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Tattoos and Psychology: How Tattoos Can Positively Impact Mental Health - Mental Health Awareness Month Special


A colorful brain stained with ink

Maybe not many of you know, but I am a bit of a psychology and neuroscience addict. Part of my life is currently studying for my Master's Degree in Neuroscience and Psychology of Mental Health. Combining the tattooing life I've been involved with in the past nine years with this passion of mine helped me gain a new perspective on what tattoo art is, how people relate to it and ultimately, how it impacts our mental health.


This blog post is now out in May - Mental Health Awareness Month and will bring a new perspective on how tattooing relates to psychological aspects of our lives and how this art form can enhance our lives, contrary to popular and outdated beliefs. All the information is my interpretation of how tattooing improves or sustains mental health. The interpretation is based on psychological concepts, theories, and recent studies. However, the information provided in this blog post is for informational purposes only (see disclaimer). 


Research in psychology suggestst that tattooing may foster Self-expression

Tattooing has been around for a long time, serving many purposes, including tribe allegiance and spiritual symbolism. In today's society, tattooing has evolved and is practised for many reasons, primarily for self-expression. But how is self-expression connected to mental health? It brings pleasure, and whatever brings pleasure, from a hedonistic point of view, is considered a human need. Self-expression is also connected to creating a self-identity, which helps individuals know who they are and how they present themselves. Self-identity is the key factor that moves us to do specific things in life and guides our choices. Connecting tattooing to this concept brings a new perspective on understanding ourselves. It is essential to understand that self-identity is a spectrum, with positive and negative ends, driving us to specific behaviours depending on events that chiselled this identity. However, this connection between tattooing seen as a means to self-expression shows the power of this art form to influence self-identity, which can be harnessed to improve one's life and behaviours.


Tattoos can foster Nostalgia

Many of us use tattoos to store memories and cherish loved ones, pets or memorable moments from our lives. This practice connects tattoos with reliving these memories, through nostalgia. Many psychological studies focus on studying how nostalgia affects us, and the news are veery good: nostalgia seems to be a resource that improves our psychological health and well-being. How cool is to have this super power directly on your skin? At the same time, capturing such memories on skin are invariably conversation and storytelling starters, aspect that leads to a more fulfilling social life.


They might bring Confidence

Getting a tattoo is really an act of courage, and courage builds confidence. The reasons why vary, but lets focus on the obvious ones: it is a commitment, it involves going through an unpleasant physical experience and it means you have to relinquish control. All these three aspects mean that the individual getting a tattoo has to overcome at least these three fears. Overcoming them might have therapeutic effects.


They might improve Self-esteem

Self-esteem is a critical component of mental well-being, influencing how we perceive ourselves and navigate the world around us. Tattoos can play a significant role in bolstering self-esteem by serving as visual reminders of personal triumphs, milestones, or affirmations. When individuals choose tattoos that hold deep personal significance, whether it's a symbol of resilience, a mantra of self-love, or an image representing overcoming obstacles, they are making a tangible commitment to themselves.

The process of selecting, designing, and eventually getting a tattoo can be empowering in itself, as it allows individuals to take control of their bodies and make choices that reflect their innermost thoughts and feelings. For many, the act of transforming their skin into a canvas for meaningful artwork can be a transformative experience, instilling a sense of pride and ownership over their bodies.

Moreover, tattoos can serve as constant reminders of one's worth and uniqueness, especially in moments of self-doubt or adversity. The visual presence of a tattoo can act as a beacon of strength, reminding individuals of their resilience and the challenges they have overcome. Additionally, tattoos can foster a sense of belonging and connection, especially within communities where shared experiences and symbols are celebrated.

While the relationship between tattoos and self-esteem may vary from person to person, many individuals report feeling a sense of empowerment and increased confidence after getting tattooed. However, it's essential to note that self-esteem is a complex and multifaceted aspect of mental health, influenced by various factors beyond the presence of tattoos. Therefore, while tattoos can contribute positively to self-esteem for many individuals, they are not a panacea for underlying self-esteem issues and should be considered within the context of comprehensive mental health care.


The Tattooing process can foster Creativity

Tattooing, before everything else, is a creative process. Working together with a tattoo artist to come up with a design idea, or finding ways to put into practice what you want for your tattoo involves also creativity. This collaboration encourages open communication, brainstorming, and experimentation, fostering a dynamic creative exchange between the client and the artist. This process can develop creativity in individuals getting tattoed.


Conclusion

These are just a few of the psychological benefits of tattooing. More research in this area could bring more information and light into this process, so I'm excited to see how science intertwines with the world of tattooing.



Disclaimer:

The information provided in this blog post, "Ink Therapy: How Tattoos Can Positively Impact Mental Health," is for informational purposes only. While tattoos can have therapeutic benefits for some individuals, it is essential to recognise that they are not a substitute for professional mental health treatment.


Readers are encouraged to consult with qualified mental health professionals or medical professionals for personalised advice and treatment options regarding their mental health concerns. The content of this blog post does not constitute medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.


Additionally, the views expressed in this blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of any organisations mentioned or affiliated with the author. Individual experiences with tattoos and mental health may vary, and readers should approach the topic with an open mind and critical thinking.


Lastly, readers considering getting a tattoo for therapeutic purposes should carefully research and choose reputable tattoo artists and studios, considering safety, hygiene, and artistic style.


References:


Ball, J., & Elsner, R. (2019). Tattoos increase self-esteem among college students. College Student Journal53(3), 293-300.

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