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Art Therapy for Mental Health

Updated on December 18, 2017
DulcyWarfield profile image

Mother of 3 humans and 7 fur babies. A wife, friend and aspiring artist, she has both personal and professional experience in mental health.

Why Art Is Amazing

First Attempt at Art Therapy

1st drawing attempt. I had to learn to pace myself. I would spend 8 hours straight, drawing. It's important to make this into a healthy tool and not become obsessed. It's a great way to teach yourself time management and self control.
1st drawing attempt. I had to learn to pace myself. I would spend 8 hours straight, drawing. It's important to make this into a healthy tool and not become obsessed. It's a great way to teach yourself time management and self control. | Source
About a year ago, I went through a very negative time. It was in the beginning of a new relationship and I did a lot of Self-Hating behaviors. Getting them down on paper has helped me cope and stopped my self-harm behaviors.
About a year ago, I went through a very negative time. It was in the beginning of a new relationship and I did a lot of Self-Hating behaviors. Getting them down on paper has helped me cope and stopped my self-harm behaviors. | Source

Why Is This Important?

About 3 years ago, I picked up a pencil and tried drawing for the first time as an adult. I quickly learned that I wasn't very talented. There was a lot of trial and error. I went through a lot of erasers and paper.

But, I didn't give up. I drew every day. I slowly improved. More importantly, my self- confidence improved greatly. My self-esteem and self-worth did as well. Eventually, I started drawing on canvas. Then from there, I started painting with Acrylics. I became so confident in my improvement that I started sharing my art with other people and actually sold a few pieces.

This year, I hand painted all of my Krampusnacht ornaments (I don't celebrate Christmas and that's ok.. and I'm happy for you if you do!) and I must say, I'm very proud of myself!

You can achieve anything you want. Your strength truly does come from within. The sooner you believe this, the sooner you will find happiness. A feeling of accomplishment will boost your self-esteem and that may all you need to get ahead.

Slowly Progressing

Hand painted Krampus ornament
Hand painted Krampus ornament | Source

"For as long as I can remember I have suffered from a deep feeling of anxiety which I have tried to express in my art."

— Edvard Munch-

Embrace Your Differences. Let Them Inspire Your Art

Art is such and amazing tool for coping with your emotions and feelings in a very healthy and productive way. It is especially helpful if you have trouble expressing yourself verbally.

  • It keeps your mind busy- It's difficult to let a bunch of self-hate and paranoia come into your mind if it's full of ideas that you'd like to create. Keep your mind busy with positive things like painting or sculpting, to keep the negative thoughts at bay.
  • It helps with self-esteem & self-acceptance- It can help those of us who have a "need" for acceptance. Keep in mind that art is based on your feelings, emotions and thoughts. You don't need anyone else's approval. Your feelings are valid. This can help you to see that you truly do not have to attempt to please everyone.
  • Art is subjective- This means others don't have to understand or like it. All that matters is that you do. It will evoke emotion from some people and not others, and that is OK!
  • Get the negative out of your head- There are many people in this world who do not like to communicate verbally... especially when it comes to private things like self-hate or depression. This is a very good alternative for you. Write a journal or a poem, draw it, paint it, sculpt it. Any way to express what is going on in your head is a good way to keep it from building up, and keeping you up all night.
  • Don't get discouraged- Anyone, I mean anyone, can learn if they don't know how. There are plenty of free tutorials online. There are books at your local library. Take a class if you are capable. If you have a disability that prevents you from working with your hands, there are still options for you so don't give up.
  • Self-Validation- In time, you will learn to be proud of your accomplishments. You will teach yourself how to be happy with your art, without the approval of someone else. And if someone else does validate your creation, it's just an added bonus. All that matters is that YOU are happy.

POLL

What Medium is Your Favorite or Would You Like To Learn?

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Around The Internet

Here are a few links to help you get started:

  • http://artprompts.org/ This is a great place to get drawing/painting prompts if you're stuck.
  • 365 Days of Writing Prompts I plan on using this one in the future as my Fiction writing skills could use some help!
  • Learn Sculpture Some great beginning sculpture videos (Something I am looking forward to trying as well)
  • Artists Network This is another great place to start. Lots of information and how to guides as well as beautiful artwork

Find Your Medium

My eclectic interpretation of "The Black Swan"
My eclectic interpretation of "The Black Swan" | Source
Andy Warhol is one of my favorite Artists. He was believed to have Autism, OCD and a Hoarding Disorder... which inspired his artwork.
Andy Warhol is one of my favorite Artists. He was believed to have Autism, OCD and a Hoarding Disorder... which inspired his artwork. | Source

It May Take Some Time

So I thought I got pretty good at drawing freehand. Then I started painting and I thought I was better at drawing. So, I went back to drawing and realized I was better with paint! My point is, I haven't even tried sculpting...

It takes a while to find what you are really good at. If you're lucky, or extremely insightful and talented, you may already know what your gift is. For me, I'm still learning. I love to write as well as paint and draw but, I haven't attempted to write a book or sculpt something yet. Five years from now, I may discover a whole new medium that I'm a complete natural at. Who know?!

The fun part is discovering it. I just learned, in my 40s, that I'm good at things I had never tried before. It is building my self-confidence and everyone loves feeling good about themselves. There is nothing better than taking control of your own emotions and feelings and making them into what YOU want. They don't have to control you any longer. You can chose, at any time in your life, to redirect that negativity into something and make it a thing of beauty.

Share Your Gift

Try to look at your illness in a positive light. Sure it makes us feel like crap a lot of the time but, it also gives us the ability to see things from a different perspective. Use that in your art! It is pretty well known information, that a good number of the most talented artists in history, have suffered from Mental Illness as well. So, don't let anxiety or depression stop you from living... use it to lift yourself up!

"Every artist was first an amateur."

— -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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