For a lot of us, access to our creativity ends once art is no longer a required course in order to graduate. We hang up the markers, colored pencils, watercolor paints, and convince ourselves we’re “not very artistic,” when that actually isn’t a requirement for this form of self-expression. Studies show that the levels of cortisol, a stress-related hormone, drastically drop when we spend time making art. Artistic or not, we all deal with stress. So maybe it’s time we explore the avenue of arts and crafts as a form of self-care.
Art therapy is a long-standing mental health practice using art materials and creative expression to treat those who experience anxiety, depression, social difficulties, or medical ailments. By creating art, no matter the skill level, we engage our mind, body, and spirit in a way that is restorative and comes with a host of benefits. Practicing art therapy helps to reduce stress and anxiety, while also increasing self-esteem.
When we create art, we’re able to look outside of ourselves and see the world around us with new eyes. We bring our attention to the piece we’re creating, or the photo we’re taking and all the details that bring it to life. It’s a low-intensity act that doesn’t leave us feeling depleted, but instead soothed and more open-minded.
In the study highlighting how creating art lowers cortisol levels, it was uncovered that participants not only found the session relaxing and enjoyable, but also helpful in learning about new aspects of self. Without the normal constraints, they were able to indulge in a sense of flow and lose themselves in the work. Their sense of confidence was also impacted in that they left feeling interested in creating more art in the future.
Though we may not all have access to an art therapist, there are simple ways in which we can make it part of our daily lives. Here are some tips on incorporating arts and crafts into your self-care routine:
Buy an adult coloring book.
Adult coloring books began gaining mainstream traction in 2015 and were initially written off as frivolous but can be one of the easiest ways to incorporate art into your day-to-day life. They’re exactly what the name suggests, coloring books with easy to follow, or complex yet therapeutic imagery made for a mature audience.
I recently got my hands on the 24 Shades of Business coloring book by Entrepreneurs Color Too and absolutely love it!
Enroll in a beginner’s art class (or attend a paint and sip!)
Tapping into our creativity through art is also a great way to make our lives more social. We can build a connection with other like-minded individuals by joining a beginner’s art class, which can help with feelings of loneliness or social anxiety.
If you’re already content with your circle, try grabbing a friend and attending a paint and sip somewhere nearby! These sessions are generally guided by an instructor with an easy to follow piece of art, and they incorporate wine–what’s not to love?!
Create a vision board.
Vision boards aren’t solely reserved for the start of the new year. They can be expanded upon throughout the year as your goals, dreams, and ambitions evolve. Vision boards help materialize the ideas we have in our minds and spark a sense of motivation.
Step outside the box.
You may not be the best at drawing or painting, but why not give sewing, sculpting, or photography a try. Manipulating textures, and creating items you can actually use is both calming and fulfilling.
If photography is more your thing taking a walk outside to snap photos with your iPhone can help you see things you never once noticed in your own backyard.
Or, keep it simple.
Using art as a means of self-care doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as doodling on a piece of paper or taking a pencil and drawing what’s in front of you for five minutes each day. The main goal is to free your mind and allow yourself the space for self-expression.
Self-care knows no bounds and doesn’t have to be limited to an idea of what others say you’re “supposed” to do. Taking a few moments each day or week to incorporate arts and crafts into your routine may be the novelty you need to truly unlock the sense of peace and clarity you desire.