Art as therapy: 3 creative ways to maintain mental wellness
Self-care has become more acknowledged and thankfully, given more emphasis in recent years, not least because of the stressors of modern living and the global upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the subject comes up, it’s often linked with exercise, better nutrition, taking time off, or pampering activities like a massage. Art, however, can be equally effective – if not more – to aid mental wellness and in relieving and recharging a person.
Studies have shown that releasing and working through our inner emotions and thoughts through creative expression helps deal with feelings of anxiety and depression.
From engaging in expressive writing, music or visual arts therapy, to creative expression through movement, there are a lot of art-inspired options out there. Here are three ways to practise self-care, all in the name of healing and improving well-being.
1. Journal for clarity, focus, and peace
There is just something about putting pen to paper that sets the mind at ease.
Art journaling can help us with translating our thoughts and developing a visual vocabulary, and the best part is that it doesn’t take more than a blank page and a pen to get started.
Bullet journaling, in particular, has caught on in recent years, gaining popularity for its ability to help people organise their thoughts and the nitty gritty details that are often overwhelming. Workshops catering to all levels of proficiency are often offered in Singapore.
Local journal artist Stephanie Tan conducts bullet journaling workshops for all levels, and has done so with The Arts House, and recently at National Gallery Singapore.
Those among us who are more apt with words can also try out narrative journaling. The Tapestry Project SG, a not-for-profit online publication that champions mental health education and empowerment through storytelling, runs the Re:Story programme to help more use literature to aid in self-care.
2. Express yourself creatively through dance and movement
Dance therapy was pioneered as a way to connect body and mind, using movement and self-expression as a way to support both physical and mental health.
What is perhaps most liberating about it is that it’s not at all about flexibility or aptitude, nor is it limited to pliés, costumes, or ballrooms. It’s more about self-discovery and emotion regulation through movement.
LASALLE College of the Arts offers a short course on dance movement therapy that can be funded using SkillsFuture credits. There are also options at places like Dance Singapore, Crestar, and the health and wellness initiative Rejoice in Motion.
No foundation or background in dance is necessary – it is about spontaneity!
3. Create something with your hands
Research has shown that putting our hands to something – whether it is to draw, paint, or make something – reaps great benefits in enhancing mental health and wellness.
One avenue to consider is creating visual arts, and the possibilities are endless. There are plenty of places that offer art jamming in Singapore, from sitting down comfortably in a studio with a blank canvas in front of you, to more active options where you suit up from head to toe, arm yourself with some paint, and let imagination and fun take over in a splatter studio.
Alternative options include motion art jamming and spin art. No harm in getting kids started too – Calligrakids seeks to use hand lettering to help children develop a positive and growth mindset.
Another way to create is to get into crafts. Again, there should be no shortage of options out there, from creating your own rugs through tufting, or taking home a new coin pouch or card wallet through leather crafting. Pottery, which kids can also engage in, is also known to be rather therapeutic. Others might prefer creating something for the home, such as coasters or pill trays.
Bask in the sense of self-achievement from creating something from nothing, and you might even discover a long-lasting, stress-relieving hobby in the midst of it.
(Photos: Artefakts, MOVE Academy Singapore, Crestar School of Dance, Rejoice in Motion, Splat Paint House, The Potters’ Guilt)