How often do we get to freely express ourselves? Children draw pictures and sing songs at schools, having regular opportunities for free self-expression. 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 it. This may eventually lead to depression and other serious mental health issues. Did you know that self-expressive art is an effective and easy way to reduce stress?

Water color paint, various paint brushes, and a blank notepad on a table
Image: Unsplash

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-reliever in itself, self-expressive art therapy has its own positive effects on mental health.

Stress Relief Through Self Expression Therapy

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. Free expression of our inner feelings leads to a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. While it’s an effective method of relieving stress, many of us have limited opportunities to do so.

Woman painting flowers in the outdoors
Image: Unsplash

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. Self-expressionism has many positive effects in terms of mental health.

What Is Art Therapy?

In general, art therapy aims to nurture self-awareness and growth through the act of drawing. Regardless of your skill level or experience, drawing can be effective in stress relief through the act of artistic self-expression. 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, but not limited to, painting therapy, miniature-crafting therapy, etc.

Many people sitting on the floor and drawing expressively
Image: Unsplash

Self Expression in 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.

Smiling sitting at a desk and holding a paintbrush
Image: Unsplash

Self-expression gives us a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. Therefore, self-expression therapy through drawing is a great method of stress relief. It’s an easy practice to incorporate into our daily lives because we can draw anytime, 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 feel like you’re not any 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 relieve the stress that you’re holding onto.

A series of color pencils
Image: Unsplash

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 to coloring. For instance, try using different colors that reflect your mood and create a unique piece of expressive art. This is a great method of stress relief through self-expression if you’re not confident in drawing. Moreover, there 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!

Coloring in mandala style art using color pencil
Image: Unsplash

Self-expression therapy using 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!

Looking to improve your mental wellbeing? Try the SELF MIND app FREE for 1 week!
If you’re looking for more tips on how to care for your mental health, check out some of our past blog posts!

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.

Ito Rumi. Thoughts on Art Therapy and Art Education. (2014). Human Relations. (13), 139-152.

About the Author


As a writer, worked on many medical-related articles based on academic papers. Specializes in articles on mental health and stress care.

View All Articles