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Untangling The Mind

by Donna Lita on August 05, 2022

How to Use Art for Stress Relief

How do you switch off the racing thoughts, just as you lay your head on your pillow at night? Do you wake up feeling overwhelmed by all the "to-do's"  swirling around in your mind? It can be so paralyzing and exhausting, you may just rather roll over and go back to sleep. All this stress leads to excessive cortisol and in turn weight gain around the mid-section. Everyone has their challenges in life as well as amazing joyful times. It's what makes us human and relatable. When you have great support and tools to keep anxiety and overwhelming thoughts at bay, you will find a balance. I'm going to tell you how to feel rested, have more clarity, and focus with some easy art-based exercises.

First, let me tell you why art making helps relieve stress. Research shows that the practice of making art can reduce cortisol levels in the body. Higher levels of cortisol are associated with greater stress and increased belly fat. In a study done by the Art Therapy Association, participants' cortisol levels were measured before and after they created art. Cortisol levels were significantly reduced after they had completed an art project. For those who feel self-conscious about their artistic abilities, keep in mind that you don't have to have an artistic background to benefit from the art-based stress relief activities I am about to recommend.

Quick Creative Practices to...

Unclutter and Calm Your Mind
Gain Clarity and Focus
Heart Opening
Unleash Creativity and Joy


    Brain-Dump and Doodle: You may have heard of the "brain-dump" exercise. It's quite easy, and I added the act of doodling to increase the creative aspect and help with clarity and prioritization. Basically the Brain Dump and Doodle activity entail writing down all the words, names, and phrases cluttering your mind. All you need is a pen, and paper, but if you wish to use other art supplies like colored pencils or markers have fun with them too. Don't try to list in order or organize the words. Simply write them randomly as they flow anywhere on the page. Once you get all that out, you should feel a burden lifted. Now, doodle around the page of words with any art tools, colored markers, brush pens, and highlight or number all those you feel need attention most. Put the page aside so you can add to your schedule or create a more elaborate project or mind map (more on mind mapping another time!) 

    When is the best time to Brain Dump and Doodle? Any time you feel overwhelmed. I like first thing in the morning if I haven't laid out a schedule for the day. If you find at the end of the day, you have trouble getting to sleep because of racing thoughts about what you forgot to do, try a Brain Dump to journal all the things you accomplished that day and use the doodle time to celebrate your triumphs with colorful designs! What about the thoughts of shame and regret. The "if only's and what-ifs" that can creep in before bed or even wake us in the night? That's when a Brain Dump for Gratitude can be a blessing. Write down all the things and people that you have been blessed with. I can't be anxious and grateful at the same time - can you? Keep the journal and a pen at your bedside, so you can get to it when you rise in the morning. It will be there at bedtime and in the middle of the night.


    Mandala painting is another practice that doesn't require artistic ability. It helps with focus and being present. It is similar to meditation because it is helpful to stop ruminating thoughts as you will need to pay close attention with your placement of and spacing of each dot. All you need is a set of mandala dotting tools, paint, and any substrate you would like to paint. You may want to paint on stones, shells, feathers, wood, or paper. There are also basic mandala templates you can get to draw guidelines. Creating mandalas has been shown to reduce symptoms of PTSD, a disorder associated with a traumatic experience. Mandala painting allows individuals to process their feelings while rooted in the moment. It is a good idea to order a mandala painting kit with instructions and either take a class or follow along with a video to practice. It is very much a practice just as meditation is a continuing mindfulness practice that will help bring order, balance, focus, and clarity to one's life




    Zentangle drawing is another form of doodling by drawing repetitive patterns that help people practice mindfulness, which can reduce stress hormones. The Zentangle Method, created by Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts is an easy-to-learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns. Simply use a black felt tip marker on paper drawing repetitive patterns and go with the flow. Allow yourself to be led by your own intuition.  It's a way to simply be in the moment and let go of any other thoughts - just as you would while meditating. I have often set an intention of listening to what my inner guide tells me and let my hands do whatever flows from the pen onto paper. You can learn more by visiting Zentangle.com

    There are so many forms of art making and mediums other than pen and paint that you may prefer to help relieve stress like sculpting, knitting, weaving, music-making, dancing, gardening, cooking, or being in nature. I make these suggestions, as they are quick, easy, and effective ways to promote a sense of peace and calm. I hope you experiment with these simple art activities. You'll be surprised at how effective they can be!

    Taking art classes is a great way to relieve stress. Art classes are fun, educational, and a great way to connect with other people. If you can't find time to attend a live art class, you can browse the gallery of art-based activities for private parties, corporate team building, and socials at https://laughalotpaintandsip.com/


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