The Power Of Tattoos Reaches Beyond Aesthetics - They Can Boost Your Mental Health Too

For many, tattoos are simply a means of self-expression. We go through the pain of those needles to add art to our bodies that tell a story about who we are. But it is in that artful tale that we find joy, memories, reflection, and more. Because of this, tattoos are a way to boost mental health. Yes, you read that right — getting some ink can help spark joy in your life. And, those with tattoos often say they're like eating potato chips, you can't stop at just one!

When it comes to mental health-related tattoos, there are many reasons people get them – some are to memorialize people who are no longer living and some are to help the wearer remember a certain time in their life (good or bad). Or, some show what someone's gone through like a semi-colon tattoo as a reminder of mental health struggles you've survived. From images of favorite cartoon or horror movie characters to birth flowers, tattoos, for those who love them, are a bringer of joy.

How tattoos boost mental health

We all know happiness and joy aren't cure-alls for depression and anxiety, so what else is it about tattoos that boost our well-being? For some, like Annie Jacobsen, a twenty-something woman with anxiety, it's a reminder of a mental breakdown she experienced. She told Well + Good, "I wanted something to look at to remind me to be present and live in the moment. People with anxiety tend to live in the future, and my experience in 2018 taught me the importance of taking in what's in front of you, even if it's impossibly challenging." 

And, according to mental health professional Shainna Ali, Ph.D., "... a tattoo serves something deeper for that individual involved. For example, a star for someone could represent a star for one person, and for someone else, it might mean something deeper, like a life lost. A tattoo can be used to honor whatever it is — whether it's a person, a choice, or a lifestyle." 

The mental health boost comes from what the tattoo makes you feel when you look at it. Tattoos have the ability to be somewhat like a photo album on your skin — and those stories will stick around forever. Whether your tattoos inspire a healthy cry, empower you, or simply make you smile, they are doing something good for you, and good for your mind.

Using tattoos as memorials

There is a sadness that comes with the joys of life — which stems from the fact that life isn't meant to last. Memorial tattoos are not new, but they are definitely a big contender when it comes to mental health-related tattoos. Alison Stone, LCSW, told Byrdie that memorial tattoos can give people a healing sense of control during a seemingly impossible time. She explains, "Tattoos can make us feel like we are taking steps to ensure that our loved one is never forgotten about; often there is a lot of guilt around the concept of 'moving on' once a loved one passes." 

Guilt is definitely something that adds to stress, anxiety, and depression — if a tattoo can help with that, why not suffer the few moments of pain one might experience during the tattooing process. Rose Bleiweis, LCSW-C, added "In general, these memorials are a constant source of comfort that never seems to wear off and I think a tattoo is no different. We never carry anything with us all the time except for what is literally on our body, so having a memorial tattoo can be an ever-present source of comfort."