HEARTS IN HEALTH
Fighting cancer is rarely an easy and joyful topic to talk about. When one suffers from cancer, not only the patient is facing the stress and fear of the illness but also families and friends. Often families and friends feel desperate witnessing the pain and stress their loved ones go through with cancer, and it is not uncommon that they are eagerly in search of and suggesting alternative or unproven cancer treatments hoping one of these would free their loved ones from the terrible disease. This act of love is understandable but risky and could do more harm than help. Instead of focusing on our physical well-being which is not always under our control, it may be a better and safer option to work on our psychological well-being while facing cancer and this can be done in many ways including the practice of art.
In contrast of practising medicine, everyone can practice art with or without training anytime and anywhere they want. Practicing art can be as simple as expressing oneself through writing and there are growing empirical foundations for psychological and physical health benefits of expressive writing (Morgan et al. 2008). In order to find out the feasibility and effects of engaging a clinical population in a structured expressive writing task, a study was conducted in the waiting room or individual examination rooms at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center (LCCC) while patients waited to be seen by their medical team. Adult leukemia and lymphoma patients completed a variety of tasks including a baseline assessment, a 20-minute writing session, and an optional 3-week follow-up interview. According to the study, “participants reported positive responses to the writing, and immediately postwriting about half (49.1%) reported that writing resulted in changes in their thoughts about their illness, while 53.8% reported changes in their thoughts at the 3-week follow-up” (Morgan et al. 2008). The findings suggest that a single, brief writing exercise is related to cancer patients’ reports of improved quality of life.
As a non-profit-organization aiming to provide love, hope and encouragement to women and girls affected by cancer through Arts in Health programs, Feel Beautiful Today provides different Arts in Health programs to help patients understand and express themselves, and hopefully leads to improved quality of life. Through My Window is one of the FBT Arts in Health programs providing patients with the opportunity to master and express the hardship they go through. As mentioned earlier, art can be done anytime, anywhere. Through My Window does not require facilitators and can be done anytime free of charge with our sponsors’ donation. Patients can express themselves however they like with the art kit provided. No worries if patients think they are the “uncreative” ones as we provide tutorial video on our website to guide them through the creating process.
Everyone can be an artist and deserves to live a beautiful life. Leave the medical worries to health professionals and join Feel Beautiful Today to experience the mental and emotional benefits Arts in Health programs can bring you, your families and friends.
Morgan NP, Graves KD, et al. 2008. Implementing an Expressive Writing Study in a Cancer Clinic. Oncologist. 13: 196-204. doi:10.1634/theoncologist.2007-0147
With Christmas approaching and the passing of Thanksgiving, giving is something on everyone’s mind. Whether it is giving thanks for a year full of blessings and the simple things in life or mulling over what gifts to give friends and loved ones, everyone begins to feel a little tapped out from the constant demands of the season. But what if this season was a time to step back and reflect on what it means to be human. To remember all the gifts that come with being alive, regardless of how hard things get. And the opportunity to offer our time and resources to let the people we love most know how much we care about and value them. Would we view this season differently?
The truth is that giving from the heart does more than just benefit the recipient. It does more than produce a feeling of “warm fuzzies.” Research shows that “…support giving, much like support receiving, is associated with a number of beneficial mental and physical health outcomes. Specifically, giving to others is associated with lower mortality rates over a 5-year period, fewer sick days, and reduced cardiovascular activity over a 24-hour period” (444). In a study comparing neural benefits of support giving versus support receiving, researchers found a couple of interesting things. The first of these is that people who participated in more support giving were less prone to react negatively in stressful situations (448). The second is that both support giving and support receiving activated the reward center of the brain, yet only support giving had a positive impact on the brain itself (450). And perhaps the most pertinent finding is that “the more participants reported giving support to others, the more caregiving-related neural activity they showed to trials in which they chose to give another person in need” (450).
So what does this mean? It means that there are very clear advantages to taking the time to offer support to those in your family and community. It means that the time you are spending, the resources you are giving to support Feel Beautiful Today and the beautiful cancer patients we work with is wiring your brain to be more generous and less stressed. It means that it truly is better to give than to receive, and sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is choose to be a blessing to others.
Inagaki TK, Bryne Haltom KE, et al. “The Neurobiology of Giving Versus Receiving Support: The Role of Stress-Related and Social Reward-Related Neural Activity.” Psychosom Med. 2016 May;78(4):443-53.
Cancer patients face tough decisions regarding their treatment plans and quality of life. The disease changes the course of their lives and the lives of their families and friends in an instant. Many patients look for a silver lining and for ways to brighten a dim situation and sometimes dark experience. Patients looks for new and creative ways to cope with their illness. Arts in healthcare focuses on the whole picture. It focuses on improving the hospital experience for the individual patient while focusing on expression with their well being as the key component.
In the review, “The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature” authors Heather L. Stuckey and Jeremy Nobel explore the relationship between creative arts and health outcomes, specifically the extent to which creative arts reduce psychological and physiological outcomes. According to their review of a study conducted, they concluded that women who took part in a qualitative study focusing on cancer described ongoing cancer-related difficulties such as fear for the future, pain, sleeplessness, role loss, activity restriction, reduced self-confidence, and altered social relationships (Stuckey and Nobel, 257). The study reviewed concluded that engaging in different types of visual arts helped the women to “(1) focus on positive life experiences, (2) enhanced their self-worth and identity by providing them with opportunities to demonstrate continuity, challenge and achievement, (3) enabled them to maintain a social identity not defined by cancer, and (4) allowed them to express their feelings in a symbolic manner, especially during chemotherapy” (257).
As the research continues and the field expands, the authors assert that “medical professionals are beginning to recognize the role that creative arts play in the health process; increasingly, arts in medicine programs are emerging throughout the United States and worldwide” (258). Stuckey and Nobel are able to conclusively say that it is clear that artistic engagement has positive effects on health, however they are quick to note that there are limitations within their review because of the limited sample of studies and emergence of new literature (261).
Like the study conducted, women faced with diagnosis of cancer have fears and concerns and creative arts and expression lend them a valuable outlet. Feel Beautiful Today is created with the purpose of providing love, hope and encouragement to women and girls affected by cancer through Arts in Health programs. Through programs like Joined In Hope and Through My Window, FBT hopes to continue to foster environments where patients can release their fears and focus on healing.
Stuckey, Heather L., and Jeremy Nobel. “The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature.” American Journal of Public Health 100.2 (2010): 254–263. PMC.
When Feel Beautiful Today was formed, it was not formed with the extensive knowledge that Arts in Health programs bring about positive physiological, mental and emotional changes. It was created as a way to instill hope in women going through a cancer diagnosis and to remind them that they are loved and not alone. It has only been through the journey of continually bringing quality Arts in Health programs to patients across the Atlanta area’s hospitals and cancer centers that FBT has realized just how extensive the benefits are for the patients who participate in our programs.
The knowledge we have gained experientially has been coupled with the determination to become students of the research surrounding Arts in Health. These blogs are full of the most current Arts in Health research while also exploring other various aspects of art and its role in the healthcare industry. Sometimes what is most important is found the most often.
In the online article, “Creative Arts Beneficial to Cancer Patients,” the American Cancer Society acknowledges that “creative arts therapies significantly [reduce] anxiety, depression, and pain and [improve] the quality of life in cancer patients.” These findings are based off the study “Effects of Creative Arts Therapies on Psychological Symptoms and Quality of Life in Patients With Cancer” by TW Puetz and co-authors Morely and Herring. The claims of the American Cancer Society in this article only confirm the fact that research study after research study shows how Arts in Health programs provide physiological, emotional, and mental benefits for patients who participate. The sheer amount of research on these benefits (reduction of anxiety, depression, and pain) in particular outlines the need for programs to provide spaces and times for patients to engage in creative art activities.
Because of the overwhelming research, FBT is dedicated to continually grow and expand, reaching more patients with effective, state of the art Arts in Health programs. What began as a small act of kindness is now a thriving nonprofit. It is a glaring example of how Arts in Health programs work, and that there is no replacement for love and compassion.
To read the American Cancer Society’s full article, follow the link below.
Arts in health programs are not a fad, nor are they alternative treatments meant to replace any aspect of a physician’s treatment plan. Arts in health programs, like those facilitated by Feel Beautiful Today and our 15 beneficiaries-in-kind hospitals and cancer centers, are designed to complement the medical community’s efforts to foster a positive healing environment for cancer patients and survivors. The impact of arts in health programs is evident through the transformation in each patient’s attitude as they participate in the creative arts programs which reduces the anxiety associated with the fear of the outcome of their disease. Participation in these arts for health programs benefit the patients; it is more about the process and the love that surrounds each patient than the resulting product.
In the article, “Arts for Health: Still Searching for the Holy Grail,” authors Hamilton, Hinks and Petticrew assert that “the arts have been seen as a tool for improving public health, reducing health inequalities, and promoting social inclusion, but the evidence remains elusive” (402). In the brief article, the authors discuss how scientific studies of arts in health programs may not be entirely necessary and to instead look at the outcomes - social and health implications. The way that arts in health programs are reviewed and studied is evolving. Hospitals and cancer centers must evaluate on some level to determine how such programs can benefit their patients as well as the costs and staffing involved. The conversation will soon shift from “are these types of programs even necessary” to “what do we need to do get these programs at our hospital?” In order for the reach of these programs to increase, there must be evidence to support the introduction of these services (402). Evidence such as patient testimonials and outcomes as well as how medical staff, specifically physicians, feel about the programs. Arts in health programs work in conjunction with treatment plan and there needs to be a team approach for whole wellness.
Through continued outreach, Feel Beautiful Today hopes to continue to promote the importance of arts in health programs and the need for creating a positive and supportive environment for cancer patients.
Reference: Hamilton, C, S Hinks, and M Petticrew. “Arts for Health: Still Searching for the Holy Grail.” Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 57.6 (2003): 401–402. PMC. Web. 31 Aug. 2016.