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Guest Article: Art as Therapy for Mental Health Issues by Ryan Rivera of Calm Clinic


artI love the continual synchronicity that takes place these days. Today’s post is a guest article from Ryan Rivera, Publisher and Founder of Calm Clinic. His article touches on his insights about “art as therapy” for mental health issues.

I found his article synchronous for several reasons. I, myself, find art to be very therapeutic in my own life and feel that it can have a powerfully transformative effect on the many who are challenged by different forms of anxiety and stress. It also coincides with one of my current focuses of gearing up to teach art workshops: Creating Life as a Work of Art – offering personal and spiritual growth through the process of creative expression.

So when Ryan contacted me with his article we felt it to be a good fit to share.

A little about Ryan:

Ryan Rivera has spent 7 years of his life suffering from, as he calls it, the “whole package” – panic attacks, severe anxiety, agoraphobia, social anxiety, unbearable physical symptoms, headaches, neck pains, constant tension, diarrhea, palpitations, pounding heart. After trying numerous different treatments for his anxiety (including various medications) a tipping-point in his life made him overcome his emotional problems. Ryan made a number of “huge leaps” toward anxiety elimination and a more fulfilling life. His successes inspired and gave him determination to help other people who suffer from the same condition as he did and show them the light at the end of the tunnel.

His website, Calm Clinic, offers a plethora of information and help for panic and anxiety sufferers in manageable and holistic ways. He reveals the reality about medications and quick fixes, and offers insights and a variety of helpful tips so you can make educated decisions. He feels that curing the issues is a process and long term plans, as well as realistic strategies and tips, can help daily reduction of experiences. Some of these include: exercise, better sleep, understanding your anxiety, breathing, visualization, and relaxation techniques, lifestyle and dietary changes, eliminating stimulants and destructive habits, improving your internal dialogue, etc. –  art therapy being one of the ways you can support this process.

Here is Ryan’s article:

 

art therapyArt as Therapy for Mental Health Issues

My friend is a talented artist. She puts her heart and soul into her work. She paints from her emotion, without reference objects or photos to ensure that her work is realistic or clean. She has never been good at math or science or writing, but she is the definition of art: a person that puts the way they feel on paper, without worrying about marketability or social acceptance.

But while she has an artist’s soul, she lacks an artist’s technical talent. She couldn’t paint an accurate still-life, even with all the time in the world, and any time she attempts to paint people they end up looking like fan art anime characters. This lack of technical talent has made it difficult to find a career in art, where many galleries want proof of technical talent before they accept the value of a person’s art.

Yet this hasn’t stopped her in the slightest. She continues to paint away, subsidizing her art with a low salary cashiering job. One day I asked her how she stays motivated, even with all of the gallery rejections, and she shrugged and said “it makes me feel better.”

art therapyUsing Art As An Outlet

I strongly believe that my friend is going to be accepted within the artist community someday soon. All it takes is that one gallery owner – or that one coffee shop owner – to realize her talent as a true artist and she’s destined for great things. But what struck me most was that even if she didn’t become a “successful artist,” she didn’t care. Her art made her happy. Her art made her content. And that is the definition of success.

Art has long been considered a creative emotional outlet. Many artists – both those with severe mental health issues and those without – have turned to art as a way of releasing their emotions. But what is it about art that makes it so valuable?

Little research has been completed on art therapy for adult populations. But there are several reasons that engaging in art may be valuable for dealing with anxiety and other mental health issues:

  • Healthy Distraction – Its primary benefit is as a distraction. What many people don’t realize is that anxiety affects the way you think. It’s natural to want to be “alone” when stressed, but when you’re alone your mind has a tendency to focus and dwell on negative feelings and experiences. Art is a healthy way to relieve that distraction. You cannot do art without focus, and so it stops you from focusing too much on negative thoughts.
  • Accomplishment – Art also provides a feeling of accomplishment. With each stroke, you add something to the art piece, giving you a sense that you’re completing something meaningful to you. Not everyone completes their art, but most people still feel that positive feeling of accomplishment as they continue working on the piece.
  • Emotional Outlet – It’s widely believed that art also gives you a chance to express yourself on paper. The piece itself is often based on what is on the person’s mind and how they feel, and many scientists believe that color choices and painting/drawing styles may change depending on the mood of the artist.

There are so many reasons to believe that art itself is a powerful tool for controlling anxiety and depression symptoms, that it should arguably be one of the first tools that experts use to help people with their daily coping needs.

cat-artAn Anxiety Solution

Is art itself likely to cure someone of all of their anxieties and stresses? Probably not. Anxiety goes much deeper than any single outlet can provide, and most people turn to art as a way to express thoughts and emotions that are the result of anxiety – not stop that anxiety from coming altogether.

But as a coping tool, art has some very profound benefits, and it is absolutely worth exploring regardless of your own artistic talents.

About the Author: Ryan Rivera has used art regularly for years as one of his daily stress coping tools. His anxiety information strategies can be found at Calm Clinic.  

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