While art therapy is its own field, you can also use self-directed art to express your creative side, reduce stress, and get in touch with your feelings. Most of us understood the power of art instinctively as kids: Virtually all children know the joys of sculpting something with play-dough, painting something with fingers, or drawing with crayons and other materials.
There are many reasons that art is a great stress relief tool, even for those who don’t consider themselves artistically inclined.
Benefits of Art Therapy
Whether you could give Vincent van Gough a run for his money or can barely draw a stick figure, art is a fantastic way to reduce stress. Results of a 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association found that just 45 minutes of creative activity can reduce your stress, regardless of artistic experience or talent.
Here are some ways that creating art can help alleviate stress:
- Acts as a form of self-care: Sometimes, with all of life’s responsibilities, we forget that we need and deserve downtime and self-care. Taking even a few minutes on a regular basis to devote to a hobby can give you more of what you need in this area. With art, you have the additional benefit of being left with something beautiful (or at least interesting) to show for it.
- Helps you tap into a “state of flow”: Some psychologists describe flow as becoming deeply engrossed in an activity. Similar to meditation, flow can improve performance and lower stress levels.2 You may experience flow when you’re practicing an instrument, playing a sport, gardening, writing, painting, or drawing.
- Takes your mind off things: Creating art can take your mind off of whatever is stressing you, at least for a few minutes. It’s difficult to keep ruminating on your problems when you’re focused on creating. If your problems stay with you, you can incorporate them into your creations. Once you’re done, you should have a clearer head with which to tackle your problems again.
Sketchbooks for Stress Relief
Keeping a sketchbook is one of the easiest ways to relieve stress. It can be a form of journaling, and like journaling, it can be cathartic, creative, and stress relieving. You can use a journal for personal art therapy and stress management in the following ways:
- Begin a dream journal. A dream journal can help you identify patterns in your dreams, which point to areas of your life that need extra attention. Try keeping a notebook and pen next to your bed. As soon as you wake up, draw the first images, symbols, or words that come to your mind. Don’t worry if you’re not “good” at drawing. Your dream journal is for your eyes only.
- Draw what you feel. Draw your stress. Drawing literal or abstract representations of what is stressing you out can help you express emotions that may be difficult to put into words.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Many people keep a gratitude journal to catalog what they are grateful for. Personalize your gratitude journal by drawing the faces of those you love, places that bring you peace, or other things that you are grateful for. The process of sketching can be a great stress reliever, and revisiting your creations can also bring you some peace in the future.
- Start coloring. These days, coloring isn’t just for kids. Adult coloring books can be especially relaxing for those who don’t feel artistic, but still want to create beautiful pictures.
Source: How to Relieve Stress with Art Therapy, by Elizabeth Scott, MS, via VeryWellMind.com