What is art therapy and how it can benefit you

With the increasing alienation and stress associated with life in the modern world, mental health has become a major topic of concern for everyone in society. Anxiety disorders have been on the rise and they affect everyone from working adults to primary school children. This modern psychological crisis has led to an increasing awareness in society and an increasing number of people are seeking psychological help.

A relatively new but effective form of therapy is art therapy which can provide psychological benefits such as decreased stress, increased self-awareness, and mindfulness and also encourages introspection.

As per British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT), "Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses art media as its primary mode of expression and communication."

Art therapists work with clients according to their specific needs. Thus, therapy can either be in the form of group sessions or may involve just an individual and the therapist. The therapy can involve various art media such as visual art, dramatic art etc.

Art therapy can be beneficial to people of all ages, from children to the elderly. It has also been found to be very helpful for those dealing with mental health issues, those suffering from chronic illnesses and also for those dealing with occupational stress.

According to Tanya Abraham, the Founder of NGO 'The Art Outreach Society' (TAOS) which is based in Kochi, art is a natural process of living that the ancient cultures upheld, giving it the due importance, but modern Indian society has increasingly downplayed its significance. According to her, the experiences that she has had in art therapy and art education have proved the effectiveness of the same. She believes that engaging in art helps one become more fruitful at work and also believes in integrating creativity into everyday living.

Benefits of art therapy:

• Art therapy encourages self-expression and provides a safe and enjoyable way to release your innermost thoughts and emotions by facilitating introspection

• Art also demands your attention and thus serves to draw your attention away from stressful thoughts

• Art therapy helps to readjust your negative thinking patterns by engaging your mind in the process of aesthetic appreciation

• Art therapy involves a psychotherapist who guides a client through the process of artistic creation. However, there are multiple ways by which you can derive similar benefits as those provided by art therapy just by regularly engaging in artistic creation.

How to incorporate art in your daily life:

Integrating art into your everyday life can be very beneficial for your mental health. Here are some practical ideas to do so:

Colouring books and art journals

Colouring books with intricate patterns are an excellent option for adults who are looking to relax after a long day of work. Alternatively, you can keep an art journal on your desk at home or at the office and use it to practice doodling whenever you might feel overwhelmed or stressed.

Plein air or outdoor painting

Plein air painting provides an excellent opportunity for you to step out into nature and choose a subject from your surroundings. You can enjoy painting outdoors with friends on weekends or keep a pocket-sized 'travel' journal in which you can capture objects and people from your everyday life.

Form an 'art group'

You can form an online or offline art group with friends where you can share your creations with each other and also share the emotions and ideas behind your work.

Learn to appreciate art

Engaging in artistic production is the key to deriving maximum benefits from art but visiting an art exhibition or an art gallery and appreciating different forms and styles of art can also prove to be a very therapeutic experience. Additionally, a trip to the art gallery can serve as a great source for inspiration.

Experiment with different media

There are different ways by which you can create art. Experimenting with different media such as traditional art and digital art can help you discover what you are naturally more inclined towards. Digital art is especially gaining popularity as it can be created on various devices and also presents various new possibilities.

Apps and games

There are tons of different applications available on different devices that you can use to create art on the go.

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