Paint Yourself Some Relaxation: The Benefits of Using Artistic Outlets For Self-Care

Written for & published by In Her Shoes Foundation (2013)

By Melissa Doman, M.A.

Have you ever noticed that when you doodle a picture, sculpt clay, or dance to a song from a culture different than your own that it makes the world fall away?

That happens for a reason.

When you focus your energies on a creative activity, you feel present in the moment, grounded, and at ease. With that being said, you could say that being artistic is good for the mind, soul, and body.

As we all know, stress in life is unavoidable. School, work, kids, relationships, friendships – it’s an amalgamation of responsibilities, changing dynamics, and unpredictable outcomes. While we ride those waves, it’s important to take care of ourselves and the impact that it all has on us. With all the energy that seeps into us from our environment, we sometimes forget that we need outlets to release that energy to restore ourselves back to a healthy homeostasis. I know it sounds cliché, but sometimes the best way to do that is to literally slow down, smell the roses, and photograph them.

 It has long been shown that channeling your energy into creative artistic outlets is not only fun, but is also very soothing by way of emotional self-care.  Studies have shown that using artistic mediums for self-care can help manage stress levels, anxiety, depression, physical ailments, and a myriad of other conditions. You’ll often hear a lot of behavioral health and even medical professionals advise their patients to incorporate these types of activities into their self-care health plan.

The best part is, you don’t need to be naturally creatively inclined to do these things!

I truly feel that everyone has a little bit of creativity and artistry within them. It just comes in different forms and through different outlets. I imagine some of you saying, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body” or “the last time I made something creative or danced was years ago – I’m probably so rusty.” Well – have no fear! It’s never too late to dust off those creative juices, break out those dance shoes, and throw caution to the wind.

I can tell you right now that if it wasn’t for my hobbies of avid salsa dancing, landscape photography, writing, and painting, I’m pretty sure that the stress of life would eat me up whole. Obviously I didn’t pick all these hobbies at once, but I can tell you unreservedly that when I engage in those activities, I literally feel a restorative balance coming back and I feel more mindful and present than ever.

Sometimes we forget how important it is to do things purely for the enjoyment and fun of it as opposed to having a specific goal in mind. That’s the beauty of creativity; it’s all about the journey and leaving the results to chance.

Now I know this all sounds fluffy and wonderful, but the personal responsibility to make sure you take the time to do those activities is just as important. When I deliver wellness/lifestyle balance lectures to groups in the community, I talk about having something called, ‘wellness non-negotiables.’ These are dedicated times for self-care that you schedule for yourself each week. Essentially, you make sure to engage in using these creative outlets every week come hell or high water, except in cases of force majeure.  Whether it’s two hours on a weekend day, or 20 minutes a day every day, you must have the dedication to do so. The beauty of it is that you can make these activities fit into your life in the way that best suits you. Keep in mind that ‘artistic’ has a broad definition, so make it your own!

Life is too short to take everything seriously and constantly be on the run. Don’t forget to smile, giggle, and make beautiful creations. No matter what happens in life, you can always know that when everything is chaotic, the pictures you paint, the band you sing in, the swing dancing you do, or the pots you paint will always be calming, stable, and there for your enjoyment and relaxation.

Remember to think of your mind and body as a constant tape recorder. It takes in everything that’s around it. Don’t forget to use creative outlets as a way to change out your cassette tape and reload with something fresh and new.