ART & MENTAL HEALTH
I couldn’t have an ‘Art Chat’ series of posts and not talk about the benefits of doing art (and all creative activities) for our mental health. When I do art, and particularly when I go into ‘the zone’, my focus is wholly on what I’m doing. The creative door of freedom has been opened and I’m in ‘the zone’ creating from the pool of resources within me. It’s like a form of meditation, and most definitely a practice of mindfulness.
There is a positive connection between art and mental health. Artistic activities such as sculpting, painting, or drawing are known to lower stress levels and promote mental calmness. Creating art takes your mind off of your everyday life and provides a relaxing distraction.
I recently came across this quote (below) that really resonated with me. I noted it down to use later to post on my social media and I posted it just recently.
I included the following words with this quote:
I saw this quote for the first time just recently and it struck me because it’s so true. Whether we realise it or not, with most creative pursuits we are using the creativity as a form of expression. Expression allows us to feel emotion by stimulating our minds and the creative activity provides us an outlet to show it. It can decrease stress and serve as form of therapy to help us work through our problems and worries and it can lead to break throughs and self discovery. Most importantly though, creativity provides a window of expressive freedom that makes you feel good! ~ Min
Which brings me to the subject of art therapy.
Official ‘Art Therapy’ is an evidence-based intervention developed in the mid 1940s for the management of mental health disorders in both adults and children. It is widely used in Europe and the United States but the practice of art therapy is still in its early stages in Australia.
Art Therapy is based on the belief that the creative process involved in making art often runs parallel with the healing process.
The goal of art therapy is to utilise the creative process to help people explore self-expression and, in doing so, find new ways to gain personal insight and develop new coping skills.
Techniques used in art therapy can include:
- Doodling and scribbling
- Finger painting
- Working with clay
Creative activity can reduce your stress and have a positive effect on your mental health, regardless of artistic experience or talent.
People often wonder how an art therapy session differs from an art class. Where an art class is focused on teaching technique or creating a specific finished product, art therapy is more about letting clients focus on their inner experience. However, I must say that I think doing art in any way, shape or form, has therapeutic benefits regardless, so to me all art is ‘art therapy’!
A fine example of when I’ve used art as therapy is when I’d been through so much worry and stress with my Mum being unwell. I hadn’t painted or drawn in a long time and the first time I did – so much emotion showed up on the page as you can see below. Rather than focussing on artistic perfection my focus was only on releasing the emotion within me. Note the symbols of love, my roots and home, maternal mother and child, broken hearted, riding the waves, a rollercoaster ride, tears of anguish, swirling thoughts in the mind, trying to be brave and stoic, my anchor being loosened, and so much more.
I recently became aware of a new documentary to be aired in Australia sometime in May* this year called Space 22 (but will be available on the international market under the title of ‘Art on the Brain’).
Space 22 is a new six-part documentary series that will explore the impact of art and creativity on mental health. Produced by BBC Studios and hosted by recording artist Natalie Bassingthwaighte, Space 22 follows seven strangers, each with their own lived experience of mental ill-health, as they take part in an ambitious experiment to test if the simple act of participating in art can help heal invisible wounds.
They will all take part in an experiment by the Black Dog Institute to test if participating in art can help improve their mental wellbeing.
Aussie artists Abdul Abdulla, Wendy Sharpe and Eddie Perfect will join the participants as they share their skills and inspiration across different disciplines.
Working with the Black Dog Institute is Professor Kathryn Boydell, who will be measuring the results alongside psychotherapist Noula Diamantopoulos.
Many of the participants will be experiencing visual and performing arts for the first time and the hope is that by being creative, the impact on their mental health will be positive.
So keep an eye out for this series! If you have an interest in this area, it ‘s not one to miss!
*I think this will air in May based on what I recall from listening to Natalie Bassingthwaite being interviewed on Samantha Armytage’s podcast – ‘Something to Talk About‘. You can find that episode here if you’re interested.
Information Source 1:
Information Source 2:
So maybe if you’re one of those who can’t relax enough to meditate, or you can’t really get into mindfulness, but you need a little less clutter in your mind and bit more calm in your soul, consider doing some art now and then. You don’t need to be able to draw or have any art experience but you’ll be showing yourself some kindness and you never know, you just might find the artist within you!
Find the form of art that feels best to you or dabble in many. There’s sketching, drawing, scribbling, painting, collage, Zentangling, colouring, etc. You’ll be amazed how quickly you become so focussed on what you’re doing that all your problems slip away into the background and a feeling of calm comes over you.
Ciao for now,