Art Heals: Express Yourself and Reduce Stress with Art

Art Heals: Express Yourself and Reduce Stress with Art

by Debbie Lyn Toomey


Ever have a terrifying nightmare from childhood that sneaks up on you?

Similar to the usual “falling” dream that some people have, I have one that I call the “Tidal Wave” dream and it happened last weekend. Thanks to art, I was able to rise above the lingering feelings of dread. By drawing and coloring, I literally “drew” out the feelings of uncertainty that stayed with me all morning long.

Nightmare

I hadn’t had this type of nightmare in a long time. I was confused as to why it occurred again. Frankly, I thought I was over that type of dream a long time ago! The last time I had the “Tidal Wave” dream I woke up happy! I was so proud of myself because, instead of being swallowed up by the Statue of Liberty size wave, I was riding the wave with a big smile on my face boldly going where ever it took me.

Transformed

I woke up feeling transformed. That was about 5 years ago when I started to feel more confident and clear about my life’s work (the big “W” work/life purpose one). That was around the time when I started my company Ultimate Healing Journey, LLC, a company focused on motivating and coaching today’s busy people with happiness and mindfulness skills to fuel their success. It was an exciting time!

Wave

Why did the wave dream came back? That dream first occurred when I was much younger; when I didn’t feel strong or sure of myself. Back then, this tsunami size wave would come out of nowhere and swallow me up causing me to gasp for air and fight for my life. I hated that sinking feeling of fright that always stayed with me for days. Although, the Tidal Wave in my recent dream disappeared way before it got to me (thank God!), it still shook me up.

Morning

I thought I was done with this dream! I wondered what could have brought it on. At breakfast, I told me family about it. I always encouraged my family to share their nightmares because I feel it was a good way to chase the nightmares away. In other words, the dark always disappears in the light.

River

After breakfast, my family and I took advantage of an unusually dry and cool August morning and went for a walk down along the Neponset River. The nice day and the cool breeze made it a great day for boaters and fishermen to be out on the relaxing waters. It was such a beautiful scene to watch. I really enjoyed that walk.

Tsunami

Later that day, I found myself sitting at my desk with a blank white piece of paper and a pencil. I decided to draw. The image I started with was the Tidal Wave. It took up 95% of my paper! At the bottom of the page was a tiny stick figure of me as if looking up at the gigantic body of water. I was taken aback when I saw it right in front of me. As I colored this all-consuming wave with my light blue colored marker my breathing soon became fast and shallow. It brought up feelings of frustration and powerlessness and of being overwhelmed! It was strange (and interesting) how my kindergarten looking drawing reflected how I’ve been feeling for the last few weeks.

Stress

The last few weeks have been tiring and tough for me. I did my best to stay afloat of what was going on. I had self-imposed stress such as creating the coloring book companion for my book and trying to get my mindfulness study approved. I also had other stressors that were beyond my control which included dealing with a strange water leak that happened on my birthday and having to go without my car for 2 weeks, helping my 79-year-old mother after having total knee replacement surgery, coping with the fact that my oldest son was ready to move out of our house, and helping my nervous 12-year-old son get excited for his week-long boy scout camping.

Depressed

Thank goodness it wasn’t a typically month for me. Despite my self-care routine of yoga, mindfulness meditation, and gratitude practice, I still felt down and depressed. I hadn’t felt like this in a long time. This became clear as I looked at my finished drawing.

Peace

I decided to draw the image that I saw during my morning walk. On a separate piece of white paper, I drew the river and the boats that were on the water. I found peace in that piece. I outlined the bench that my husband and I sat on and added the shrubs and flowers that were at the river’s edge. As I colored, a deep and soothing breath filled my lungs. It made me smile. Although, my art work was far from being a Renoir filled with pastels and pretty color, it was a relaxing work of art! I noticed my breathing change. It was slower and deeper. There was nothing stressful about my drawing. Then, I took another step.

Feelings

I compared both pictures. I noticed how different they were and how they made me feel. Then, I wrote down on one side of the Tidal Wave picture how the image made me feel. I wrote down my stressors and what caused me sadness. As I listed them, I was surprised at how many I had. The more I wrote, the more my head nodded with agreement.

Balance

I did the same thing with my other drawing. In that one, I wrote down how it made me feel. I wrote that I wanted to have balance, fun, and time to relax and be with my family. Then, I wrote down I how I would like to feel. A couple of ideas came to mind. One was to simplify and slow down my calendar. I created a schedule that included activities and projects that I needed and wanted to do. I made sure I allowed for extra time to rest and have fun. Another idea was to invite my parents over for a homemade pizza dinner so we can see each other and catch up.

Tides

These two drawings were such an eye opener for me. While they were opposites, they gave me an important insight into my internal and downward turbulence. This visual expressive exercise healed me! It freed up so much of what I was feeling in such an innocent and tangible way. I highly recommend this exercise to anyone who is feeling stressed. While a nightmare was the motivator behind my experience, you can start doing this now to determine how you are feeling.

Express

Allow art to heal you from your pain and reduce your stress. All you have to do is express yourself. According to the American Art Therapy Association, art is a form of therapy that helps people “explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem.” Don’t let the simplicity of this practice fool you. Art heals and you don’t have to have any artistic talent for it to help you. Any expressive medium can help you such as clay, paint, wood, music, dance, photography, etc.

Benefits

There are many studies that show the beneficial effects of art for healing, stress reduction, and personal growth. Art as form of therapy has helped people with ADD/ADHD, Autism Spectrum, Age management, Abuse, PTSD, Cancer, and so much more. Art as a form of therapy is found in many settings such as: hospitals, wellness studios, schools, and home. While it is becoming more widely used, it is always recommended for people with mental health problems to seek professional advice before undergoing any sort of treatment.

How?

For those of you who are not under the supervision and care of mental health professionals, there are simple ways to get started. Here’s how you can express yourself and reduce your stress with art.

1. Choose: Pick the expressive art medium that you like and start creating. Allow the medium to move you.

2. Compare: Do a comparison. Have a before and after version of how you are feeling. It could be a past vs. present or bad vs. good version.

3. Clarity: Accept the different feelings that come up and view them with no judgement. This will help you to avoid clouding your mind with any self-limiting or more negative thoughts.

4. Control: Notice how much a sense of calm, control and confidence comes to you with this exercise.

5. Create: Be creative in how you do this practice. Make this practice your own.

Happiness

Go forth and express yourself through art. You will be surprise at just how much better you will feel afterwards. A great way to get started is by coloring and to help you along, The Happiness Result Art Therapy Coloring book will be available to you by the end of the summer. Coloring books have been proven to calm the mind and reduce stress. It’s a great way to combine art with mindfulness. To learn more about its companion book, The Happiness Result. More time, More health, More love, More success go to www.TheHappinessResult.com.

Class

Master trainer and coach Patrick Howell and I are going to be offering an introductory online course on this topic soon. Please stay tuned for more information on this unique and fascinating art therapy class.

a-HAHS Tip #5: Easy Yoga Pose

I know you are busy, so I will keep my post quick today and remind you of this powerful tip that can make your day and another’s that much better.

Whether you’ve been doing yoga since the day you were born or not, here’s a pose that will turn your frown upside down.

This movement has been proven to boost levels of positivity within seconds. In fact, it’s so powerful that it can also make other people happy.

It’s a smile.

That’s right! This innate gesture has been proven to make people happy inside and out. This simple movement is enough to trick our brain when we are feeling badly into feeling better.

Try it next time you need a lift.

If you are looking for more ways to feel better in your life whether it’s reaching your goals or having support to gain more clarity in your life. Contact us at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com today to learn how A.W.E.S.O.M.E™ Life coaching can help you live your best life.

Pain Relief from Kindness and Laughter

Kindness & (1)-78834

 

Have you ever suffered from searing pain that…

  • drained the blood from your body and almost made you pass out?
  • kept you up all night?
  • made you feel depressed, hopeless, and scared that it will never get better?

It was exactly this time of the year last year that I was living in this nightmare. A year ago, I couldn’t walk without being in excruciating pain. Simple activities such as sitting, standing, and sleeping made me anxious and worried from the unexpected shooting pain. Both unfortunately and fortunately this painful episode lasted for about one month. While it was unfortunate that I experienced intense pain, it was fortunate that I saw a glimpse of what life was like for people living with chronic pain and importantly able to see firsthand the healing power of two unlikely techniques— an act of kindness and an act of laughter.

Dismal with Disability

What led to my temporary disability is still unknown to me.  I was in great shape last year! I had a personal trainer and worked hard at keeping my weight within a reasonable range. I felt good about myself, I had great energy, and I enjoyed seeing my favorite clothes falling nicely in areas that they were supposed to. To this day, I cannot pinpoint the very moment when it started. Over and over I asked myself.

Was it working out too hard and not stretching long enough?

Was it the way I slept?

Was it my new high heels I wore to match my holiday dress?

 Who knows? All I know was I was in pain and I felt miserable!

The Pain

I always took pride in having a high tolerance for pain but this one was nothing like I’ve ever experienced. I thought I knew what pain was. I’ve had plantar fasciitis on both feet as I worked 12 hour shifts as a nurse. I’ve had shooting sciatica pain from my pregnancies that would have me gripping the furniture or walls around me so I didn’t fall down. Lastly, I endured natural deliveries twice because my childbirth labor always came fast. But this holiday pain felt like a perfect storm of angry sciatica pain, tight hamstring muscles and back pain. The jolt of spasm would catch me so unexpectedly that I would gasp with pain and feel cold, sweaty, and pale from a head rush of blood, making me feel as though I was going to pass out.

Natural Cures

Although I am a nurse, I always went for natural cures before going to the doctors. Years of learning over a dozen proven Complementary Alternative Medicine techniques and Positive Psychology provided me with an array of modalities and techniques to try. I tried everything I had in my natural tool-box such as: Reiki, hot and cold compresses, muscle rubs, homeopathy, and magnets. I went for weekly chiropractic adjustments and deep tissue massages. Little by little I started to feel better but my recovery didn’t start to sky rocket until I did something different. That something different was doing something for someone else. I found that doing something good for someone else help me stop ruminating on my self-pity and suffering. It helped me think of someone else who I cared about and this made me feel better and better.

Doing Good to Feel Good

One day during my one of my more painful afternoons, I decided to do something to get my mind off my pain. I decided to contact an old friend, who had been going through a divorce. Because we had not been in contact for awhile I wasn’t sure how he was doing. When I did reach him, I told him that I was going to give him a special present that I called “7 Days of Cheer.” I explained to him that I was going to send him one pun per day for a week. Knowing that he was very busy, sending him daily puns was a great way for him to know I was thinking him and wishing him well. He agreed to play along and I started. Every day, I looked for puns that I loved; ones that made me laugh so hard that I couldn’t wait but send to him. The puns were silly but hilarious.

Happy Inside and Out

I loved reading the puns during the day because they made me feel happy inside and out. This new found idea was exciting and made me feel good. Each day I looked forward to finding just the perfect pun to send him. The more I sent him, the more I noticed I felt better and better. I noticed something profound that I had been teaching all along in my stress management and wellness workshops for busy professionals.  I noticed that doing kind deeds for someone else does boost your own happiness, decrease feelings of depression, and reduces pain levels.  Further, I noticed the very same thing with laughter as well. As a laughter yoga teacher for professionals, seniors, and cancer survivors, I knew that laughter also provides the same positive benefits. I was amazed at how laughing and doing kind deeds helped reduce my pain.

HotDog


Positivity for Pain Relief

Acts of kindness and laughter, although a very unlikely pairing, provide powerful doses of positivity that are sure to help with pain relief. Our natural pain killer hormones called endorphins are secreted within our brain and nervous system when acts of kindness  are done and with deep hearty laughter. Endorphins, our bodies’ natural pain killers, are similar to morphine that is prescribed by doctors for severe pain. What seemed like a great idea to distract me from pain while cheering up a good friend, quickly became a main source of pain relief. It was as if my inner physician knew what I needed to help me feel better, and I am grateful that I listened to her. It was no surprised that his 7-day gift became a 14-day gift. Not only did my friend enjoy my gift, I was able to experience the pain relief that both kindness and laughter had to offer. It was a holiday that I will always remember.

More on Kindness and Laughter

Both acts of kindness and laughter have much in common. They are known to:

  • decrease pain
  • boost levels of happiness
  • decrease levels of anxiety
  • lead to faster healing

Gifting the “7 Days of Cheer”

Are you or someone you know suffering from any sort of physical, mental, or emotional pain?

Would you like to try something that doesn’t cost anything except your time and energy to feel better?

Are you interested in applying simple techniques that can make you feel better whether or not you are suffering from pain?

I invite you to try the “7 Days of Cheer” with anyone of your family or friends. It’s a fun and unique way to feel good as you do something good for someone. It’s truly a gift that keeps on giving.

Here’s how you can start.

  1. Pick a family member or friend that you want to give a special gift to.
  2. Contact that person and let him or her know about what you want to do.
  3. Decide on the length of time you want to do it.
  4. Use the internet for funny images, quotes, or video clips.
  5. Begin.
  6. Notice how you feel.
  7. Repeat as necessary.
  8. Have fun.

Next time you feel miserable from physical, mental, or emotional pain try taking care of it by doing something positive for someone else. It will help you to put a stop to focusing on what feels bad and instead direct you towards what feels good. Remember that your body has the capacity to help you feel better by releasing natural feel-good hormones.

Got other natural and proven ways to reduce pain? Please comment below and share it with us.

Breathing Technique to Feel Better

Have you ever had one of those days where nothing seems to be working out well and you are left feeling frustrated and fuming?

Next time you’re feeling angry or anxious, try this breathing technique.

It’s called Belly Breathing. This technique reminds you to take deep diaphragmatic breaths. This will help you feel calm, cool, and collected.

Here’s how:

  • Place your hands on your stomach.
  • Inhale through your nose.
  • Notice your hands move as your stomach expands.
  • Exhale through your nose.
  • Notice your hands move as your stomach flattens.
  • Repeat until you feel better.

Try the Belly Breathing technique anywhere and anytime you notice you’re feeling out of control or stressed. This technique will surely make you feel so much better and in control of yourself. The more you feel in control, the happier you will be.

Need coaching to help you sustain your feelings of wellness and well being? Contact us at info@ultimatehealingjourney.com today.

New Normal

I don’t know about you but this summer has been a roller coaster of incredible and intense emotions. It has been filled with some endings and wonderful beginnings. Between my wedding anniversary, my two oldest sons’ graduations, birthdays, and new opportunities, this has been an unforgettable summer. It’s a summer that emphasizes having appreciation for those you love and how much they have impacted your life.

New-Normal
There’s a “new-normal” that’s unfolded for me. I learned about this description after spending an afternoon with a friend just days after losing his 84 year old father from cancer. As I sat with him in the park, he told me that now that his father has passed, both he and his mother had to get use to a “new normal” way of living.

Bittersweet
As for me and my family our “new-normal” takes on many bittersweet forms. Our “new normal” consists of adjusting to my oldest son living at home and working in Boston with a prospect of being relocated to Chicago. Another “new normal” change is getting used to not having my middle son home. This week kicks off his 1st week of living at college and away from home. Lastly, my other “new normal” is supporting my youngest as he starts a new school. In the grand scheme of things, my “new-normals” are all great news and certainly something that my husband and I are both proud of. It still does not help with the feelings of longing for the good-old-days of having everyone at home, all together, safe and sound, and silly-at-times. No matter what you call it – separation anxiety, the “new-normal” or simply life, is still painful. It hurts when you no longer have the person that you love near you to talk with and sit with like before.

Life
As a Health & Happiness Specialist™, I often share my own experiences in my programs. Happiness is nothing without pain or sadness. Life will deliver each of us good and not-so-good times. This is what makes life very interesting. Nothing good lasts forever and nothing bad lasts forever too. There a dynamic motion that propels us forward to become better than before if we allow it. The secret is to feel the negative emotions and allow them to surface so that we can move on. It’s when we hold on to our negative emotions that we start suffering in many ways that can manifest as severe depression, insomnia, gastro-esophageal reflux, chest pain, anger, over eating, and so much more.

3 Ways to Feel Better
Fortunately, with the increase in positive psychology research there are so many effective ways to help people cope with life’s challenges. The science of happiness has many solutions that help people grow and thrive so that they can be the best version of themselves.

Here are 3 ways to feel better:
1. Do something kind for others. When you think outside of your own situation and do kind deeds for others, you begin to feel happier.
2. Physical activity. Doing any type of physical activity is a positive way of releasing your sadness and stress.
3. Contact someone. Whether it is going to church to pray or calling up a friend. Connecting with others enhances relationships which often lead to greater happiness.

How about You?
If you are struggling with life’s ups and downs right now, trust that where there is darkness there also is light. If you need a coach to help you reach your personal or professional goals please contact Debbie Lyn at healthandhappinessspecialist@gmail.com

Why Happiness Fuels the Mind-Body-Spirit Connection

happinessIf you want to further your happiness and success, then having a mind-body-spirit connection is vital. If you are overcome with stress, unhappiness and depression then your emotional well-being will suffer. You may feel as though something is missing, and you may feel as though your life isn’t being lived to the best it can be. Your body is connected to your emotions and your spirit, so when one is upset, the others will follow. So what is the secret to a mind-body-spirit connection?

Happiness

When we are unhappy, we become detached from ourselves. This is a natural reaction, one that we use to protect ourselves. If you can learn to be happy then you can strengthen the connection that you have within yourself. There are many things that may make you unhappy in your day to day life, whether it is lack of support at work or simply the stress that you live through every single day. Although these things can’t be avoided, they can be re-evaluated with a positive outlook. For example, instead of thinking how bad your job is at work, be thankful of the support you have around you, be thankful that you are valued enough to work that position, and be thankful that you are giving your family a better life. Once we can begin to look at life from a different perspective, we can then begin to feel happier within ourselves, strengthening our mind, body and spirit connections. Happiness has a way of helping us feel not only connected with others but also with ourselves.

Love and Relationships

You can also help to fuel your mind-body-spirit connection by looking at those around you. If you have a family, think how lucky you are to have them by your side. When someone puts you down at work, think about how much love surrounds you at home, as opposed to the negativity that surrounds you at work. When you begin to appreciate the things around you, you can then shut off the negativity, which is the first step toward achieving true happiness and a strong mind-body-spirit connection. Experts say that social relationship is the greatest predictor of happiness. So next time you are with your friends and loved ones savor the moments that you have with them. This will surely help sustain your level of happiness to greater heights.