Written by: Jessica Ferhadson
Have you ever been upset, sad, or anxious, and then picked up your pencil and started drawing? After accomplishing your task of creating the beautiful image you had in your head, have you noticed you felt so much better? If you have, you’ve probably participated in art therapy.
Art therapy is a growing form of therapy in the psychological field. You may have seen those coloring books filled with mandalas and beautiful designs, left in black and white, so that you can color them in. You mean I get to color even though I’m an adult?! YES! The symmetrical and repetitive motion of the mandala leaves you mesmerized and coloring for hours. I feel like I see these books everywhere now and it is so exciting!
Years ago, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I found myself spending extra time in the art room in school, more time in my room drawing, and pulling my easel out to paint on the weekends. After I was done creating a piece, I felt myself smiling at what I had just created, more relaxed, and less anxious. By the time I got to senior year, I had learned about the field of art therapy and realized that this is what I was doing.
Over the years, my love for art therapy started growing and I now run an account on Instagram that I hope to turn into a place where people can enjoy my art and suggestions for art therapy.
There are plenty of different exercises that are therapeutic in the art world. Although I love taking how I feel and interpreting it into drawing format, there are plenty of simpler exercises that help if you’re in a time crunch. My favorite exercise is the good traits exercise where you draw or collage images of your good traits:
Good Traits Exercise
Approx Time: As long as your heart and mind desire
Materials: Required - paper / pencil / markers, crayons, or colored pencils / your creative mind
Optional - magazine images / glue / tracing paper
Instructions: Take a blank sheet of paper (any size) and a notepad. Brainstorm 5-10 of your traits you admire about yourself the most. This allows your mind to focus on the positives. Think of a symbol or another person you admire that represents that trait. Repeat this step for each trait. Now think of a way to tie all those unique traits together. (I.E. secure, strong, supportive can all come together to make an anchor. Maybe you’re on a boat, and the anchor is helping you stay anchored in your spot under the sun, but floating on top of a wave of your stressors.) Not great at drawing? Do this exercise in collage format!
Something I like to do is to use tracing paper to transfer my drawing onto another sheet of paper. This way, if I’m feeling sad, but don’t want to come up with an entirely new drawing, I can color in this drawing at a later date. Now I have a totally different piece of art because I can color it in differently.
There are many ways to get your mind out of the cycle of negative thinking. Exercises like this can help your mind focus on the positives and leave you with a piece of art. This allows the mind to be engaged in positive thinking all while being constructive with time.
Need more ideas for art therapy exercises? Feel free to message me on Instagram @the_eudaimonic