When you think about therapy, you probably imagine lying on a couch and confessing your secrets. While your treatment may sometimes take that form, it can also incorporate movement and other activities. One method with a proven track record of success for many is art therapy.
What can you do, though, if you don’t have a therapist or the means to afford one? Don’t despair! You can still reap the benefits of this treatment in the comfort of your living room. The next time you feel overwhelmed or merely need to practice some self-care, just try one of the following eight ideas.
Buy adult colouring books
Colouring books are magical for many reasons. You don’t need a lick of artistic talent to stay between the lines, and you can use colour to express your mood. Are you feeling whimsical? Who said that you couldn’t colour a horse purple?
Colouring also soothes the soul when emotions become overwhelming. It’ll give you a centre of focus, which will provide you with time for your racing thoughts to quiet down. You can find coloring books that have been specifically designed for art therapy use, or you can stop by any department store for supplies.
When you sit down to colour, pay attention to the way your mental state influences everything from your choice of picture to the hues you use. You can gain insight into the emotional state of your children by using this method, too.
Do they select dark, dreary shades or angry red ones? The former may indicate depression and the latter intermittent rage. How much pressure do they use—are they nearly ripping the paper? That also suggests hostile feelings. Do they take the time to stay within the lines, or do they seem haphazard in their efforts? Chaotic colouring book pages can symbolize a similar internal state.
Create a self-care box
You know self-care is a critical component of mental health. However, most people postpone pleasant tasks until they finish their work for the day. By that time, your brain may be too exhausted to think of any ideas that are more creative than crashing on your couch and binging on Netflix.
As a reminder to take care of yourself, you can paint and decorate a self-care box in accordance with your tastes. The idea is that it’ll hold scraps of paper on which you’ve written down your favourite ways to treat yourself.
You can also include small trinkets that remind you of your passions. For example, if you want to learn Spanish in your free time, insert a small Mexican flag from your last taco takeout box. Then, when you find yourself with 30 free minutes and nothing to do, you can reach inside and come up with the perfect idea to nurture your body and soul!
Knit an afghan
Have you put your favorite DIY project in the corner of your closet, where it awaits the ‘right time’ for you to work on it? That day is here—there’s no time like the present to get back to crafting an item as therapy.
This project is an ideal one to ease the symptoms of almost any disorder, but it’s an absolute godsend for those who are struggling with compulsive overeating. Knitting keeps your hands busy—it’s impossible to stitch while your fingers are reaching into a bag of chips. When your mind refuses to think of anything else but the kitchen, pull out that hat or booties you started until the urge to raid the refrigerator passes.
What if you don’t know how to knit? Don’t put your sewing kit away and admit defeat. Nearly anyone can learn to cross-stitch. You can also create a healing quilt made from scraps of fabric that you find meaningful. Each square can represent a different stage in your recovery journey.
Make a collage
If you have arthritis or another condition that makes hand movement painful, you might find it more comfortable to make a collage as a form of therapy. You can tear or cut pictures out of magazines, so there’s no need to grip a pencil, paintbrush or needle. Plus, you won’t need to spend much money on the other supplies you’ll need—you can find poster boards and glue at nearly any dollar store.
You can design a collage around nearly any theme. If you want to cultivate more gratitude for what you have, you could create a board dedicated to all the things that make you feel thankful each day. If you experience overwhelming feelings that you struggle to define, start looking through magazines for pictures that express your mood. As you add more images, you’ll begin to see a theme emerge.
You can also use collages as a way to remind yourself of other positive coping methods you turn to when you sense a meltdown coming. Perhaps you can add pictures of people exercising, or photos of fluffy kittens that remind you of volunteering at a nearby animal shelter.
Paint your emotions
How do you define your emotions? According to most feelings charts, you should be able to pinpoint whether you’re irritated, elated or disappointed. In reality, when you get the news of pending layoffs, you may feel a jumble of anxiety, despair, anger and fear. Your mood can shift from hopefulness at one second to melancholy the next.
Painting is an ideal way to express your emotions through art, but you don’t have to go Bob-Ross-style and stick to scenic landscapes full of happy little trees. You can embrace your inner Jackson Pollack and fling vivid colours upon your canvas. Go abstract with shapes and swirls that represent your inner emotional storm.
Feel free to experiment with different types of paints, if you have the means. For example, if oils or watercolours on canvas aren’t your thing, you may want to paint rocks with acrylics and make lovely paperweights. You can add glitter or pen designs, and then hide your creations around the neighbourhood to make other people smile. What a beautiful way to spread positivity!
Take photos of things that make you happy
Photography is a form of art therapy, and you might have the device you need right in your pocket. You can find workshops on how to take gorgeous pictures with your cellphone, or you can opt for the self-taught route. You may get an extra boost of feel-good endorphins, if your endeavours lead you into nature to shoot spectacular scenery.
If you develop your talent, there’s also the option of turning this hobby into a lucrative side-hustle, since there are various websites that will buy your photos in exchange for commissions or distribution rights. If you’ve struggled to afford the copays for your therapy visits, this may give you the means to do so.
Write and illustrate your story
If you’re a survivor of mental illness or trauma, you have a tale to tell. Why not put it into words and include illustrations for your book? You don’t have to make it a novel—a children’s picture book will work well, too. You can choose any medium you like to complete the artwork (even finger-painting!).
Once you finish your book, you’ll need to decide whether to keep it private or share it with your therapist. If you think you have a tale that others will benefit from reading, you can even opt to publish your recovery story to help others in similar situations.
Sculpt spirit figurines
Spirit figurines can be as big or small as you like—many people carve little worry stones to carry in their pockets. When panic or other overwhelming emotions strike, you can stroke a rock of this type to centre yourself.
You may want to make a sculpture for your nightstand or your work desk, but it need not resemble an angelic being. As an alternative, you can carve the word “hope” into clay and let it harden into a paperweight.
Treat your mind and soul today
Art therapy is a fabulous way to complement your sessions with your counsellor or focus on your healing independently. Use these eight ideas, or as many of them as you choose, to help soothe your soul and ease your mind whenever you need to.
«RELATED READ» CREATIVITY IS ESSENTIAL: 10 ways for artists to stay motivated»
image 1: Pixabay ; image 2: Pixabay