children (and adults) to learn on a number of different levels. Craft kits lean towards the “playtime” edge of the learning spectrum, so the lessons learned by crafting are not always obvious in an academic sense. It’s unlikely that an activity such as making a handmade greeting card will directly affect your ability to ace your next calculus test. However, making greeting cards along with any other crafting activity you engage in, should  be stimulating your imagination while contributing to your skill repertoire. (Next time you buy a book or toy for your child, ask yourself what they will gain by using your gift.)

One of the highlights on my work this month was the opportunity to design a new greeting card kit. The first run of these “MAKE A FACE” DIY card kits were released last week. These kits are currently available from Zisubu Artique, a craft store on Etsy.

When I sat down to design this kit, I wanted to give families the opportunity to gather around the kitchen table and make something unusual together. But, I didn’t want something so unusual (in the bizarre sense of the word) that it would be destined for the trash bin. I like to make practical, useful craft items for myself, so I usually try to maintain that same objective when designing for others.  Greeting cards are an enjoyable way for people of all ages to share their thoughts, encourage others, and practise gratitude. And what better way to add value to the words you share, than by making the greeting card yourself? The “MAKE A FACE” DIY card kit contains most of what you need to make a character-focused, handmade greeting card. You add the craft glue and a marker pen (or colored pencils, if you prefer). A pair of scissors is not required, unless you want to take your creativity to the next level. Even though this looks like a children’s craft item, don’t be fooled. It’s best to stock up on enough kits to satisfy the whole family, because no-one can resist googly eyes. The “MAKE A FACE” kit is the kind of kit that will bring out hidden creativity in everyone from the pre-schooler to grandpa.

Crafting has the tendency to become tedious if it’s too easy, so I like to throw a challenge into my kit designs, even if its just a small challenge. Don’t be alarmed – the “MAKE A FACE” kits involve a little more than gluing. Yes, you get to draw! And yes, I know some people are terrified of drawing, because someone way back in their past made them believe they are useless at drawing. If that is you, then today is your day to start afresh. Treat this kit as if it is your first drawing assignment ever, and remember that the character you create is all yours.  You can’t draw your character incorrectly, because your character comes from inside your head. If he ends up with a crooked smile, broken nose, messed up hair, and squint eyes then BRAVO! THAT is your character and you created him to look that way.  Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

Included in the kit are five blank head shapes. They are your foundation for character development. I cut these heads free hand, so every kit is guaranteed to have five unique starter characters for you to play with.  You can use all five heads on your card, but I prefer working with three heads.  Glue down your favorite heads in any arrangement you like. Now add the googly (moving) eyes. The eyes are everyone’s favorite bit, but watch out for “jumping eyes”. The googly eyes tend to build up static and may jump out of your hand when you try to free them from the package they come in. Hold on tight or you will crawling around on the floor looking for eyeballs.

Once the heads and eyes are glued in place, you can free your inner creative genius. Start small by adding a curved line as a smile. If that doesn’t seem too scary, add a wild hairstyle, a scarf, perhaps a bowtie, or even a hat. Still feeling the flow of creative juices? Go on. Don’t stop now. Add a body. Remember that there are no rules here – the creature you create can be terrestrial or alien, so don’t worry if you end up with three legs and seven hands. Mistakes can evolve into something  quite remarkable, if you permit it.

If you are doing this activity as a family or in a group environment, encourage the participants to talk about the characters they are creating. Share ideas. Develop a story together. This is a great opportunity to help young people develop story-telling skills.

When your character card is complete, turn it over and attach the “made especially for you by….” label provided in the kit package. Sign the label so the card’s recipient knows who put in the effort to make such a memorable greeting. Then give your handmade card to someone and let that person know you how much they mean to you.




New Book Launched

My new book, “Healing Patterns: A Coloring Book for Adults” is now available for purchase online. Paperbacks and the print-at-home download version are for sale at Lulu. You can also expect to find the soft-cover editions at and Barnes & Noble within the next couple months. Yes, I know what you are thinking: CONTRADICTION. How can “coloring” and “adult” appear in the same sub-title? Surely this is a mistake? Well done for being so observant, but you didn’t pick up on an error. This is indeed a therapeutic coloring book for grown-ups. Children don’t get to have all the fun.

The primary focus of the book is to serve as a stress-reducing tool for those who are ill or battling through long periods of rehabilitation. Lowering stress and anxiety levels is particularly important for the ill, as elevated levels of anxiety and stress can slow the healing process. Since none of us are immune to the damaging effects of stress, this book is not exclusively for those whose health has been compromised. “Healing Patterns: A Coloring Book for Adults” can be incorporated into any person’s stress management program. Of course, you could just decide to color for fun without making it a health science project in your life. You may not remember this, but once upon a time coloring was fun for you. I dare you to rediscover the joy of coloring. Need convincing that coloring is an acceptable and healthy activity for normal, intelligent adults? Read more about it in the Healing Patterns section of this website.