Excessive stress is nothing new to many people across the country, both young and old. Whether it’s a busy home or work life or you’re dealing with mental or physical health issues that are putting you on edge, there are alternative forms of treatment that may help relieve your stress.
Art therapy has been used as a positive stress reliever for years. Nowadays, its benefits are becoming more and more well known, making art a common choice as an alternative way to help deal with stress and other mental health conditions. Art plays a different role in every person’s life in an intricate way, allowing many people to process emotions and reduce stress as they are creating art. Therefore, art therapy is one of the best natural ways to help combat stress in your everyday life. And it’s fun!
What Is Art Therapy?
Art therapy is a form of mental health treatment using media and the patient’s creativity to therapeutically process and understand emotions while creating art. This form of therapy is used to help deal with many issues, from rehabilitation to processing past trauma, and usually includes a licensed therapist. But there are art therapy exercises that you can practice on your own.
Why Does Art Help Mental Health?
The main goal of art therapy is to help the person struggling to finally be able to relax enough to get in touch with their emotions. By creating art and doing something as simple as coloring, stress levels are seen to drop exponentially in patients. Helping the patient finally relax allows them to focus their mind on other things such as processing emotions, focusing on themselves, and working on emotional release.
Don’t worry; art therapy does not require anyone to be a good artist. Instead, the client can just put their thoughts on paper by creating whatever comes to mind, many times without speaking. This form of therapy helps many people who struggle to put their feelings and problems into words. Art therapy is widespread among children, too, as many of them prefer to draw as a form of communication and understanding.
How to Relieve Stress With Art Therapy
One of the most significant aspects of art therapy is the ability to help the client relax. You do not have to be an artist to do this, so many people feel comforted that there is no pressure on their creative flow. Art therapy allows the client to get their mind off whatever may be bothering them, even if it’s just for a brief period. Creating art helps many people slow down, allowing them to relax, de-stress, and tap into their creativity.
Mental Health Benefits of Art Therapy
The practice of art therapy comes with a multitude of benefits.
1. It Fosters Self-Awareness
Mindfulness and self-awareness play a significant role in art therapy. Practicing mindfulness, in the simplest terms, means tuning into your emotions, thoughts, and body. This is what allows a client to go through the therapy process while creating art.
2. It Helps You Process and Understand Emotions
Another critical part of therapy and relieving stress is to be able to process and understand the emotions that may be causing you problems in the first place. Identifying the root of a problem is the only way to accurately begin to treat it. Art therapy helps patients get in touch with their feelings so they can find the roots of their troubles and begin the journey of understanding and processing them.
3. Art Offers an Emotional Release
Emotional release is another great benefit of art therapy. One of the biggest aspects of therapy and relieving stress is to process your feelings on past and present situations and move forward from them. Letting go of past trauma, times you have been hurt, and stagnant emotions can change your life immensely. Emotional release helps clients lift massive weights off their shoulders to hopefully move forward with their lives.
4. It Builds Self-Confidence
Another helpful feature of art therapy is its ability to build self-confidence. With factors such as free creative reign, no pressure from other artists, and no pressure to be good at what they are creating, many people have found that the process of creating something by themselves builds their confidence. Despite whether you make art often, there is a massive sense of pride and accomplishment that will come along with creating a piece of art that makes you feel proud. This helps people continue to build self-esteem and gives them a reason to be pleased with themselves.
You may wonder, can drawing reduce stress? Drawing and painting are some of the most common exercises in art therapy. They are often used to help answer questions and relieve stress, too.
How Can Drawing and Painting Reduce Stress?
Studies done on art and active creativity’s impact on the brain have shown that dopamine levels often increased in patients who had newly creative outlets. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that often is low in patients with anxiety, depression, and excessive stress. Because art therapy has been seen to help increase these dopamine levels and help a patient feel happier, it is also an excellent choice for people with mental illnesses, such as chronic depression and anxiety.
What Do You Do in Art Therapy?
Okay, art therapy seems cool right? But you may be asking how exactly you can relieve stress with art therapy. Because it is the process of using any media to create any art, you may do a wide variety of things in an art therapy session or even for art therapy by yourself.
Here are just nine of the ways you can create in art therapy:
1. Ceramics and Clay Work
Ceramics and clay work are intimate forms of art that help people practice mindfulness and delicate design while allowing their minds to focus on something other than stressors.
Sculpting is another great tool used by many art therapists, especially to observe how people may work with their sculptures to understand them a bit better.
3. Doodling or Scribbling
Doodling and even scribbling are good methods of exercising emotions or anxiety in a situation. Many people who struggle with nervousness may find themselves doing this already in other public settings.
Collages are a fun method of using mixed media to create art. The client can choose a theme or dedicate their time to making a dream board.
Fabric work is another fun, delicate way to practice art therapy. Tie-dying and sewing are great ways to create, and the best part is that you can wear your work.
6. Coloring Books
Coloring books are simple stress relievers that can be used by people of any age, helping them focus on simple details and practicing mindfulness.
Textile work, while similar to fabric work, involves a wide variety of materials that can be interwoven together in any way, shape, or form the artist pleases. From crochet to knitting, textiles are another great art therapy exercise.
8. Art Journals
Art journals are great ways to practice art therapy both in and out of sessions. In addition, keeping sketchbooks with certain themes or specific notebooks for certain aspects of life might help you stay organized and inspired.
Photography is another enjoyable method of art therapy. Photography enables the artist to take pictures of anything, whether they love or hate them.
Can Drawing Help Reduce My Stress?
The short answer is yes. Drawing, painting, and other forms of creativity can be used as stress relievers for most people who try them.
Studies have shown that most people who try art as a form of therapy or stress relief have experienced significant reductions in their cortisol levels when doing so. Cortisol is a naturally occurring hormone that often appears in high levels in people who are stressed out. The higher the cortisol levels, the more stressed out a person may be. According to a study done for the journal Art Therapy, when cortisol levels were taken both before and after participants engaged in 45 minutes of creating art, researchers found that 75% of the people involved had lowered cortisol levels after.
Can I Do Art Therapy by Myself?
Yes! Although one aspect of typical art therapy is to also have a licensed therapist to help you through your emotions, you can also practice art therapy on your own when needed.
There are many art therapy exercises you can do by yourself. Here are a few:
1. Keep Sketchbooks and Notebooks
Many people in art therapy carry one or even multiple sketchbooks around with them. Some people use different sketchbooks for different things. For example, you can use one sketchbook to draw how you feel and maybe another for when you feel inspired. Keeping the sketchbooks on you also helps you to give yourself a little break when you need one.
2. Coloring and Coloring Books
While many adults may look at coloring as a childish thing, there are actually many mental health benefits that come with coloring. Using a coloring book can help your brain finally slow down. Coloring has been seen to play a role with your amygdala, also known as the brain’s fear center. Coloring helps people practice mindfulness and is especially helpful for those who feel constantly stressed or nervous all of the time.
3. Painting, Drawing, or Doodling
Painting, drawing, and doodling are great ways to practice mindfulness and get more in tune with yourself and your emotions. Whether you know the direction you want to take or begin by aimlessly doodling, the creative process will help you deal with stressors in your life by bringing your attention to something new.
Scrapbooking can be a helpful form of art therapy in a variety of ways. Many people who make this form of art will relate their book to a specific theme. This theme could be anything from a specific time in your life to a collection of all the things that make you happy. Scrapbooking can include a mix of media as well as cutting and pasting, allowing those who may not feel too artistic to be creative, too.
Art As a Stress Reliever
Ultimately, art can be a fantastic stress reliever for people of all ages. Whether you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, or trauma, art therapy can help you learn how to express yourself in new ways and reduce stress in the process.
Imani is a writer who is passionate about helping others through her work. Her own struggles with mental health and experience in therapy give her a unique perspective to empathize with our patients and readers. Her experiences influence the articles that she writes. In her free time, Imani enjoys traveling, making YouTube videos, reading, and obnoxiously singing to show tunes.
*All blog content that is written by Imani is approved by a licensed mental health professional.*