Do you ever listen to a song and feel like the artist is singing about you? Or just see a painting that makes you want to cry? It happens because art is a channel of emotions. This is why more therapists are recommending mindful art creation as a way of dealing with trauma, stress; as well as a path to experiencing healing and connecting to self.
Mindful art creation involves the conscious use of art to express or navigate our inner reality. Through art, you have the ability to communicate deep thoughts and complex emotions when speech isn’t easy or isn’t an option.
It’s not every time one can simply ‘talk about it’ and that’s okay! Mindful art provides an alternative and equally effective channel of healing.
Psychological studies have testified to the healing power of mindful art, showing that it:
- Improves communication
- Increases self-understanding
- Reduces stress and improves relaxation: Because it involves coordinated movements, creating art helps you to regulate your heart rate and breathing.
- Boosts self-esteem: In this study, a team of psychologists note how “even a short series of creative self-expression or art-making tasks completed in approximately 15–20 min can result in individuals perceiving themselves as having good ideas and being able to solve problems.”
- Helps manage symptoms of mental illnesses by providing a sense of control: You may not be able to control many circumstances in your life, but you can control the blob of clay in your hand. You get to decide what it becomes, what it’ll be used for or what colour you should bear. This sense of control helps to activate the parasympathetic system-our resting nervous system; we are calmer when in control.
- Encourages self-connection: art can help you connect with your inner child and the subconscious realities which reflect themselves in your emotions or/and reaction to things.
Arts’ engagement methods are a holistic mind-body wellness tool and technique just like yoga, Tai Chi or meditation are a mind-body technique because they stimulate the mind, body, and spirit in ways that are distinct from verbal, oral or written communication alone.
Tactile, sensory, visual and symbolic expression opportunities invite alternative modes of communication that have always been a feature of primal living. Also, because it involves coordinated movements, art creation makes for an incredibly grounding activity that helps you live in the moment and be more mindful.
Including art creation in your personal or corporate wellness regimen in some way, will greatly improve mental health. Don’t worry about being ‘great at it’ or producing masterpieces. You don’t need any prior artistic skills to benefit from this method.
It’s not about the technique nor the result produced but more about the expressive process. So, all you need is openness to your feelings.
Bespoke ideas for incorporating mindful art creation personal wellness:
1) Doodling: This is such a fun way to express yourself. Perfect proportions don’t matter here, all that matters is what you want to matter.
You can create a visual diary/journal by doodling how you feel, or the things your daily experiences. It’s also great if you scribble some words associated with each doodle, right next to them. This will help you understand your thoughts better; while being a useful guide when trying to explain how you feel to someone you’re comfortable with.
Feel free to use your doodles to create stories or recreate memories. You can navigate the stress of daily life by escaping into a world you’ve created; a place where you’re in charge of the circumstances. This could also be a great way of reflecting on life from an alternate point of view.
2) Collage: this technique of art creation involves assembling different items (images, text etc) to create something new. One way to incorporate collages into your wellness routine is by creating mood boards and vision boards.
A mood board is a collage of images and text that describe how you feel. Vision boards are like it, except they are more motivational because they express your dreams. If your dream is to travel the world, your vision board could be a collage of pictures of places you’d love to visit; with quotes that speak to your wanderlust attached to them.
Collages are great techniques of self expression and you can make collages to express events, emotions, memories, dreams etc.
3) Sculpting & Origami: Sculpting is an incredibly calming art; origami is a form of paper sculpture. Feeling the smoothness of the clay or making objects out of paper creates a sense of nostalgia of playing as a child. Thus, sculpting is a great way to reconnect yourself with your inner child.
It makes your hands an outlet for emotions and can help you get in touch with what you’re feeling. Through touch, you transfer what you feel onto clay/paper.
4) Painting/Colouring: Colours have a way of expressing moods and feelings. Different people attach various colours to different emotions based on their experiences, likes and dislikes. If you’re struggling with understanding your emotions, channelling them through the vibrance of the colours can help you understand them better.
Do you feel worn out and grey? Are you craving yellow? Paint it. You could even take a picture of yourself, print it in black and white, and colour what you feel over different parts of your body.
While what you’re painting doesn’t have to form a coherent picture, when trying to understand your thoughts or what’s bothering you, try to paint the elements that pop up in your mind. Most of our memories are stored in images, so colouring is a way to access deep memories.
On the other hand, if you’re trying to reduce stress and relax, try painting your concept of a peaceful place. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect. If your ideal serene space is by a quiet beach, it doesn’t matter if someone else can tell that you’re painting a beach.
By colouring, you will have redirected your mind to this desired space of peace. With your conscious coloured strokes bringing it to life, you’ll be regulating your heart rate and breath. Thus, helping you be more relaxed.
Also, consider using a template such as a mandala, and filling it with paint to express your own inner reality.
5) Crafts: This is a great way to ease anxiety and help you relax. Many people especially love DIY crafts because they’d have made something that could be part of their space. Consider taking up crafts such as crocheting, woodwork, etc as the repetitive actions help to ground the mind and body.
You could also choose to upcycle things around your home, or create something that makes you laugh! Like making funny masks, or photo props for a mood photoshoot.
Bespoke ideas for incorporating mindful art creation for group/corporate wellness:
1) Group Art Engagement: providing avenues for group art engagement encourages bonding relationships between colleagues. People could work together in groups to produce simple decorations that can be displayed in the office. Or art which reflects how their work currently is vs how they want their work to be.
The expression of desires through art has the added advantage of providing HR with ideas they can incorporate to improve wellness at work.
2) Craft corners: making art supplies available at work, can seem like encouraging tom-foolery during working hours but it’s not. Offices can have arts and crafts corners where employees go to stimulate their creativity; especially when feeling stuck or stressed.
In addition, they could place whatever they’ve created on their desks as a form of encouragement that they can get things done. Remember self-esteem
3) Group art workshops: consider incorporating art workshops as part of a company/work retreats. Activities such as porcelain painting, sculpting etc helps relieve stress while encouraging self-expression.
Creativity is fundamental to mastering any skills- for our work or personal life, immersing yourself in mindful art creation heals. So, adopting mindful art creation helps to optimise your health to improve your performance.
I hope you’re inspired to try it out! For more ideas to help you take charge of your wellness see here.
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