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Stressed, foggy or feeling down?

Learn how arts classes and performing opportunities this fall could help your well-being.

As we plan our return to campus for Fall 2021 Semester, there’s a mixture of excitement and anticipation in the air. For many of us, living in and adjusting to life during a pandemic has taken a toll on our well-being. From stress and grief to sleep changes, we know our students are dealing with many new and different circumstances.

That’s why, in addition to the wealth of wellness and counseling services on campus, we are inviting all University of Utah students to consider registering for courses in the arts (art and art history, dance, film and media arts, music and theatre) to supplement their learning and find new ways to explore resilience.

There are making classes, movement classes, lecture courses and music ensembles that welcome all U students (partial but awesome list below).

So, what are the benefits?

Research on the social, cognitive and emotional benefits of arts experiences is painting an increasingly vivid portrait of the ways in which creative endeavors can change us for the better. Of course, that’s why expressive art therapies exist. And even outside of the context of the arts as therapy, researchers are seeing many indirect benefits of engaging with the arts.

Some of that research is being done right here at the University of Utah by faculty and staff affiliated with the Arts-in-Health Lab, which is a hub of interdisciplinary research, teaching, clinical care and community engagement at the intersection of the arts and health. Its members study how the arts support and produce well-being, and put that knowledge to work in hospitals, clinics, community centers, schools, workplaces and senior care facilities.

One example is theatre professor Sydney Cheek-O’Donnell whose forthcoming book called “Arts for Health: Theatre” reviews theatre-related evidence and points to strong associations between engagement in theatre with several positive health outcomes, including:

  • Positive self-regard
  • Improved social relationships
  • Positive impact on mental health and well-being (e.g., reductions in anxiety)
  • Improved health literacy

NPR’s Malaka Gharib interviewed several researchers for her piece, “Feeling Artsy? Here’s How Making Art Helps Your Brain,” and noted the benefits of art:

  • Assists us in imagining more hopeful futures
  • Activates our brains’ reward center
  • Lowers our stress
  • Helps us focus

And in an exhaustive scoping review called “What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being?,” Daisy Fancourt and Saorise Finn stated that the arts can do the following:

  • Affect the social determinants of health (e.g. developing social cohesion and reducing social inequalities and inequities)
  • Encourage health-promoting behaviors (e.g. through promoting healthy living or encouraging engagement with health care)
  • Help to prevent ill health (including enhancing well-being and reducing the impact of trauma or the risk of cognitive decline)
  • Support caregiving (including enhancing our understanding of health and improving clinical skills)

We could go on, but we’ll suffice to say that the benefits are broad and important, and we hope you’ll take us up on this opportunity. You don’t have to have any experience. Just register, bring your curiosity and join us.

Arts courses for all U students