Feeling Stressed? Try These Calming Art Therapy Ideas
Create| By Amy Vagne | January 8, 2021
Did you know art and crafts can contribute to better mental health? These art therapy ideas might be just what you need.
After the events of 2020, is it any wonder we’re stressed? Art therapy could be the answer, helping us to feel calm and in control while also helping to manage mental health concerns, such as anxiety and depression. In making art, you’re looking to find flow – a state where you’re so absorbed by and immersed in a task that you’re no longer thinking about the outside world and its worries. The concept is advocated by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who, in an interview with Wired, describes flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” Try the following creative art therapy ideas and projects at home to help you achieve flow.
Working with clay, kneading it and sculpting it with your hands, is a great way to relieve any tension you may be feeling. As outlined in Art Therapy, it can reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and is also a wonderful means of self-expression. Why not try making a pinch pot or a series of mini sculptures inspired by your family members? Use white air drying clay and in a few days you can add the finishing touches with some colourful paint. Looking to expand your skills? Sign up for a pottery class and make beautiful bowls, cups and vases while connecting with your creativity.
What To Try
These complex circular symbols originated in Eastern spiritual traditions but renowned psychologist Carl Jung is credited with popularising them in the western world. Verywell Mind describes how colouring mandalas can help focus your mind and free it from worries, while creating feelings of balance, peace and tranquillity. To make a mandala, use a compass to create 3-5 concentric circles on a piece of paper. Using a ruler, dissect the circle by drawing straight lines, making 8 equal segments, like pieces of pie. Now it’s time to draw your design: start from the middle of the circles and work your way out, doodling loops, circles, triangles and raindrops. Work slowly and aim for a repetitive pattern – you want your mandala to be symmetrical and completely balanced. Once your mandala is complete you can leave it as is, or carefully colour in the various segments and shapes.
What To Try
The beauty of working with watercolours is enjoying the process – it’s simple, relaxing and a joy to watch as the paint mixes and flows together. For this project, you’ll need watercolour paints, a paintbrush, some water and watercolour paper. Make a watery paintdrop of any colour on the paper, then add a secondary colour to the drop. Watch as the colours mix together. Experiment with different colours and different-sized drops as you work to completely cover your piece of paper.
What To Try
Making collages is recommended by art therapists because it’s soothing, allows for self-expression and is approachable, with even beginners able to master it. There’s focus and concentration required, as you flip through old books and magazines to find words and images for collaging, and this means you haven’t got the time or space to think about other stresses. Plus, the repetition of cutting and pasting can produce a relaxed meditative-like state as your brain switches off and your hands take over. For an extra boost to your mental health, try making a gratitude collage, featuring all the things in your life that you’re grateful for, such as friends, family, pets, good health, a beautiful home, a job you love and so on.
What To Try
Put your spare time to good use, by making a beaded necklace or bracelet for someone special. The repetitive action of sliding beads onto thread is hypnotic and therapeutic; hands are kept busy while our brains are forced to focus – there can be no multitasking or rushing ahead. Instead, beads must be slipped on one at a time. Beading is a great activity to do with preschoolers as it develops their fine motor skills and introduces concepts such as patterns and sorting colours and shapes, plus you get to spend quality time relaxing together.
What To Try
Still Life Drawing
Looking for an art project to quiet your mind? Still life drawing is relaxing, slow and precise, with an emphasis on perfecting proportions and capturing shapes and forms. A still life is a representation of inanimate objects, usually everyday items like cups, fruit or flowers. It’s an art-making process that requires a whole lot of concentration and attention to detail, while the set-up itself calls for creativity and critical thinking. In capturing a still life scene, artists should use various sketching and shading techniques.