How art has helped my mental health
Art has been so important for my mental health and it is something that may help you too.
I have always loved creating art and not only does it help me to unwind but to communicate my thoughts and feelings. Once I have finished a painting, I find it comforting and empowering to know that it represents a little part of my mind and that my thoughts can be illustrated in ways that I didn’t know they could be. Particularly when I am stressed, painting is almost like a weight lifted off my shoulders and onto the page.
Like many people, I like to use art as a way to relax. Art has this healing power that is unlike any type of therapy or mental health support. The act of actually putting paint on a canvas, or pencil to paper, helps you escape from everyday problems and just ‘slow down’. Some people with mental health problems or people struggling with their mental health find that making art significantly improves their mood. Along with other support, art can decrease feelings of anxiety and depression. But art is also for anyone and everyone, it can help you to work through, or take your mind off anything, no matter how big or small.
“I use art when I'm feeling low and trapped in my head. It's an outlet and a way to express how I'm feeling without using words, which are often hard to find. I can choose to never look at my art again, or revisit again and again. Art is a way of doing something productive and creative with the thoughts and feelings that can take over my head, and allow me to feel an accomplishment of a task.” And here are a few of the art pieces which my friend (19 years) has agreed to share with us…
Art helps me express myself in ways words cannot
I have read that therapists actually view art therapy as a ‘form of nonverbal communication’. This is definitely a benefit that I, and many other people who struggle with their mental health, take advantage of because art lets you express yourself without having to say a single word. Many people find it difficult to explain their traumatic or upsetting experiences to others. Talking about what you have been through or what you are going through can be very difficult and distressing. So I recommend trying art to help articulate these thoughts and feelings. For me, art releases my feelings of anxiety, almost as if the canvas has captured my worries and taken them away. Expressing yourself through art not only benefits you, but it may be that someone else relates to it, helping them to feel less alone.
Sometimes you just need to let all your feelings out and being creative can be the perfect way to do this. For some, doing a crazy, wild art project is a great way to release stress, and for others is where they feel most comfortable. For me, often doing intricate and realistic art pieces helps me to focus my attention when I’m worried or distracted by my thoughts. Different colours and different artistic techniques evoke different emotions, so art can be used to help encourage certain feelings such as happiness and calmness.
My art is unique to me
When I show my art to other people I always find it interesting to see people see things that I don’t and how everyone interprets the meaning differently. And because we’ve all had our own unique journey, even if a piece of artwork can mean one thing to one person, it can mean something completely different to someone else. Everyone views the world through different eyes and because art is so subjective everyone can relate to it in some way. I think it’s amazing that if everyone was to create a piece of art to represent their mental health journey, they would all be completely unique and special in their own way. Some of my paintings represent times when I have struggled with my mental health, but when I’ve shown it to someone else they have told me that it resonates with their own personal mental health issues. Art brings people together and makes us realise that we are not as alone as we think.
My art about mental health
In the past, I have done projects where I have explored many mental illnesses such as eating disorders, body dysmorphia, anxiety and depression. I found it so intriguing to see mental illnesses displayed in their visual form, instead of just words on a page. In most of my art now, I try to convey a message which not only I relate to, but hopefully other people will do too. For example, in the piece (which can be viewed on the YMHF Instagram page) I wanted to illustrate a common experience that people with all kinds of mental health issues can relate to: The feeling of not being able to get up in the morning. Having to face the day when you simply don’t have the motivation can be really difficult. And as I mentioned earlier this can mean different things depending on the person. It could be that someone doesn’t want to get up because they are anxious, depressed or they think they can’t cope anymore. The words surrounding the person represent the negative thoughts and feelings that can make us not want to get up. I hope that when you look at the painting, it resonates with you, or your child or teen in some way.
Rediscovering my passion
There was a time in my life that I was simply too busy and didn’t have enough resources to continue to paint. But now I realise that painting was an escape for me because it is so different to the rest of our modern-day lives that are often repetitive and challenging.
So recently I have been investing in some supplies and putting aside some time just to create art, and it has once again become something I love and will always look forward to doing.