COVID'19 / ART Therapy

Stress! Our daily lives are filled with stress, ranging from commuting in morning traffic to meeting a tight deadline at work. Stress can have harmful effects on our bodies and minds. It is important to take time to reduce stress levels to keep ourselves healthy. There are some things that we can do to help lower stress the stress that we feel on a daily basis.

Studies show that people who spend time doing creative activities that they enjoy (such as painting, dancing, or scrapbooking) have lower stress levels. Find an activity that brings you joy, and make time for it each week. We shouldn’t feel too hopeless, though. There are simple tasks — like maintaining a regular schedule, getting a good night’s sleep and eating healthy — that help fight feelings of depression, stress and vulnerability.

But, lately, a growing number of people are getting even more creative with their coping methods: They’re making art. Photography, music, painting and drawing are keeping people busy and distracted from the stresses of COVID-19.
And art doesn’t just unify us — it physically benefits us, too. Studies show that spending just 45 minutes on an art project can relieve stress, strengthen critical thinking skills and improve and sustain memory.

But don’t worry if you’re not the best or most experienced artist. These relaxing benefits are felt in artists of every level — from amateurs to professionals. Through paintings and songs, you can inspire and encourage others to take action by voting green or fighting for conservation. No matter how far apart we are, art can help us relax and bring us closer together.
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While art therapy is its own field, you can also use self-directed art to express your creative side, reduce stress, and get in touch with your feelings. Most of us understood the power of art instinctively as kids: Virtually all children know the joys of sculpting something with play-dough, painting something with fingers, or drawing with crayons and other materials.

Other than making random doodles in the margins of a page, if you’re like most adults, you probably don’t express yourself with art as you did when you were a kid. You may not think you're any "good" at creating art, or you may not think it's worth your time, but art is actually a valuable pastime.

Whether you could give Vincent van Gough a run for his money or can barely draw a stick figure, art is a fantastic way to reduce stress. Results of a 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association found that just 45 minutes of creative activity can reduce your stress, regardless of artistic experience or talent.1

Here are some ways that creating art can help alleviate stress:

Acts as a form of self-care: Sometimes, with all of life’s responsibilities, we forget that we need and deserve downtime and self-care. Taking even a few minutes on a regular basis to devote to a hobby can give you more of what you need in this area. With art, you have the additional benefit of being left with something beautiful (or at least interesting) to show for it.
Helps you tap into a "state of flow": Some psychologists describe flow as becoming deeply engrossed in an activity. Similar to meditation, flow can improve performance and lower stress levels.2 You may experience flow when you’re practicing an instrument, playing a sport, gardening, writing, painting, or drawing.
Takes your mind off things: Creating art can take your mind off of whatever is stressing you, at least for a few minutes. It's difficult to keep ruminating on your problems when you're focused on creating. If your problems stay with you, you can incorporate them into your creations. Once you're done, you should have a clearer head with which to tackle your problems again.
Sketchbooks for Stress Relief
Keeping a sketchbook is one of the easiest ways to relieve stress. It can be a form of journaling, and like journaling, it can be cathartic, creative, and stress relieving. You can use a journal for personal art therapy and stress management in the following ways:

Begin a dream journal. A dream journal can help you identify patterns in your dreams, which point to areas of your life that need extra attention. Try keeping a notebook and pen next to your bed. As soon as you wake up, draw the first images, symbols, or words that come to your mind. Don't worry if you're not "good" at drawing. Your dream journal is for your eyes only.
Draw what you feel. Draw your stress. Drawing literal or abstract representations of what is stressing you out can help you express emotions that may be difficult to put into words.
Keep a gratitude journal. Many people keep a gratitude journal to catalog what they are grateful for. Personalize your gratitude journal by drawing the faces of those you love, places that bring you peace, or other things that you are grateful for. The process of sketching can be a great stress reliever, and revisiting your creations can also bring you some peace in the future.
Start coloring. These days, coloring isn't just for kids. Adult coloring books can be especially relaxing for those who don't feel artistic, but still want to create beautiful pictures.
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Creative activities can relieve stress, aid communication, and help arrest cognitive decline.
The title of a recent documentary film, I Remember Better When I Paint, sums up the findings of a growing body of research into the cognitive effects of making art. The movie demonstrates how drawing and painting stimulated memories in people with dementia and enabled them to reconnect with the world. People with dementia aren't the only beneficiaries. Studies have shown that expressing themselves through art can help people with depression, anxiety, or cancer, too. And doing so has been linked to improved memory, reasoning, and resilience in healthy older people.
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Decades of research have demonstrated that in people with dementia and other progressive neurological diseases, the ability to create art remains long after speech and language have diminished. Research has also shown that creating visual art can reduce stress and promote relaxation in people who are hospitalized or homebound due to illness.

Carleton, who like many art therapists is also a licensed mental health counselor, makes a variety of media — from acrylic paints to iPads — available to people who are undergoing cancer therapy at MGH. She has also worked with veterans and people with Alzheimer's disease in other environments. "Once people engage, they often realize they are having fun and the time passes faster," she says.

She says art also has an important role in helping people through particularly difficult times, including facing the end of life. "Working with a trained art therapist can give them a way to express themselves in a safe environment to help them get to the next stage more at peace."

She has seen people string necklaces to give to friends and relatives, make books and videos to memorialize their experiences, and even build boxes to contain their expressions of anger and frustration.
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Recent research suggests that to stave off cognitive decline, doing creative activities may be more effective than merely appreciating creative works. A 2017 report from the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging indicated that people over 70 who did crafts projects had a lower risk of developing mild cognitive impairment than did those who read books. In a 2014 German study, retirees who painted and sculpted had greater improvements in spatial reasoning and emotional resilience than did a similar group who attended art appreciation classes.
And don't hesitate to explore your own creativity. Take an art class or experiment your own.
Try your hand at art. You don’t have to be a professional. Draw a scene on your driveway with sidewalk chalk, pick up a paintbrush and learn about the different ways to paint (watercolor, acrylic), or simply color in a coloring book. There are actually coloring books specifically for adults with gorgeous nature scenes.
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Here are some easy stress-relieving crafts to make at home:

Glitter jar
Glitters jars are also called “calm-down” or calming jars because they can help focus your mind. They promote mindfulness and reduce anxiety. When feeling stressed or overwhelmed, try shaking your jar and taking a few moments to watch the glitter swirl and settle. This little “time-out” gives your mind a much-needed stress break. You can use any color glitter you would like. Add food Glitter jar coloring to the water for a pop of color.
Fill a bottle or jar 1/3 of the way with hot water.
Add 1/2 a bottle of clear glue.
Swirl (don’t shake!) to mix well.
Use a funnel to add lots of glitter.
Add more water, leaving a few inches of space at the top.
Decide if you want to add more glitter or glue.
Add food coloring and a bit more water.
Screw the cap on tight!
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Tin Art
Hojalata (Tin) Art is a Mexican style of folk art that emphasizes a creative use of unique materials.
Disposable cooking sheet or pie plate– SAVE YOUR PIE PLATES this Thanksgiving! They make the perfect base for this project! If you don’t have recycled pie tins or cookie sheets available, these foil lids would be an excellent base for the project.
Painter’s tape
Step One: Cut your (recycled) cookie sheet into several sections. If you are using a pie tin, one pie tin bottom will make a good sized “canvas.”
Step Two: Trim the corners of each mini sheet to prevent sharp edges.
Step Three: Tape the aluminum sheets down to the work surface. The aluminum tends to buckle and deform as it is embossed. Painter’s tape will secure it in place and protect hands from the metal edges.
Step Four: Start “drawing” on the alumnum using the end of a nail. Be sure to press down hard to make an indentation in the metal.
Step Five: Continue making an embossed design until you are satisfied. Remove the painter’s tape.
Step Six: Turn the sheet over, tape it down again, and use Sharpies to color to the design using the embossed relief as borders for the color.
Step Seven: Remove tape and display!
Well wasn’t that easy? 

Embossing. Embossing is an art technique that involves stamping or punching a material to form a 3D imprint or relief. The two materials typically used for embossing are paper and metal. You’ve probably seen embossing used on the last wedding invitation you received! The art of embossing in metal is also called repousse. As I mentioned at the beginning of this is a type of embossed folk art from Mexico; one of the primary things that makes it stand out from other forms of embossed metal art is the color. Typically embossed metal is left in it’s natural state but in the embossed surface is painted in very colorful hues. Tin is also considered a cheap type of metal and is sometimes referred to as “poor man’s silver,” thus making it a perfect candidate for folk art. If you have a chance to visit a store that sells Mexican art and imports be sure to take a look at the tin art, it is often combined with religious and humorous symbols.

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Some More Art Therapy Techniques

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