“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Pablo Picasso
When words can't explain and simply fall short, the expressive/creative arts can provide a way to both communicate and express what is beyond verbal language. The gift of art and creativity can be such a powerful catalyst for inner transformation. Engaging in the creative arts to process one’s experiences and what one encounters in navigating through life can yield increased self-awareness and potential solutions that couldn’t be seen before. The expressive arts also support releasing emotional burdens and therein traveling through life in a lighter way with more freedom.
A Brief Understanding of Expressive/Creative Arts Therapy:
Ever wonder how your creativity can benefit you emotionally? Expressive/creative arts therapy is a form of psychotherapy which helps individuals to process and express what is beyond verbal language. It uses visual art expression, music, movement, writing, and journaling as modalities for personal healing and growth.
It’s about the process not the end-product. No previous art experience is necessary. It’s not about technique or creating a masterpiece. Creativity is an innate human quality. Intentionally accessing it gives way to a myriad of benefits. It can support Radiant Living in which you are ‘happy, joyous, and free.’
● Visual Art: Can be used to express one’s joys and sorrows through the arts, such as painting, drawing, sketching, or sculpting (there is also art journaling).
● Music: Listening to songs can be a vehicle to express various feelings; this can also be through songwriting and singing; it promotes emotional release.
● Dance and movement: Can be a powerful way to ‘dance it out’; releasing emotions but also as a way to experience mindful movement (being in the present moment).
● Writing & Journaling: Both free-associating writing like with Julia Cameron’s ‘Morning Pages’ or responding to journal prompts is an effective way to process emotions and one’s thoughts/beliefs.
For more information about Expressive Arts Therapy, there is the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association (IEATA®) which has a wealth of information and helpful resources. It is a nonprofit international professional organization that promotes the creative spirit in individuals and communities. It seeks to increase the awareness of the benefits of using creative arts as a tool for psychosocial, physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness.
Benefits of Expressive/Creative ARTS:
In a 2017 Drexel University study published in The Arts in Psychotherapy it showed the neurological benefit of engaging in drawing, coloring, or simple doodling. It was found to increase blood flow circulation in the prefrontal cortex area of the brain that is correlated with pleasure. This releases dopamine, the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter, responsible for increasing feelings of joy. So, those adult coloring books that are out there in a plethora of themes, find one and bring out the colors to create more joy in life.
● It lowers stress: Studies show that there can be a reduction in the stress hormone, cortisol, after a period of engaging in visual art making therein producing a sense of calm.
● It lessens anxiety: Coloring inside geometric shapes, such as a mandala, allows for a practice of mindfulness and activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (the calming system in the body).
● It supports processing feelings: Expressing one’s inner landscape of feelings through lines, shapes, and color can be quite cathartic and a way to process different emotions that come up throughout the day.
● It aids in developing new insights: It provides a ‘container’ to externalize what is internal in a healthy and expressive way, allowing for a different angle to be explored.
● It promotes whole-brain connection & wellness: Art-based processes and activities can activate other areas of the brain that integrate both the right and left-brain hemispheres.
Thus, consider adopting a creative arts practice (visual art expression, music, dance, movement, writing/journaling) to support overall well-being and to flourish in life. Explore what modality might be compelling and then discover what unfolds. The expressive/creative arts have the power to bring forth burgeoning inner changes and personal growth. Begin today.