If you find yourself calm and at ease after painting a beautiful picture or drawing your favorite flower, odds are that you’ve indulged in a form of art therapy.
Described as the use of creative techniques such as drawing, painting, coloring, or sculpting, art therapy helps people express themselves artistically as a way to examine the psychological and emotional undertones in their art. The practice dates back to World War I as it helped treat soldiers with PTSD and, since then, has evolved into a widely-utilized mental health treatment.
The use of imagery, colors, and designs provides an outlet for self-expression that promotes high self-esteem, stress relief and improves symptoms of anxiety and depression. A 2016 study found that 45 minutes of creative activity significantly reduced cortisol (the stress hormone) levels in three-quarters of the study participants. Many found their art session to be “relaxing, enjoyable, helpful” while evoking a desire to make art in the future.
Using art as a method of self-care can benefit your health, mood, and energy. Here are some ways to get creative with art that will add positivity to your life that can be done at work or the comfort of your home.
- Color: Coloring in an adult coloring book is one of the most popular methods of eliminating stress, as you can play and explore with different colors and tools, such as markers, crayons and colored pencils.
- Sketchbook: Doodling, free-form sketches or scribbling allows your mind and imagination to run wild.
- Join an art class: A weekly or monthly art class provides continuity and offers ongoing social support. Some classes also offer one-time workshops if an ongoing course is too much of a commitment. The Creative Arts Studio in Royal Oak, Ann Arbor Art Center and the Crooked Tree Arts Center in Traverse City are great places to check out to connect with people interested in letting their creative juices flow.
Art therapy allows both the exploration and observation of feelings that lets you reorganize your thoughts while gaining a new sense of awareness and understanding. The act of creating, whether it’s an art masterpiece or part of your “secret portfolio,” distracts the mind leaving less room to stress and worry and more time for fun.