Treating mental health issues can be a complex process. Trying to coordinate with your doctor to reduce anxiety, depression, and stress symptoms through medication is a process of trial and error. You might find yourself searching, like many people do, for alternative ways to feel better other than taking medication. Here’s some health advice that could help you out in that regard: why not try a little drawing or painting? Art therapy is a treatment that’s recently gotten rave reviews from a group of patients in the U.K.
Researchers at Brunel University set up a two-year project, enrolling eight people suffering from long-term mental health problems to participate. The art therapy program was simple: each participant selected a piece of professional artwork and then responded to it in a personal and creative way. Along the way, the participants collected their finished works of art and helped to curate a public exhibition. The general public was encouraged to connect and respond to the original artwork in the show.
The research team then interviewed the participants to see how they were feeling. What they discovered about the art therapy program was quite impressive. The participants reported that their sense of self-worth greatly improved and the routine brought stability. They felt like they “belonged” somewhere and felt liberated from some of their mental health labels. No longer were any of them the person who suffered from depression or who experienced panic attacks. Now they felt like artists with something to say. The participants also acquired skills in managing their own mental health issues.
The one downside to the art therapy program? Patients felt anxious about the end of the program and that they would no longer have access to its healing benefits.
Most of us find it a challenge to get started with any type of self-directed therapy. Try joining a group to keep you motivated and focused on participating in weekly art sessions. Of course, you don’t need to go outside to get all the health benefits of expressing yourself through art. You can do it right at home and draw your inspiration from other artists and online resources. The point is to let out some emotion in a safe way and ground yourself in the physical effort and concentration it takes to draw or paint.