Updated: May 6
How engaging in the creative process can promote wellbeing and lead to personal and professional insight
When we think of self-care, oftentimes the first thing that comes to mind is a visit to the spa, perhaps an indulgent weekend with friends or some kind of physical pampering. I choose to define my version of self-care more broadly than that. To me it is engaging in an activity that has no ‘productive’ purpose rather than my own, immediate enjoyment. The recent quarantine has put a lot of things in perspective for me and I am sure many others. It has also unleashed my creativity like nothing else. To be 100% honest- it has been a pleasure (am I even allowed to say that?) I have spent more time with my art supplies in the last 3 weeks than in the last 3 years and it has done wonders for my mental health and my sense of perspective. It has helped me return to an inner centre that was hidden in the inertia of the metropolitan hustle.
Art Making As Therapy
I started an art journal about 3 weeks ago. It wasn’t an intentional act- I simply found a beautiful journal I was given for my last birthday and decided to take advantage of it. It is a combination of writing, drawing, painting, doodling, collage, ink. The pages are filled with images and words that pop into my head. It was my subconscious pouring out on the page in a way I didn’t anticipate when I started it.
I recently completed an online course on Art Therapy, as many of the wellness workshops I run naturally go in that direction- I wanted to know more. What I realized is that I have been participating in a creative meditation practice in the form of my sketchbook. The course facilitator talked about letting images float into your conscious mind and not judging them- just letting them appear. There was something so therapeutic about engaging in the act of ‘making’ that I have almost filled the whole sketchbook and like a good book, I am dreading running out of pages.
Art Making & Creative Problem Solving
I spent a few days stuck in the mud after the COVID distancing rules hit and the more I made art the more my brain began to generate new ideas on how to overcome, pivot, innovate. Keeping my sketchbook practice allowed me to prime my mind for innovation. Oftentimes I would be drawing something- following a train of thought and an idea would miraculously ‘pop’ into my head. This is the magic of convergent and divergent thinking in action. You have to be in a state of flow for that kind of connectivity to happen and nothing is more effective than creative tasks like drawing, writing- anything that engages your hand-mind connection.
Art Making and Relaxation
Try not being relaxed while colouring in a flower you just drew or writing your thoughts out. We are physically incapable of it- our brain doesn’t roll that way. If you are like me and traditional meditation is rather difficult for you you will love active meditation through art. It puts your brain in a similar state as traditional meditation and you receive all the mental health benefits while creating something unique and satisfying.
3 tips for starting your own art journaling practice
Grow where you are planted
I know a lot of people are intimidated by a solid, blank book and we all come with a full range of art skills, materials etc.
It is important that you understand that the journal is more about the process than the outcome. We don’t need to aim for some perfectly instagramable page- this is private- it’s for you and there are no right answers. Just go with the flow.
Preparation is key to starting and maintaining an art practice of any kind. Gather some materials for your journal. They don’t have to be complicated- something as simple as pencil crayons; a few different coloured pens; clippings from old magazines...keep them all in the same place preferably in the same box.
Be kind to yourself when you are first beginning, especially if this is the first time you have picked up an art supply in your life. It’s funny, but when it comes to making art people have this idea that you either got it or you don’t, when in fact it’s a skill like any other. You would not expect a six pack after a single visit to the gym, so don’t expect to find your voice on the first try.
Lean into the initial discomfort and go for it. Magic lies beyond.