Over the last year or so, the concept of self-care has exploded into an upwards popular social trend, with posts about ‘taking time for yourself’ and ‘bubble baths’ circulating on almost every social media platform and blog, including this one!

The idea of putting yourself first and skipping that party to get a good night’s sleep has become the ‘cool’ thing to do. It is cool that awareness has been brought to the fact that we are all, in fact, human and need to treat ourselves with compassion and love.

Knowing this, it’s important to understand that self-care comes in different flavours for different types of people. One of my favourite methods of self-care is art therapy.

Art therapy is the encouragement of free self-expression through different art mediums such as painting, drawing, and modeling, among others. In clinical practice, it has been used as a therapeutic tool to help with a variety of issues.

A recent study in Psycho-oncology looked at the effects of mindfulness-based art therapy (MBAT) in women with cancer. Compared to the control group, the MBAT-practicing group demonstrated a significant decrease in symptoms of distress and improvements in key aspects of health-related quality of life (Monti et al, 2006). This research shows us that art therapy can have a positive role in different intervention treatments for cancer and possibly for other conditions as well.

On a more emotional level, art therapy has also been proven to help individuals struggling with any form or intensity of psychological hardship. According to the Canadian Counseling and Psychotherapy Association, art therapy can be a way to help guide and promote mental health and well-being because it gives individuals an outlet to express their conscious and subconscious minds in a creative space.

Art therapy has been proven to help with physical and psychological issues. Courtesy of Nick Lee

Self-exploration through art can lead to self-understanding, self-acceptance, or, at the very least, a distraction from any negative emotions. The theory is that once you’ve gotten your feelings out onto the page, you’ll feel lighter and will have also created something meaningful in the process.

Going to a certified art therapist may be something to consider as they usually offer formal instructions and do group sessions, which also offer an outlet for community building.

That being said, it’s also easy to do some at-home art therapy by yourself or, even better, with other people! Doing any type of art with friends can be a relaxing and enjoyable experience to have together. You can bounce ideas off of each other, praise each other’s work, and be in good company.

Art therapy is an activity that has no rules, encourages creativity, and can essentially be done at any place or anytime. It can improve your life in any area you may be having problems in, whether it be school, relationships, or something more personal. If you feel yourself in a negative place, pull out a piece of paper and a pen and start drawing something, anything.

The best part of art therapy is that anyone can do it; there’s no need to be ‘good’ at art or to have any formal training! Your art is for you. One technique I like to use when I feel stuck and don’t know what to draw is to take my pencil and draw big loops around the entire paper, never lifting my pencil. Once you’ve looped in most directions and created a web, you can go back through and color each individual space with a different color. Your finished product will be a beautiful, abstract-looking mosaic of color.

So, next time you are in dire need of some self-care, consider picking up a paintbrush, pen, or pencil and letting your creative side take over.


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