Contributed by: Jane Sandwood

Photo by Henrik Dønnestad on Unsplash

Learn to shout with art: it can help free you from the turmoil inside your mind. One in six U.S. adults lives with a mental illness (44.7 million in 2016) at any one time. Understanding the complexity of a mental illness can be a struggle and varies enormously from individual to individual. Self expression through art is now gaining recognition as stress reliever and as a tool to improve mental health. Some find writing down their thoughts can aid as an outlet for expression and enlightenment as it can often be hard to talk about one’s feelings. Dr. James W. Pennebaker has conducted a range of research on the impact of expressive writing in order to be able to process thoughts and learn to better regulate their emotions in order to ease the effects of stress and trauma.

Art Therapy

When mental health issues arise, a solution is not always obvious so managing your feelings can make a huge difference. Anyone diagnosed with a mental illness will receive a range of clinical services in their community. Medication, treatments and therapies will vary according to a prescribed treatment plan. In conjunction with other treatments, there are four regulated art therapies, namely dance, drama, music and visual arts. No previous experience is required as the aim is not in the outcome, but in the formation of a piece of art. It is the process of creating in order to better understand yourself, combined with the stimulation of the intellectual side of the brain, which aids to break up the mental cycle.

Art At Home

Art therapy is best practiced with a trained arts therapist practitioner. The beauty with art though is that it can be portable. For some, creativity and self expression may be more likely to transpire within a safe, manageable environment such as the home. In fact, the stress of a situation can be translated into art at any time and in any location. However happiness can also take place on a piece of paper, there are easy guides to drawing colorful, cartoon flowers as a starting point.

Draw On

If you don’t think you are artistic, do not fret. No one has to see you practicing your dance moves in the hallway. Try drawing in the dark, that way you can keep your inner critic silenced until after you have produced a composition. Surprise yourself. If you have low self esteem, the act of completing an artistic task can be hugely beneficial. Of course, there are always tips on how to write better that you can draw on too. To interpret the complexity of feelings during a mental health episode can be near impossible without a voice. Often art helps with finding that voice and provides a way to communicate at a time of despair.