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  • Sarah Kingwell

Art and mental health wellness

“Art is not always about pretty things. It’s about who we are, what happened to us, and how our lives are affected.” Elizabeth Broun Throughout my life I have always had a sketch pad where I would find calmness amongst the chaos, the process for me of drawing, painting, doodling has always had a profoundly positive impact on my own mental health wellness. Although I was unaware of the psychological benefits of art as a child, I can still remember spending most of my free time with my head in my sketchbook and feeling relaxed and content whilst I created. Some people believe you have to be ‘good’ at art to be able to create art, commonly I hear “I’m rubbish at art all I can draw is a stickman”, but to create art you don’t have to be an artist, it is simply a way to express your inner world when we don’t have the words. So what is Art Therapy? There is no one way to define what Art therapy is, for me, it is the process of creating and expressing myself, using brushstrokes on canvas and colours that directly relate to how I am feeling in the moment. Although I studied Fine Art, I wouldn’t define myself as an ‘Artist’ as such, I would say that for me Art is and has always been a form of therapy before I even knew it was therapeutic. art therapy

[art therapy]

NOUN

  1. a form of psychotherapy involving the encouragement of free self-expression through painting, drawing, or modelling, used as a remedial or diagnostic activity.



as a form of therapy has shown that it can support people with depression, anxiety, PTSD and even some phobias, it can be a different way in which someone can express themselves without the use of words, and support someone to process complex feelings and decrease the effects of mental health illnesses. I believe that anyone can benefit from the process of creating art, and that's exactly what it's about, it is about the process. It does not matter whether or not you can paint a pretty picture. It's more about how you feel when you create, how the colours are informed by your emotions and how your current experiences can be expressed using a variation of mediums. Art is subjective to each individual, personally the medium I use is acrylic paint and water on a ‘large’ canvas, I like to use expressive circular brush strokes to create marks on the canvas, merging colours together and using water to watch the colours blend and mesh into one. However Art can be whatever you feel works for you, maybe pen on paper doodling using scribbles, or drawing what you see around you, even writing poems or freeform journaling can be therapeutic as it allows you to sit down and relax. Creating art gives me a chance to escape the external everyday life stresses and explore what's happening internally on a deeper level, I get the opportunity to slow down my thoughts and my busy life and express myself. The focus of art as a form of therapy is , as mentioned previously, all about the process not the end result, therefore it's not just painting an aesthetically pleasing painting or drawing, it's more about finding connection to yourself and how you are feeling. Although I am not yet a qualified art therapist, my dream is to share my passion for creating and self-expression whilst promoting mental health wellness. SKART is about the benefits that come from creating art, through connection to self and to others, and releasing that inner child through playful abstract art practices. The aim of Art therapy is to support someone to process feelings, decrease levels of stress that comes from everyday life, reduce the impact of anxiety on our physical body and increase self-esteem. How does it help? -Self-discovery: creating art can support someone in recognizing how they are feeling, and allow space for vulnerability. -Self-esteem: The process of creating something can give someone a feeling that they have accomplished something, for someone with depression even getting out of bed can be challenging so creating art can build confidence and connection to others in a group setting. -Emotional release: Art for me has always been a healthy coping strategy that I have used to manage my own mental health, the complexity of human emotions sometimes cannot be expressed through just words alone. -Stress release: Daily stress can have a toll on us mentally and also physically, by expressing ourselves through art we can release tension and relax our bodies and mind. “Studies have shown that creating art stimulates the release of dopamine- making us feel happier” Many mental health professionals and experts agree with the benefits of art, creating art provides a safe and healthy outlet for coping with our emotions, therefore building resilience and building self-awareness. Creating art is a journey, a journey of self-exploration and self-discovery. Creativity and Recovery: The Mental Health Benefits of Art Therapy (rtor.org)



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