Life

Creative Healing with Art Therapy

February 20, 2019

As a lifelong creative, I have always looked forward to making art, especially if it includes making something with my hands. Unfortunately, chronic migraine has a way of stealing time from you — all your hobbies, social life and anything that once brought inspiration start to vanish.

To get out of a creative rut and bring joy back into my life, I have spent the past six months doing various Art Therapy exercises. It took consistency, along with trial and error, to really get into a flow. I realized a few weeks ago that I wanted to talk about this process because it’s truly been vital for my healing, if only mentally therapeutic.

You must unlearn what you have learned

Choosing activities that didn’t feel like work was my first step. I loved coloring when I was a child so I started there first, especially because there are so many adult coloring books now. But, this never left me feeling relaxed or calm, in fact I felt more anxious and self-critical.

I kept trying other art therapy exercises I found via Google, and didn’t give up until I found a few that started to feel natural and relaxing.

Practice, You Must

Once I found my go-to exercises, I set an intention to do one creative thing per week. Some of my worst migraines I would spend part of the day painting or doodling, and it gave me focus away from my pain.

Mushroom doodles on white granite

Doodling, Sketching and Coloring

Doodling, sketching and coloring are forms of art therapy for a reason… we are meant to be creative beings, but as adults we have gotten tied down by responsibilities and in my opinion too much screen-time. When I started doodling again I was transported to happiness and a sense of relief. I used to doodle organic shapes and draw multiple times a day. I’m slowly getting back skills I thought I had long lost.

The key to this form of art therapy is to let your inner-perfectionist free and just have fun. I mostly doodle flowers, shapes, and plants (probably because I can’t seem to keep the real ones alive).

Watercolor paint swatches on white granite

Painting

Painting has always been one of my favorite creative mediums next to photography. I’d watched my grandmother and cousin paint anything their heart’s desired with ease. I was constantly inspired and simultaneously envious. While I’ve taken a few classes I still don’t know what I’m doing but I enjoy painting.

Diving into paints has been most therapeutic for me, maybe because it’s a mixture of challenge and relaxation. Learning techniques of watercolor adds a mental challenge to learn how to work with more or less water, more or less color… all putting my focus on technique over pain.

Leather travel journal and pen on white granite

Writing, Journaling, and Morning Pages

Writing, specifically journaling, comes easy to me so it was a no brainer to make this a daily habit. I have noticed when I write down thoughts, fears, gratitudes — it’s all released and the weight of thoughts are lifted.

Even more, I’ve begun the mornings pages, incorporated via Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Ways which has given me an added structure to my daily start and was essential in helping me get back into work after the holidays.


What I’m Still Learning

These small acts of art therapy give me joy and something positive to look forward to. Of course, this isn’t a cure all but I feel that it’s a tool that works for me and helps on some of the harder days.

Have you tried tried any form of art therapy to help you through your pain?

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