Mindfulness and Happiness Through Art Making
by Debbie Lyn Toomey
Are you a doodler or a dabbler of any arts?
As a visual learner and self-taught artist, I’ve always turned to some form of art making activity to help me quiet my mind and soothe my spirit. I love creating anything with my hands. I love to draw, paint, take pictures, etc. I remember many years ago, in nursing school, I used art to help me study. I used to draw what I learned in my science classes to help me remember what I was learning. For me, using art this way provided me with a positive outlet to help handle my stress. The mindfulness and happiness I experience through art has always been a game changer for me.
Any form of arts therapy based exercises put me in the state of flow. The concept of flow according to positive psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is the secret to happiness. When you are in the state of flow, you are in “the zone.” The zone is where you are fully immersed in an activity and your whole being comes to life. It’s mindfulness in motion at its best! Being in flow, makes you lose track of time because of the combination of doing something you love and pushing yourself to the next level. Art making is one of my favorite mindfulness practices because it helps me get into the zone and makes me happier.
As a workshop leader and mindfulness educator, I introduce arts therapy based exercises to my participants. I use art making as another form of mindfulness to help people reduce stress. Mindfulness is being in the present moment purposely and with no judgment. And what better way to explain that definition than through art. I use art therapy based interventions as an avenue for people to add play to their day and to feel better.
My signature workshops incorporate positive psychology, the science of happiness and mindfulness, for people of all ages. There is something magical about taking time for art that makes everyone excited. When I pull out the colored pencils and paper and explain the art making technique that I am about to cover, the room is silent and all eyes are on me. It’s a class that everyone absolutely loves! There is a general sense of relief when I explain that not only are they creating art but also experiencing a mindfulness state that reduces stress, increases focus, and boosts their sense of wellbeing.
Art making is not about having a perfect and professional looking master piece. It’s about the creative process that gives way to self-healing, personal transformation, and mindfulness. The process of creation is as important as the end product that reveals so much of what you are not able to put into words.
Here’s how you can access mindfulness through art making and become happier.
1. Preference – Determine what form of expressive art you love. If you don’t have a preference, try doodling. Doodling is spontaneously drawing lines on a piece of paper. Doodling has been found to help with remembering and retaining information.
2. Supply– Have your supplies readily available and accessible. If it is out of sight, then it is out of mind. Keep it visible so that you will remember to do it when you need it most. Have extra supplies at work and in your bag. Set yourself up for success and keep your arts therapy based tools handy.
3. Exercise– When you are doing your arts therapy based exercise, notice the feelings and emotions that you have before, during, and after the practice. What did you learn about yourself and the situation that might have upset you.
4. Masterpiece– Study your art piece and non-judgmentally observe what you did. Are you getting any insights or inspirations? Are there any surprises from what you are seeing?
5. Write– Journal about your experiences to learn more about the art piece you have in front of you. You may start the journal by completing this sentence:
“This art piece is about…” Write for a few minutes until you feel you have flushed out as much hidden meaning as possible from what you just created.
6. Read– When you are done writing, read what you wrote. You will learn more from doing this.
If the pen is mightier than the sword then, next time you are stressed, pick up a pen (or colored pencil) and make your mark on a piece of paper and express yourself. Give yourself permission to take the time to do this. Pour your feelings and emotions in between the strokes. Notice how you feel during the whole process. The more you do this, the more you will gravitate to it as a stress reducing activity that makes you feel better and happier.
If you love to color, my latest book is going to be ready soon! The Happiness Result Art Therapy Coloring Book – Express and Enjoy Yourself is going to be available on Amazon early next week – just in time for the holidays! Get one for yourself. It will be the perfect stocking stuffer for your friends and family.
For instant arts therapy ideas and inspiration, my online course that I created with master trainer, Patrick Howell is ready for you to access at a special price. It is called, Therapeutic Arts: Art Therapy Based Practice for Self-care, Stress-reduction, and Mindfulness. This comprehensive course will introduce you to more art therapy based practices. Here’s the link to help you get started https://www.udemy.com/artstherapycourse/?couponCode=NEWSLETTER .
I hope that you take advantage of the great resources that I provided for you to help you add more mindfulness and happiness to your day. See you in the class.