NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Creative ways to wellness

What a time to be alive. With our go-to places, like restaurants, malls and bars closed or reserved for take-out, and social distancing keeping us at least six feet away from our friends and extended family, some of us have found ourselves with extra time on our hands and combating our lust for our usual activities that have temporarily come to a halt. While some of us may remain content or unbothered, others may find themselves struggling with the changes that have fallen upon us. Its important to not only stay active and healthy in body but in mind as well.

Art therapy is one way to combine fun and health. Practicing self-therapy through artistic expression does not require a degree. According to GoodTherapy, a blog dedicated to providing mental health resources to people in need of them, art therapy isa specialized area of mental health that uses art materials and the creative process to explore emotions, reduce anxiety, increase self-esteem, and resolve other psychological conflicts.” 

These art materials can include anything from paints, markers, colored pencils to cameras. You can get creative with these tools in a variety of different ways, making your to-do list a whole lot longer.

I will highlight five art therapy activities to try at home to help yourself de-stress, relax, and artistically express yourself:

The first activity on the list is collaging. The art of collaging traditionally involves the cutting and pasting of different images to make a whole new creation, representative of whatever the artist chooses.  If you have a collection of magazines that are no longer of use, here is your chance to use them.

The collaging technique can be used in a variety of projects. One example is vision boarding. A vision, or dream-board is a collage consisting of images, affirmations, pictures, symbols, etc. representing an individual’s dreams or visions. For example, a college student may decide to include an image of a diploma, cap or gown on their board to represent graduating.

Vision boards can help to develop or identify your vision, provide clarity, and give you a visual to focus on to help you achieve your goals. If you believe in the law of attraction its possible meditating on these images could aid in their manifestation in your life.

So, find an empty, open area, perhaps by an open window, grab your board – a piece of paper, cork, or poster board – scissors, glue, and that stack of magazines, maybe some markers, gems, patterns, or stickers to jazz it up, and get to work on creating your future.

If youd rather a less messy, more modern, tech-savvy option, vision boards can be created online as well. Using the handy dandy cut and paste tools on whatever program you choose to use, and the billions of images available on google.

Another activity that aids in the quieting of the mind and calming of the nerves is coloring mandalas. With the mention of coloring, some adults may have already looked away, finding the activity to be reserved for children. But coloring is certainly an art technique reserved for those of all ages.

Mandalas are intricate, geometric designs. If youve seen one, you know how detailed and complex they can look in black and white, never mind in color. Mandalas themselves are important in various traditions and religions, like Hinduism and Buddhism, as they aid in meditation and spiritual guidance, among other practices.

Coloring mandalas helps to improve focus and concentration, de-stress, and reduce anxiety. Its circular designs help to provide clarity in the mind, creating space for new thoughts and feelings. If you dont believe me – just try it. Mandala designs can be found online and printed out, in hundreds of coloring books dedicated to them, or can even be drawn from scratch.

This is an activity children can easily participate in, possibly adding some additional peace of mind for parents and guardians alike.

The next occupation is that of painting. In case youre unfamiliar with this art, painting consists of applying pigmented liquids to a solid surface. Usually these pigmented liquids are applied using brushes but there are other creative ways to do this as well. From acrylic to oil to watercolor paints, using brushes to hands to sponges, applied to surfaces including paper, canvas, and brick, there are a plethora of tools you can use to create.

Painting does not just have to consist of putting paint to paper. If youre looking for a bit more excitement, theres a couple ways to spice things up.

Music can make anything more fun. Turning on some relaxing tunes, upbeat hits, or old slow jams, you can either use the music as background noise or include it in your painting process. Listening to the beats, notes, and instruments of the music, you can allow them to serve as a sort of guide for your hand while painting.

If youd like to take a break from the brush, perhaps get more primal or bring out your inner curious child, try using your hands and fingers – maybe even your feet too! – to create your next masterpiece. Stepping outside traditional tools can create something more innovative and meaningful than you wouldve imagined.

Additionally, setting can also influence ones enjoyment of painting. Rather than staying inside, painting outside with nature as your muse can add a new level of excitement and inspiration to your painting.

 Painting, in common with the other activities listed, can help to relieve stress. Additional benefits include creative and emotional growth as well as the boosted self-esteem that comes with the finished product.

Paints, brushes, and other supplies can be found at art supply stores like Michaels and Joann’s, but also at retail stores like Target, Walmart and even Dollar Tree. If youre especially crafty with plenty of time on your hands, you can make your own paint as well as brushes and stencils with instructions found online.

As some of us are quarantined at home with family, seeing a lot more of them then were used to, this could be the perfect time to consider painting a family portrait.

Another expressive art form, one I find is often forgotten to be considered art, is photography. Photography, simply put, is the art of taking pictures using a camera. The process is not as simple as it sounds though, as photographers use different cameras, lenses, filters, framing, among several other tools, to capture their intended image.

With this being said, not everyone is or is expected to be a professional photographer. You dont have to be to take pictures and enjoy the art of photography. If you arent particularly skilled or invested in this, you can simply use the camera on your phone to take pictures.

Believe it or not, photography does have therapeutic benefits. Photography is not only a fun activity, but something that can allow you to express yourself, reflect, and connect with others through the sharing of  your art with others who indulge in photography or simply enjoy viewing it.

You can take photos of anything – yourself, friends, family, nature, objects or structures you find meaningful or that help you stay grounded. You can look back at these photos when seeking comfort, or use them for inspiration in your other artistic endeavors, like say, painting.

The last, but certainly not least, art therapy activity to try at home is writing. Yes, I know– as a college student, all you do is write. But try taking a break from writing essays and embark in some personal, free-writing.

Journaling is an almost ancient method of therapy. Writing down your feelings, thoughts, and experiences allows you to channel yourself onto paper and can help you to clear your mind, find new perspectives or just express yourself.

There are numerous subjects and topics to write about – yourself, your life, the tree that grows outside your window or the bird that is nesting in it. Within writing lies many genres – narrative, mystery, horror, drama – the list is long, as well as different writing styles. The combinations and possibilities are limitless.

With this unique time in mind, it could be the perfect moment to start a journal to document your life or write about this experience. Some of the best documented personal writing comes from times of peril and change.

If you struggle with topics to write about, a quick google search can provide you with thousands of different writing prompts and ideas. Put your pen (or pencil) to paper!

There you have it – five new activities to add to your list of things to do while quarantined – although all of these activities can be done even when your favorite places do re-open. Enjoy the beauty of art and self-expression combined and bring out your inner artist, which lives in us all.