How Using Art Therapy is Great for Mental Health
Did you know that the power of art therapy is so strong that mental health experts recommend using some form of art every single day? If you're feeling burnt out or struggling with a depressive episode, or your anxiety is eating you alive, art therapy might just be the right form of self-care for you. Art therapy has been used as a tool for mental health for years and has many benefits to reduce symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety. (Yay for mental health tips!)
Art Therapy for Mental Health Tips
At its core, art therapy is the use of visual arts to express feelings and improve mental well-being. With art therapy, participants have a creative space to express thoughts, feelings, and emotions in a constructive way. Studies have even found that art therapy can lead to lasting improvement of moods and anxiety, along with aiding those dealing with physical issues, such as those associated with long-term illnesses or trauma.
When considering art therapy for yourself or someone close to you, there are a variety of projects to explore that can reduce anxiety. Below I've listed a few projects that can help ease tension and provide relaxation:
Some Art Therapy Examples:
The first step in beginning an art therapy practice is to allow yourself the space and permission to be creative and vulnerable. And unfortunately, that does include clearing a space for you to be creative. Which means...cleaning...(ugh!) But, once you’ve cleared the clutter and created a calming, inviting space for yourself to work, there are a few projects that can help ease anxiety.
Painting - A painting project can be a great way to de-stress and gain perspective on your worries. Create a colorful abstract work of art or a calming seascape - the sky's the limit! If you have no painting skills or are too much of a perfectionist like yours truly to really put something together, slap some paint on a piece of paper, or grab a paint-by-numbers book at the craft store and get to work. They really aren't just for the kiddos.
Mandala Drawing - If you've never heard of these before, I'll help you out. Mandalas are incredibly soothing, circular designs that allow us to take the time to mindfully fill in shapes and colors. Some of the best adult coloring books on the market today have entire sections dedicated to mandalas. There are incredibly intricate ones, very simple ones, and everything in between. Taking our focus off of our daily worries and onto creating a simple, abstract mandala can be a wonderful form of stress relief. Drawing a mandala is a perfect activity to encourage focus and mindfulness. For those dealing with anxiety, it's an excellent opportunity to explore their feelings without feeling judged. (*Raises hand timidly.* Yep, that'd be me!)
Photography - You don't have to have professional-grade photography equipment to participate in this one. All you need is your smartphone with the camera and a couple of free apps, and you're off to the races! An outdoor photography project is a great way to find solace and peacefulness in nature. Bring a camera out into the wilderness, take photos of calming scenery, and enjoy a few moments of restful relaxation. Sit back and enjoy your surroundings in a calm peaceful place. Or if that's not your jam, why. not go on a walk in the city where you live, and take pictures of interesting pieces of architecture, or faces in the city? You really don't have to limit yourself on this one, so use your imagination.
Crochet -(I have an entire blog post dedicated to this exact topic right here that might help expand on this topic a little further if you're interested.) The repetitive motion and muscle memory needed to work on a crochet project can help to clear your mind and allow thoughts and feelings to flow more freely. While your mind is occupied with something calming, repetitive, and familiar, you're able to focus on the memory or thought that you need to work through a little more clearly. Believe me, this is so therapeutic that I've had breakthroughs in therapy as a result! (Never underestimate a person with a crochet hook and some yarn!)
Self-portraits. Drawing a self-portrait allows us to confront ourselves honestly and objectively, looking closely at our unique features and examining how we see ourselves at that moment. And again, you don't have to be a world-class artist to do this. Maybe your self-portrait is just a bunch of random shapes. Maybe it's a sculpture, or some popsicle stick art. You really are not limited in this area! As you work, notice the feelings that arise in the process and ask yourself what it’s telling you about your mental and emotional state. If you can, make sure to write down the feelings you experienced in the moment or immediately after so you can go back and analyze them later.
Emotional Color Wheel. Creating a color wheel of your emotions allows us to explore what colors represent the way we feel and put those colors onto the paper. If we’re feeling angry, perhaps red is a good choice. Sad? Blue could be an appropriate shade. Naming the colors of our emotions is an important part of getting in touch with how we’re feeling. But if you're a sad purple kinda person, who am I to judge?
Life Journey Maps. To bring clarity to your thoughts and dreams, try drawing a visual representation of your journey. Trace the timeline of your life from your past experiences to where you are now and where you’d like to go. Seeing everything on paper may bring about revelations about yourself and what direction you want to go. These are extremely helpful and can be very thought-provoking once done!
Art therapy activities for anxiety are a particularly powerful form of self-care.
Through art-making, we can gain valuable insight into ourselves, process our emotions, and connect with our inner being. Art can be used as a tool for emotional healing, self-exploration, and building confidence and self-esteem. It’s a safe and accessible way to connect with ourselves on a deep, emotional level, and, best of all, there are no wrong answers when it comes to creating art! As an added bonus, you do not ever have to share your art with anyone if you don't want to. So draw that self-portrait and then stick it in the closet if that's what you're feeling. Vulnerability is a side effect of art therapy, but sometimes that's a little scary.
Whether you’re an experienced artist or a beginner, the beauty of art therapy lies in expressing yourself and allowing the art to take you where you need to go. Art therapy can be an incredibly effective tool for managing mental health and can bring immense amounts of self-discovery, self-care, and healing. Taking the time to reflect, draw, and color can have tremendous effects on our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors and ultimately put us on a healthier and more mindful path.
Have you ever tried art therapy for your mental health before? How did it go? Let's talk about it in the comments!
P.S. Did you enjoy this post and learn something new? If you did, would you mind sharing this with your social circle? Just hit the share button at the top of this post to spread the good word! Thanks, you’re awesome!