Theatre is fun, at least the most of us feel that way. But why so? We experience a variety of emotions, regardless of whether we are the ones acting in or the ones watching the performance. It completely takes us into another world where we experience love, adventure, laughter and many other emotions which we aren't aware ourselves are not aware we need. It helps us explore ourselves and shape our personality accordingly. With such a command over our emotions, it is clear that theatre influences our mental health too.
Yes, the movie you saw or the play you sat through and every form of theatre affects our mental health. Theatre helps us relax, fills us with positivity and hope and in turn has the potential to improve our mental health.
I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being. (Oscar Wilde)
One common aspect that we find in these quotes is 'life'. Theatre helps us understand life, other people and also ourselves better. By means of characters of varying personalities, like strong and charismatic, decisive and revolutionary and romantic and bold, theatre inspires us to a better life. We understand our inner desires and we can use that to bring clarity in our lives as well. Have you noticed that you feel a strong connection with a character and stay hung onto it for days? That is how deeply you can feel the impact and to make it therapeutic you just need to identify which character makes you feel understood. And is that not what we all are looking for? To understand and to be understood. And that is, in a way a key for a positive and a healthy mind.
Art, in general, is so refreshing and relaxing that there are real psychological therapies involving it. Interesting right? Yes, real therapies by qualified professionals that you won't even need to worry before going for it. One of them is ‘drama therapy’ which does not only include acting but also storytelling, scripts, role-playing, improvisation, etc.. Each with its own benefit.
This therapy was developed with the idea that not all problems or pains can be expressed with words alone, and in drama we express a whole event or a story by enacting it out. We get to express with our entire self and, as humans, it is essential for us to experience and express all the emotions, including the unpleasant ones. Because they all help in keeping our mind more active and receptive.
"The purpose of theatre is to put the audience in a better position to understand the world around them" - Mark Forties
Drama therapy helps an individual ease an experience of expressing anything they wish to share, it might even be a past experience that's hidden deep inside them. The main and important goals of drama therapy are:
Promote positive behavioural changes
Improve interpersonal relationship skills
Integrate physical and emotional well-being
Achieve personal growth and self-awareness
Improve overall quality of life
(-Good therapy, 2015 Article)
Drama Therapists not only work in mental health clinics, they work in many different places such as schools, theatres, residential places, corporate offices, rehabilitation centres and many others. Anyone can take the help of Drama therapy to feel better, and you definitely need not be a great actor to experience it. Always remember that drama therapy or any form of therapy can only be initiated on you by qualified professionals, so always check their qualifications beforehand, else it might be counterproductive. If you ever feel the need for such a support, immediately reach out if you want.
About the Author
Prakarsha is a student of psychology and English literature and is an aspiring actor. Her writing deeply reflect the relationship between theatre and mental health. She is an animal lover and takes interest in topics like animal welfare, human mind and mental health.