art therapy and nature help with stress and depression

What is art therapy?

Benefits of art for mental health

What happens in our brains when we make art?

There has been a lot of talk about mental health in the media lately, and for good reason - the last few years has taken a toll on all of us to some extent. What do you do when you are feeling stressed? 

I love to get outside, walk or cycle in the countryside near my home. I know within a few minutes I will start to feel better - nature has that effect on me. Even if you live in a city you probably have some green space nearby. Of course, I also love to paint and recently I have had the opportunity to talk about the effect of art on mental health.

I spoke to Debbie, an art therapists who works in hospitals with patients with brain injuries. Other art therapists work with people with mental health issues. 

Debbie told me when we use our imagination we make connections in our brains and activate networks. When we are creating we engage our hands and brains in a rich, sensory experience. We get in the zone, a state of flow and lose ourselves in self-expression. If we have a brain injury, mental health issues or just want to relax for a few hours, art is a great way of putting us into a relaxed, reflective state, helping to focus attention and giving us a sense of pleasure and self-expression.

We don't have to be artistic to try this. Paint by numbers or using a colouring book can be a fantastic way to reduce anxiety. When Sarah lost her mother recently, she brought herself a paint by numbers kit. She never thought of herself as being artistic, but enjoyed spending hours painting which she was convinced helped her through the initial stages of grieve.

So the next time you are feeling overwhelmed, don't reach for the wine bottle, or vegetate in front of the tv for hours at a time. Grab your paints or crayons and get creative. 


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