Psychologists have been studying art therapy and its benefits to mental health for decades. And often, they recommend art as an outlet for stress and other negative emotions.
This year’s inaugural CCT Wellness Week, which emphasised physical and mental health, provided many opportunities for tenants to engage in various forms of art, with the wide range of art workshops held.
If you missed them, here are some reasons to make time for art, as well as tips to get started.
Going with the flow
Art therapy has been proven to lower stress and anxiety levels. It does this effectively because the process of creating art generates a state of mind that psychologists refer to as flow. When we are in flow, our minds become wholly absorbed in present activities and sensations – paying close attention to only filling in a colouring book or the repetitive motions of Zentangle doodling, for example.
We “lose ourselves” in creating art and stop thinking about our problems, our stress or even any physical aches and exhaustion that we feel.
Flow has a relaxing effect similar to that of meditation, countering the body’s natural stress responses and clearing the mind.
Academic studies have shown that creating art makes us feel happier. That’s because the process triggers the release of a certain neurotransmitter in the brain: Dopamine. Dopamine makes us feel good and, more importantly, keeps us motivated. Increases in dopamine in the brain correspond to the anticipation of rewards and cause individuals to become more driven, persistent and optimistic in accomplishing tasks.
The sense of accomplishment that comes from completing an artwork – and in the long term, improving your artistic skills – can be very rewarding and can make you feel better about yourself and your abilities. The knowledge that you can pick up new skills and achieve concrete success also builds your sense of self-efficacy – the belief in your ability to achieve set goals. Approaching new challenges in other areas of your life is less intimidating when you’ve successfully made that mug for your aunt in pottery class.
Starting art therapy on your own
Any form of art can be your outlet: Drawing, scrapbooking or even cake decorating or pottery for the more ambitious. It all depends on your interests and how you prefer to express yourself. Here are some examples, inspired by activities during CCT Wellness Week 2018, to get you started:
Zentangle is a simple, spontaneous, abstract doodling exercise. You begin with a small square of paper and draw simple patterns, called “tangles”. You can repeat, rotate and even tangle the tangles. Don’t plan or think about the final product – just draw. Those who have tried Zentangle report not just fulfilling flow experience, but also newfound self-respect and validation of their own creativity.
2. Water brush lettering
Watercolour calligraphy is an easy introduction to calligraphy. The colours are bright and easy to blend and use, and yet permit for as many variations as your imagination can conceive. Different levels of difficulty in watercolour mixing and calligraphy techniques allow you to always be fully engaged even as your skills improve.
3. Bento making
Spend enough time on Instagram and you’ll come across Japanese lunchboxes that are too cute to eat. If you enjoy cooking, consider making your own bentos to cheer yourself up with healthy and fun-looking food. Cookbooks, online video tutorials and bento cutters are all easily available to get you started.