Mental Health: 10 Ways to Use Art to Heal

by R. Carnavale January 8th, 2015 | Mental Health
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artists palette (1280x1248)The poet Antonin Artaud (who was hospitalized in a psychiatric ward on several occasions) thought that art first heals the artist, who then helps heal others, via his or her artwork, later. Artaud went on to develop his creative abilities as a means of therapy. He is not alone — many famous artists, like D. H. Lawrence and Frida Kahlo, have also considered the psychological aspects of creating art, which can lead to self-transformation. If you suffer from a mental illness, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety or depression, creative artistic expression (with other appropriate therapeutic treatments) can help you to achieve your mental health goals. Here are some innovative ways to incorporate artistic expression in your daily life:

  1. Think about how you feel right now. Use computer images or magazine photos to create a mixed media collage that captures your current feelings.
  2. Draw a picture about how you feel. Remember Edvard Munch’s The Scream? Let loose and let your feelings guide your hand as you capture what you’re feeling at this very moment.
  3. Use your body to express what you’re feeling — Let your imagination and expressiveness run free. If you need some ideas: If you feel happy, you can clap your hands with glee, for instance, or if you’re feeling sad, you can cover your face with your hands and shake your head from side to side.
  4. Keep a daily “feelings” journal and jot down what you’re feeling, starting with the words “Today I feel…”
  5. Set a timer for 10 minutes and write about the aspect of your mental state that’s the hardest for you to deal with emotionally. Don’t self-edit — just let the words flow uncensored.
  6. Write a poem about someone who is important in your life. Describe the person and why she or he matters to you.
  7. Remember the saying, “Laughter is the best medicine”? Write or use a voice recorder to tell a short memoir-based story about a funny experience from your life.
  8. Try to recall your very first childhood memory. Using paints and brushes (or markers or colored pencils) and paper, capture the memory.
  9. Try to remember the first time you met or were separated from an important someone in your life and capture the experience via a voice recording, the written word or the visual arts.
  10. Think about your family — it could be your biological one or the one you’ve created over the years, as in “Friends are the family we choose.” Use clay or Silly Putty to model the individuals in your family. Then create models of your ideal family — whatever that may be.

(Photo courtesy of John Nyberg)

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All health and medical information is provided for educational purposes and is not meant to replace the medical advice or treatment of your healthcare professional.