Art Therapy is defined as any form of creative endeavour used therapeutically. You can use your creativity as a form of expression or in form of analysis, the latter being still discussed as of whether it is actually Art Therapy or not. I am going to assume it is because I feel that when you put into words your sensations you are having some sort of therapy and self-inspection.
Art Therapy will let you forget about the things that you are worried about, and will let you cope with any negative emotions. Your mental and physical health plus your emotions will benefit directly.
When can you use it?
- Under stress or pressure.
- Mental health problems.
- Learning disabilities.
- Personal problems.
- Medical conditions like brain injuries, eating disorders.
As you can see there are many uses for Art Therapy, and there are many that are used under critical circumstances. That’s why there are many professional therapists that have studied precise techniques to help you deal with your troubles. But also, Art Therapy doesn’t have to be always professional, and that’s fine too. Just use the therapy to relax, as an activity, not to think of it as a form to cure yourself, it is just a way to cope with negativity for a while, and the outcome could be surprisingly beneficial in the long term.
But how can you do that? What type of activities are good for you? Which forms of art will benefit you directly?
Well here is a little research I made…
Music is art, hence Sepia Flora considers that Art Therapy also includes music.
1. Just using your words
When you analyse a piece of art done by someone else, you are engaging in a form of expression, you are using the time to talk to someone else or to simply put your artistic persona in conjunction with your logical way of thinking. The interaction between you and the painting or any artistic expression (also with someone else you can talk to), is a way of radiating the sensitive part of your being to a rational world. As I mentioned in the definition, many consider that this is not a form of Art Therapy, but I felt differently when I experienced this situation.
I was in Liverpool’s Art Gallery and a professor was explaining the Pre-Raphaelite paintings. I joined the exhibition when he was talking about John Everett Millais’ painting Isabella.
He explained every little detail in the painting; the way the feet were placed, the things on the table, the looks of every character, the food, the shadows, even the expression of the dog. He encouraged the audience to take wild guesses of symbolism, and the result was astonishing.
I felt transported to another era, I felt that a veil was taken away from my eyes. I was simply happy and glad that I was able to enjoy that wonderful experience. Taking the class with my companion that day, was a perfect combination to enjoy and to be exactly placed in the romanticism and mysticism of Liverpool; I felt that I was present, I was being completely in that moment.
2. Playing recorded music
A few years back I read in a magazine (I think it was Cosmo) that if you listen to your favourite music in a high volume, your brain feels pleasure and in consequence, you feel better. It has a simple explanation, your brain liberates endorphins (like a natural opiate), and automatically you feel less stressed and increase your enjoyment. The complete study was made at the University of Manchester.Now, your task is to look for music that you like or enjoy at first, listen to it for a while, learn the lyrics if there are any, and later on turn up the volume and relax.
3. Playing an instrument
Have you ever been really concentrated on a task that stimulates your intelligence and your motor skills, and then you notice that your body is responding? You see that you are able to perform a set of patterns that you didn’t think were capable of doing? It feels great, doesn’t it?
That’s what happens when you learn to play an instrument. You are concentrated for a while, and then all of a sudden you are able to play a tune. But, even beyond that, the music that comes out of the instrument is a big satisfying reward. It is something beautiful that you are producing with your own hands; it is a wonderful sensation.
While you are performing you are being in the present because you concentrate in the melody and in producing a feeling that is beyond words. You are achieving mindfulness, and that liberates you immediately of your worries and places you in the moment, only focusing on that second that every note lasts, focusing only on your performance and in the enjoyment of music. Many people are using music as a form of meditation.
When I was little I used to copy flags of the world in paint (the program that came with every computer at that time). I enjoyed matching exactly the colours and the geometrical figures that different flags from the world have. I enjoyed it so much that I lost track of time, and the same happens to me now when I paint or illustrate. I want to like what I create, I want to feel satisfied with the set of colours that I choose for my illustration. I zoom in and out to see how a microscopical combination of colours produces a great detail when you magnify it. That change of perspective places me in the moment, engages me in creating something beautiful that satisfies my desires, that expresses what I was feeling, what I wanted to accomplish. This is exactly why this is Art Therapy. You want to express your emotions visually. Some of us have trouble expressing feelings, and visually might be is easier for some of us. Like I said in the previous post, there is no judgement.
What happens when you combine two colours? What happens when you place that colour in that pattern or in one direction or another? This powerful technique transforms your relationship and your emotions into your intuition.
What is the difference between painting and colouring? Why mindfulness can be achieved using both?
Painting and colouring are like meditation because you repeat a pattern that engages your brain; colouring repeatedly is like breathing when you meditate. Many people have trouble meditating because they find it difficult to concentrate in the air that comes in and out of their bodies, and to stop thinking about their worries or their to-do list. That’s the difference with colouring. Some people find it easier to concentrate on something that they are seeing, a plan that it’s already placed in front of them. Me, myself, I am in between. I like colouring but I need to enjoy a bit of freedom, so I do not like mandalas.
This article was written in 2014 when colouring books were emerging. Now, they are in every bookstore, most of the times in the first stand you see. People are noticing its benefits, as we enjoy and we benefit tremendously when we live in the present.
Be here today, enjoy art and engage in mindfulness activities.
This research was made listening to John Downland’s Galliards. I was concentrated, and I must confess that the music placed me in the baroque, while I was looking at the trees outside and remembering scenes from Jane Austen’s books.