When people think of creativity they usually think of art, design, drawing or maybe even DIY. What most people don’t think about is how much of an impact creativity has on so many aspects of our lives and the benefits it can provide.
Throughout our young lives, creativity is given a lesser importance than academics. Schools and governments place their focus on the core academic studies and leave little to no time and interest in the part creativity should be playing.
It’s common knowledge that during the fundamental years, play and experimentation is key and can have great affect on the development of a young child. With creativity and play being encouraged in the initial years, this falls away as we move through the schooling system. Many people who once felt creative and enjoyed this process, lose their creativity and forget about it as they grow up.
With an ever growing level of stress and mental health issues now being seen due to the high pressured, anti social society we currently live in, creativity is needed more than ever. The importance of bringing creativity back to the masses and encouraging creativity in all individuals should not be overlooked.
Ask yourself these questions:
When was the last time you felt under pressure?
When was the last time you felt overwhelmed with the amount of tasks you have to complete?
When was the last time you felt stressed?
Was it a year ago?
6 months, a month, a week ago?
Or maybe it was yesterday, today, or even right now?
Most of you will have answered ‘within the last week’, probably a lot of you even answered ‘today’. This is the society we live in right now. It’s standard to answer so recently; it’s expected and completely normal now. As many of you have probably heard already, we are seen to be one of the most antisocial societies ever. With less meaningful interaction and more ability to multitask, the expectations in jobs and in our personal life have resulted in a massive amount of constant pressure. As this is the standard of our society it’s unlikely this will change significantly for the foreseeable future. It has become the norm, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do about it. There are ways to deal with this high pressure and level of stress.
Art therapy is a term that many people have formed opinions about in the past; often presuming it’s an untraditional and unproductive form of therapy. A lot of people have attached negative connotations to this term, in the same way that for many people just the term ‘therapy’ has negative connotations.
But what do you really know about Art Therapy?
Art therapy is a form of communication and self-expression that all individuals can participate and benefit from. It is a common belief of many health professionals that art is directly linked to the subconscious. Art can be an extremely expressive application, which can allow hidden feelings and emotions to be expressed in a creative manner, sometimes emerging without even the artist being aware of the emotions they are projecting into their work.
Art therapy is a way of using creative outlets to help people understand their emotions and come to terms with problems in their life, in an expressive and relaxed way. Having to talk about your issues directly and hunt for the cause of your stress by talking through your issues can be very challenging for some individuals. Talking through the things that are causing you distress is a difficult process and can sometimes cause more distress during the session. While talking through issues, getting to the root of and solving the problem can be beneficial, for some people this process is too much and can put people off the idea of therapy all together. Art therapy is a much more relaxed and organic way of dealing with your stress. Often the process of participating in creative activities can be therapeutic itself. However, art therapy professionals also use these activities to enable clients to come to terms with their anxieties and issues by understanding their emotions through the process of art therapy.
The common benefits of art therapy techniques are:
- Raised self-esteem
- Learning to express themselves better
- Improved communication skills
- Feeling more in control of their own lives
- Gaining further insight into their lives, feelings and emotions.
However, just a general increased creativity can reduce stress and improve feelings of calm and happiness in many individuals, which most of us could definitely benefit from.
There are multiple categories within traditional art therapy techniques. Techniques used can range from portrait tasks, collaging, relaxation, happiness, emotion, trauma and loss, self and gratitude. Each type of category can be used to overcome different types of stress or problems, while there are also general types of art therapy that can be used for overall stress reduction and health improvements.
I have been to art therapy classes and spoken to some of the regular attendees. Many of the people I spoke with had difficult life situations, from unemployment, custody issues, disabilities, housing problems etc. Each and every one of them found the classes to be of huge benefit to their personal development and provided them with a much-needed support. By attending a class they had a support system of individuals around them, a safe place to go and an encouraging and creative atmosphere.
Whilst art therapy classes offer a great level of support and benefit to many individuals, like everything else, it will not suit everyone. However, if you are one of those people, it does not mean that creativity or art therapy cannot benefit you.
There is a range of ways to bring creativity and art therapy to your life whether that’s by joining an art class, or creating at home; as long as you are finding a creative outlet there can be significant benefits. The key is to find something that relaxes you or helps you deal with stress.
We have included a couple of simple suggestions for you here:
Adult Colouring Books
Colouring books have become a pretty big trend in the past few years, but they are also massively beneficial. The act of colouring in is relaxing and nostalgic, taking you back to your childhood years when your biggest worry was which colour crayon to use. By returning to this activity your mind falls back to this relaxed state. The act of colouring also focuses your mind without straining it, allowing you to let all the stresses and day’s tasks fall away. Try a bit of colouring in a relaxed and comfortable environment to see if you feel a sense of calm and relaxation afterwards.
Activity journals are more rare than colouring books, but definitely worth searching for! These books go into much more depth to help overcome your stresses and worries. Books like ‘Wreck This Journal’, ‘Finish This Book’ and ‘The Pointless Book’, contain activities that can contribute to your overall mental wellbeing and sense of calm. Activities such as frustration tasks, which rid frustrations and reduce stress, and list-making tasks for personal development and confidence, can be found in such books. These tasks don’t shy away from the problems that are causing your stress ,but tackle them head on without being as daunting as traditional therapy. By completing fun activities that directly deal with problems and frustrations, you can approach the cause of your stress in a relaxed manner while work through it.
The daily draw is a simple task that you can complete privately or share with a larger community. The concept is straight forward; every day you create a doodle. The doodle can be anything you like and as in-depth as you like. Whether it’s a rough 2-minute sketch or an in-depth 10-minute image, as long as you are drawing everyday it doesn’t matter. Either keep a sketchbook specifically for your daily draw or create a doodle wall. To create a doodle wall take a large piece of paper, this can be brown parcel paper from the pound store, lots of A3 pieces taped together or a strip of plain wallpaper. Tape the paper to a spare wall and every day (or more often if you feel like it) add a doodle. You can set a time limit such as a drawing every day for a month, or keep going until the paper/ book is full. The key to this task is to not over think, don’t worry about what you draw! Draw the first thing that comes to mind, whatever you’re thinking. If you’re frustrated and just want to scribble, then do a scribbled doodle! If you want to add colour then get out the markers! The idea of the task is to do whatever you feel like, get it out of you and onto paper. There are multiple social media groups and hashtags you can join that follow this idea, if you want to share your process and join a community who are doing the same task take a look and join in.
Bullet journals come in a variety of sorts. The concept is to bring together the various aspects of your life to one neat, organised area. Keep all of your thoughts, your lists, ideas and plans in the one place to clear your mind. By getting all of your thoughts onto paper in one organised place, instead of cluttering up your mind with a million thoughts, ideas and plans, they can all sit nicely on a page letting your mind relax.
The photo a day challenge is similar to the doodle task and is very popular. Most days you’ll see a challenge on one social media platform or another. There are two main types of photo challenges you can complete. 1. Find an old photo that gives you joy and share it. Share a photo every day for an allotted time you set yourself.
Or 2. Take a photo of something that makes you happy everyday. There is a lot more benefit to this second option, which will encourage you to notice something that has made you happy every single day rather than focusing on the big things in the past. There are little things in everyday life that make us happy, often going unnoticed and ignored. This task will make you aware of the small positives in life while also making you think creatively when photographing your chosen happy thing. This creative thinking will have benefits on your mind-set and give you something to be proud of having produced.
For general wellbeing improvement and creativity these are great ways to start. There are so many ways to become more creative and implement art therapy into everyday life.
Why not try out some of these tasks and let us know whether they worked for you?
If you’re looking for more in-depth information or resources for creativity and art therapy tasks, including personalised approaches to art therapy to suit your individual creative and therapy needs, then check out A Thousand Yellow Daisies or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Samantha Miles runs A Thousand Yellow Daisies, a brand focused on all things creative. After graduating with a degree in Graphic Design, she focused on pattern design and blogging for small business start ups and enterprise advice. With pattern, illustration and lettering as their main design focus, A Thousand Yellow Daisies now also provide a range of creative services and products from creative blogging, creative start up advice and corporate graphic design services to home-wares, stationary and craft products with a new launch of art therapy activity books coming soon.