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Creative Wellness: Blending the arts with your wellbeing for mindful self-expression and healthier habits

Creative Wellness: The blending of the arts with your wellbeing for mindful self-expression and healthier habits.


Creative photo of the author taken as a self-portrait. She poses with her left arm raised and resting atop her head, wearing a black turtleneck sweater. The lighting is jungle green and magenta pink and there is a foggy haze effect created.

Personally, I have been an artist since I could hold a crayon. A few years back my Dad had found some old documents of his from work that I had scribbled on - some of my very first pieces of artwork. It turns out that I am still a big fan of doodling as I often find myself scribbling away on whatever piece of paper I have lying around nearby. I also find that it helps me pay attention so I tend to employ it when I am in meetings and so on. 


Anyways, the point of this blog post is not to discuss my personal journey with art but to talk about how art and wellness make for a wonderful combination and can be a fantastic way to be more mindful. This post is going to look at why it can be such a good mindful tool, why it works well with wellness and what exactly constitutes ‘art’. 


The primary reason for art being a great mindfulness tool is that it can help us induce a ‘flow state’. 


A flow state is when you find yourself completely immersed in whatever it is that you are doing and it is happening for you in such a smooth, organic manner that it feels effortless and as though time ceases to exist. Productivity during this period is often at a peak and yet you will barely notice as it feels so natural and so wonderful. You are entirely in the zone: nothing distracts you - you are fully present. Which means that you are embodying precisely what it means to be mindful! It is entirely effortless.


The tricky thing about a flow state is that it is not easily induced - it is not usually something we sent out to do on a particular day for a particular thing. Rather, it happens for us and it can happen at any point in time. That does not mean that we cannot do things that help us find our flow! So fear not. In fact, as I mentioned before, art is one of the ways we can help bring us into a flow state. A big reason for this is due to the fact that art is rooted in creativity and imagination. It is free and unrestricted which is exactly what a flow state embodies. Without this freedom we would be too constricted and we would therefore never be able to reach a flow state. 


Close up shot of a pencil sketch made by the author. It features a river winding through a pasture with mountains in the background and a sun rising between the peaks. There is a pencil lying on the paper.

As you can probably suss out by now, a flow state is literal mindfulness. It is the state of awareness that we seek to reach when we practice mindfulness. It is a physical example of being present. 


And it does not matter what kind of art you create either. As long as you are creating and employing your imagination. In fact, there are even points where you do not have to use your imagination (although it definitely helps)! Think of colouring books for instance - the artwork is predetermined, ll you have to do is colour it in but even the act of colouring something in can help us reach a flow state/be present. We have to focus on colouring within the lines dowe not? We have to pay attention to the colours we use. And so on and so forth.


Now how does art tie into wellness?


For starters (and the most obvious) is to think of art therapy, which is a long-used practice that many healthcare professionals have employed across a wide array of healthcare services. Art therapy is used in rehabilitation to help regain motor function after accidents. It is used to help many psychological disorders and to help improve mental health as well as helping improve social skills and communication. The list goes on. My point is, that art therapy is one of the first connections we can make between art and wellness. 


From a mindful and wellbeing point of view, art is used in wellness to help with the following:

  • Improve mental health

  • Augment imagination

  • Enhance communicative skills

  • Boost self-confidence 

  • Help us relax

  • Guide us into a flow state



Improve mental health


Art can be extremely beneficial for mental health because it is meant to be something practiced in leisure. Therefore we are putting ourselves in a space of rest and relaxation whilst we practice art and this allows our brains to take a load off and rebalance itself. It helps us find our way back to equilibrium. This is necessary because we are simply not designed to be ‘on’ all of the time. Half our time should be spent ‘off’, in a space of full rest so that we can recover - not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.



Augment imagination


Art is one of the best ways to cultivate and grow your imaginative skills. I would go as far to say that it is compulsory! Imagination makes the world go round just as much as love does and it is vital to our strength and the continuation of humanity. We use imagination for everything from new scientific theories to making music to painting (of course). Without imagination we would live in an exceedingly dull world. It ensures that innovation remains alive and thriving and since it affects every aspect of life, it is important to individually develop it. Again art as wellness allows us to find space, let ourselves relax and also let ourselves play. It shows us that relaxation can be fun and fulfilling and even though we do not have to use it productively, by practicing art we help ourselves feel productive (we are doing something) as we relax at the same time.



Enhance communicative skills


We humans communicate in more than one way although our tendency is to rely on the spoken word. However we also speak using body language, intonation and emotion, written word, visuals and more. It means that art is a communication style and it is one that everyone can use regardless of age, nationality or physical ability. In fact, it can actually be a much more universal language than well…language because it is spoken by all. There are much less barriers with art. Speaking and writing are limited to the language one speaks, not to mention physical abilities - someone hard of vision will not be able to understand this post for instance unless it is read aloud to them or it is translated into a different medium. Same goes for people who do not read, speak or write in English. Art however, can be made much more inclusive (even if you cannot see colour). 


Art also allows those uncomfortable with more traditional, preferred methods of communication to communicate more clearly. To sum up: it makes everyone a lot less stressed and much happier. Obviously there is more to it but I am running out of writing space!



A photograph featuring a haiku written by the author. The haiku reads: Little love letters. Heartfelt declarations of, eternal promise. The photo is of white marble flooring and blue tiles with a maze-like pattern on them.

Boost self-confidence


Linking back to the previous point, incorporating art in you wellness routine will help your confidence go up because it helps you become more comfortable communicating both with yourself and with the world around you. As art is a form of expression, practicing it or engaging with it will help you learn how to express yourself in a clearer manner that you are comfortable with. 


Art gets you into your body. It is a tangible practice so you have to use parts of your body (or all of your body) to create it. This forms stronger connections between mind and body that help you feel more capable and in control of your actions/thoughts and so on.



Helps us relax


I have mentioned this one briefly already but I shall discuss it a little further now. Art is indeed therapeutic and it is therapeutic because it helps us relax. How does it help us relax? Art is an expression of our innermost soul so when we express ourselves through it, we are showing the world our self at our core (and all of our layers) - it is a vulnerable space, but by being raw and open we are showing people an intimacy which helps build trust. In doing so, we create safe spaces for ourselves and others which helps us all flourish, feel secure and therefore, relax. Even if we do not share our art, it still has the same impact because we are being open with our own selves so we trust ourself more (because we know ourself more deeply). 


Aside from that point, it also helps us relax because we are doing it simply to do it - there is no agenda, no need to fulfill. It is a want. And wants are a luxurious little delight to indulge in. Use them to let your mind, body and soul rest and reset. Give yourself the time to be soft and silly and sweet.



Guide us into a flow state


As discussed right at the beginning of this post, art is a gateway to reaching our flow state, so why not create art? Art lets us relax, it lets us express ourselves better, it strengthens the relationship between mind and body…soul too. This is precisely why it helps us reach a flow state. Because we enter the realm of ‘yin’ - to describe it simply. Yin is the ‘being’ state, it is where we exist purely to exist. It is softness, it is nurturing, it is nourishing, it is replenishing. Yin is opposite to ‘Yang’ which is the ‘doing state’ where we focus on action/being active. 


Sometimes we need to do. The rest of the time we need to be.



The author is photographed dancing in fresh snow as more snow falls around her. She is on a road and it is all white as the snow falls. She is eating all black and stands out amongst the snow. She is smiling.

It should also be noted that art is something that is accessible to everyone regardless of age or physical ability. To paraphrase Jeff Goldblum’s character from Jurassic Park - Dr. Ian Malcolm - “Art will find a way”. 


Oh, and spoiler alert: You do have to be an artist to create art!


Although this is and of itself is total garbage so let me rephrase that because:


We are all artists. 


Every single one of us is inherently artistic but it simply gets expressed in many varied ways and not every way is automatically recognised as art. To put it simply: as long as you are creating, you are making art. This can look like developing a new medicine, website coding, building a home, sculpting, filming, doodling, tapping a beat with you foot…well…you get the idea.


Please please please do not think that just because you do not paint or draw that means you are not an artists. Sure, you are not a visual artist (emphasis on the ‘visual’) but you art still an artist. An artist is someone who creates things (art) and firstly, creation is found everywhere, Secondly, art is entirely subjective so anything and everything can be art.



Beach scene with five rocks stacked upon each other. Many other rocks fill up the beach and the sky is stormy grey and full of windswept clouds.

So, next time you feel stressed or anxious or in need of some wellness, try incorporating art into it and see what you think. Take up knitting, painting, photography, woodworking, pottery, making jewellery, arranging rocks in cool patterns, collaging, designing paper planes, testing out a new recipe, dancing, choreographing a roller-skating routine or building a raft from recycled materials, build sandcastles, make potions out of tea (or river water - just don’t drink the river water), build a blanket fort in your living room and defend it from an angry dragon…the list is endless expanse!  


I hope whatever you end up doing - it may require a bit of trial and error at first - you have a lot of fun and make some beautiful memories. Have fun with it and let yourself relax. You deserve it.


Until next time,

Jamila

 

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