Creating art is for everyone – and it turns out that it’s also good for us, too! If you’ve read much about art therapy, you’re probably familiar with the benefits. It can help anyone, of any age, who’s in recovery, healing from grief or trauma, or experiencing profound life changes. Creating art – any art! – encourages creative thinking, increases brain plasticity, and more. Turns out that even taking time to doodle during a long phone call can help our inner anxieties!
But let’s take a deeper look at the science and benefits of art therapy. We’ll follow up with tips on adding this health and happiness booster to your life.
What Is Art Therapy?
At its simplest level, it’s using the visual arts in a therapeutic context. Rather than using words, one is translating their feelings into shapes, colors, and textures. And – any medium will work. Clay, paint, journaling, collage, mosaic art, and more are easy ways to express yourself. The important thing is that you’re comfortable using your materials!
Perhaps surprisingly, it’s not dependent on your skillset, education, or working with a specialized art therapist! And that’s a key concept at work: Everyone is creative. The simple act of tapping into an emotion, and expressing it through any kind of art is a universal ability. Art therapy is used for all ages to relieve stress, increase self-esteem and awareness, and aid recovery from trauma.
What’s Art Therapy Best For?
The act of creating is powerful and filled with benefits. It’s shown to help reduce anxiety, encourage out-of-the-box thinking, boost self-esteem, and stimulate neuroplasticity (Your brain’s ability to grow connections and change throughout your lifetime). Picking up some mosaic tiles, a paintbrush, or pencils helps you produce much more than art. It actually helps you produce more dopamine – that wonderful “Feel Good” chemical that gets you motivated and excited. Higher dopamine also triggers your ability to learn throughout your life. The process of using movement and abstract ideas helps everyone tap into their subconscious in a powerful way – but without the weight of words.
More precisely, art therapy can help everyone with:
1- Releasing Emotions – Complicated emotions are sometimes too hard to express with just words. Art can serve as a healthy outlet for expressing feelings that are too difficult to talk about.
2- Relieving Stress – Dealing with depression and trauma can create even more stress in daily life. The enjoyment of creating something new is soothing and can create a more relaxed state.
3- Enlightenment – Self-discovery is a real benefit of creating art. When you’re focused on your work, your subconscious can reveal great insights.
4- Self-Esteem – Seeing something grow and take shape in your hands is a way to build confidence and encourage trying new things.
How Do You Get Started?
Guided art therapy with a licensed professional is just one way to try it out. You might be more comfortable in a group activity. Or, working on solo projects is an equally valid way to heal through the creative arts. The important thing is that you’re expressing feelings with the art you make!
There are many information resources available to help you create your own exercises, but we’ll share some of our favorites, here. You can enter into the moment with a conscious intention of what you’re working on, or simply let it flow throughout. The goal is to help you relax, destress, and enjoy yourself.
10 Great Ideas For Art Therapy Projects
1- One Mistake to Forgive
Choose a failure or mistake you’ve made in the past, and create it into your artwork. Make it look as ugly or beautiful as you’d like. Let it exist, and then allow yourself forgiveness.
2- Building a Quilt
Using blank coasters or similar flat, identical shapes, create a series of mosaic “quilt blocks” for different emotions or memories. Creating them over time is also very powerful. Once you’ve completed the set, arrange the blocks to form a new quilt, and think about the differences and similarities between the tiles.
3- Learning From the Best
Select a famous piece of art that speaks to you, and recreate it in your favorite style and tools. Don’t worry about making it perfect or a masterpiece! Why does the original have meaning for you?
4- Masked Self
Think about the mask you wear when you’re dealing with the world. What does it say to others? Create the mask and consider how it makes you feel when you look at it.
5- Amulet of Protection
Collect all kinds of art materials and create an amulet that will protect you from your fears. Objects may work on one specific fear or many. Choose colors and items that feel positive and strong.
6- One Color Portrait
Use only one color to create your self-portrait. You may use different shades of mosaic tiles, one color of pencils, etc. What hue did you select? Why did you pick it? If you could add one more, what would it be, and why?
7- Forest Thoughts
Imagine you’re walking in a forest, and thinking about positive goals for yourself. After you’re done, draw the trees and your surroundings with as many details as you can remember.
8- Mandala Creation
Draw a circle about the same size as a paper plate (or trace a paper plate!). Start drawing from the center, creating a central figure or symbol. Continue working outward until you’ve filled the circle with your mandala. Do you see anything in the final pattern?
9- Your Own Coat of Arms
This one is fun to create with mosaic tiles! Sketch out a personal coat of arms that represents your ideal self and life. Add anything that feels joyous and achievable! Choose meaningful colors. When you’re done, create a small mosaic art version of your coat of arms, and display it with pride.
10- Personal Altar
Honor or remember an important person or animal with a commemorative altar. Decorate it with memories, hopes, souvenirs, and gifts. Think about your special connection, and let it heal wounds and bring you comfort.
Use our list of ideas to engage with art therapy, or find inspiration from them. Remember that the process of healing and growing with creative arts is meant to provide positive benefits. If one medium doesn’t feel right, simply try another – and enjoy your newfound creativity!