How often do we get to express ourselves freely?
Children draw pictures and sing songs at schools, having the opportunity to express themselves regularly. However, those opportunities fade as we grow. Freely expressing our feelings and experiences has proven highly effective in reducing stress. Conversely, the more we have to suppress ourselves, the more stressed we’ll be without even realizing. This may eventually lead to depression and other serious mental health issues. Many people love movies, music, paintings, and other artists’ works as entertainment and/or relaxation. While the enjoyment of other people’s art is a great stress-relieve in itself, self-expression through expressive art therapy has its own positive effects on mental health.
Stress Relief Through Expressive Art
When we think of creativity, we may think of it as a profession like writing novels, painting, or composing music. This gives the impression that it’s something complex. In reality, creativity is simply giving shape to your inner self and outwardly expressing anything that comes from within. Freely expressing our inner feelings leads to a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. While it’s an effective method in relieving stress, many of us have limited opportunities to do so.
Social media is an easy place where we can share our experiences and feelings in the form of photographs and short sentences. However, the public visibility of it may limit our output. The fear of embarrassment and criticism makes it a difficult place to present ourselves freely. Therefore, art therapy using expressive art is a very effective method of stress relief that has positive effects on mental health.
What Is Art Therapy?
In general, art therapy aims to nurture self-awareness and growth through the act of drawing. There’s also “arts therapy,” which refers to painting, music, dance, drama, and poetry. Therapeutic art has gained interest over the years, and many medical facilities have implemented all kinds of arts therapy including; painting therapy, miniature-crafting therapy, etc.
Self-Expressive Art Therapy is Good for the Brain
Art therapy can improve our blood circulation because we move our fingers and activate the brain. The neurotransmitter dopamine also increases, promoting a sense of calmness in the brain.
An experiment measured cortisol levels in the saliva of participants before and after a drawing class. Cortisol is also known as a stress hormone and it increases when we feel stressed. Results showed that cortisol levels decreased by more than 10% in approximately 60% of subjects after the class.
Self-expression gives us a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. Therefore, expressive art through drawing is a great method of stress-relief. It’s an easy practice to incorporate into our daily lives, because we can draw any time, anywhere. Just as long as we have a pen and paper. This, therefore, makes it an excellent self-care exercise.
Easy Art Therapy Through Coloring
Drawing is a useful self-care method, but you may end up feeling more stressed if you don’t think you’re good at it. If that’s the case for you, may I suggest coloring? Coloring-in your favorite colors can make you feel relaxed and releive stress.
All you need to do is pick up your favorite colors and fill in the pre-drawn outlines in a coloring book. It’s not nearly as difficult as drawing from scratch. You don’t have to think too much, so you can relax and simply shift your focus on coloring. For instance, try using different colors that reflect your mood and create a unique piece of expressive art. This is a great way to relieve stress if you’re not confident in drawing. Moreover, here are many coloring books for adults available at bookstores or online. Coloring is a great easy starter in art therapy for stress relief. Let’s give it a try!
Expressive art is easy, relaxing, fun. What’s more, it’s very good for our mental health. For a more detailed dive into how to practice art therapy, check out the article below. Try a few different exercises in expressive art and see which one works for you!
Nakamichi, Y., Samejima, M., Shouzhi G., Sugiura, T. Picture therapy and the evaluation of its effect on relaxation by salivary cortisol. (2006). Bulletin of Department of Nursing, Seirei Christopher College. (14), 169-176. https://ci.nii.ac.jp/naid/110005857929
Ito Rumi. Thoughts on Art Therapy and Art Education. (2014). Human Relations. (13), 139-152. https://ci.nii.ac.jp/naid/110009884320