Creativity for Health and Wellness

Kyle McDonald, C-IAYT, MFA
Art therapy

We were born to create! As children we draw, paint, sing and dance with unfiltered joy and abandon.

That is until the moment when a well-intentioned teacher, sibling, friend or parent intervenes with advice on how “it” should be done. Many adults can pinpoint this very moment of correction in their childhood creative process when they were told that the “sky can’t be green” or “people don’t look like that.” This often leads to a complete paralysis of the creative process, which is an inherent part of being human.

It turns out that creativity in the form of art making is good for us. The process of painting, drawing and making brings us into a state of focused awareness and can be thought of as meditative activity.

Focused awareness supports the relaxation response in the body and can contribute to feelings of equanimity, peacefulness and an overall sense of well-being. Additionally, scientific research has shown that art making reduces fear, anxiety and nervousness in people receiving medical treatment and has also been shown to support immune function by bolstering positive emotions.

Don’t be shy, just do it!

Art therapy 2The first hurdle many aspiring artists need to overcome is the thought: “I’m not good enough.” When I hear this I ask, “good enough for who?” To get started, make a commitment to yourself that you will create art for your own pleasure; a private joy, not to be shared with anyone. Once we remove the fear of what others will think, it allows us to relax into the playful process of creativity. Many people find that once they remove the mental pressure of creating a “masterpiece” each time they paint or draw, it frees them up to take risks, make mistakes, start over and savor the process without the burden of creating a finished product. By keeping it private in the beginning, we can overcome the fear of criticism, which blocks creativity.

Start out small. Keep it simple.

One of the easiest ways to start making art is to play with a tray of watercolor paints. The feeling of paint and water flowing across the page is very soothing and relaxing. Choose colors you love and place them on the paper simply for the joy they bring you. After the paper dries, perhaps draw over with a marker or pen. Cut the paper into shapes and create a collage. Draw your favorite word or affirmation and create a postcard or bookmark. This simple activity is sure to get the creative juices flowing! You may find that you create something you would like to share with friends or loved ones.

Another wonderful way to enjoy art making is to create a collage from magazines, wrapping paper and old greeting cards. Take what you can find in your home and begin to sort through and cut out images and words that bring you joy or describe your current mood. The process of looking at images and selecting that which is appealing to you can be very calming and centering. Use a glue stick to arrange what you have found into the pages of a journal or onto a piece of blank paper. Save what you don’t use in a folder for use at another time. Many people find that this simple activity helps them solve problems and gain fresh perspectives of emotional challenges or difficult situations they may be facing.

A recipe for success

Whichever medium you choose, allow yourself to surrender into the process, stay curious and receptive to the intuitive choices you are guided to make, and most of all, enjoy!

For more tips on wellness, visit the Being section of our Lifespan Living blog.

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