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Researchers at Brooklyn College and Boston College have found that drawing improves children’s moods by helping to distract them. Their study involved 83 children – 43 were ages 6 to 8, and 40 were ages 10 to 12. The researchers induced a negative mood in the children by having them recall a disappointing incident in their lives. Then, they had one group of children draw an illustration related to that incident, and the other group draw an illustration to distract themselves from the negative feelings associated with the incident. The children’s moods were rated before and after the activity, and researchers found that the short-term moods of the group of children who had drawn the distractive illustration improved.

Brooding is described as being preoccupied with depressing, morbid, or painful memories. Self-reflective pondering, by contrast, is taking the time to consider your life more analytically. A study led by a Georgia Institute of Technology scientist has shown that brooding is linked to depression, whereas self-reflective pondering is linked to creativity. Two-hundred and forty-four college students were surveyed in this study.

Not everyone prefers the same type of art. Individuals who are “high-alexithymic” have difficulty experiencing, expressing and describing emotions. Researchers at the University of Rome-Sapienza divided 100 adults into two groups; one group was high-alexithymic and the other was low-alexithymic (the opposite of high-alexithymic). The two groups were asked to evaluate 20 works of art. The low-alexithymic participants preferred pictures showing excitation whereas the high-alexithymic individuals were more likely to appreciate emotionally contained subjects.

Do you want to adopt healthier emotional behaviors? Try acting classes. In a study of 53 adolescents, researchers at Boston College found that the 28 adolescents who participated in acting at a performing arts high school engaged less in “expression suppression” than the 25 who majored in visual arts or music. Expression suppression means to inhibit emotional expression. Research has shown that inhibiting emotional expression is unhealthy over the long term. It was also shown that the teens in acting classes improved in empathy after a year of acting classes.

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