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Color Outside of the Lines

A guide to using art as therapy

Art is a fantastic coping mechanism and tool for emotional healing, wellness, self-care, stress relief and therapeutic creative expression—particularly during these post-pandemic times.
    Making art aids in healthy, mindful communication and expression of feelings and emotions—such as grief, depression and trauma … what we’ve all been experiencing in recent years. It is a fantastic mindful coping mechanism and brings more clarity. 
    There are many creative ways to utilize art in our daily lives to practice healthy expression.
    There is a strong connection between the arts and mental health (including self-care, wellness, self-love, mindfulness, attention, creativity and even improved cognition) and overall well-being.
    Therapeutic art provides a way to gain insight and understanding through self-expression. Art especially helps when words alone do not (with feelings, thoughts and emotions).
    The creative process can help you identify and express those deep and difficult anxious feelings that we all feel sometimes. The process of creating art can be very calming and brings more self-awareness, which helps soothe stress, nervousness and irritability.
    Creating art actively helps you visually express and record experiences, perceptions, feelings, and imagination all while enhancing your physical, mental and emotional well-being. Expression through art can help you gain insight, self-awareness, and it can even rejuvenate your capabilities to resolve and reconcile conflicts and problems.
    Art making can help facilitate change. The art assists with developing interpersonal, physical, cognitive, emotional and social skills for healthy communication.
    Art as self-care aids in increasing self-esteem/self-love/confidence and self-expression. Art is a healthy and fun coping mechanism. It helps people explore self-expression, such as new creative ways to gain personal insight and develop new coping skills.
    The act of creating art calms the nervous system, promotes mindfulness, focus (reduction of over stimulation from outside sources), and the sense of accomplishment from creating a piece of art. Art exploration can aid in reducing anxiety by encouraging expression of feelings, problem solving and goal setting, which aids in working towards improved thinking patterns. Art is especially helpful when verbal expression is limited.
    Art is an encouraging playful form or expression, and is especially great for kids. At Art Therapy OC, I work with all ages, families, and various groups and populations, offering a wide variety of “Creative Healthcare Wellness Workshops” to choose from and much more.
    Some uplifting helpful art activities offered are painting, crafting and clay, creating a Vision collage (setting goals is helpful, especially aiding in anxiety that may come with the new year and healing from the pandemic), Gratitude Journal (focusing on things you are grateful for can reduce anxiety), Affirmation art (ex: reflect on affirmations to help cope with anxious feelings), Mandala art (creating patterns is mindful and meditative and helps reduce heightened emotions), expressive abstract art, emotion wheel/color therapy (a mind body connection), are just to name a few helpful art activities I offer which all aid in anxiety and more from the therapeutic world of art.
    Everyone is a creative expressive artist and it’s the process, not the product that matters most. Art can help everyone.
    Diana Shabtai, Psy.D., ATR-BC, may be reached at diana@arttherapyOC.com. Her website is ArtTherapyOC.com.

Diana Shabtai, Psy.D., ATR-BC. is a contributing writer to Kiddish Magazine.




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