Fourteen percent of the Canadian population over 15 years old (approximately 3.8 million people) report having some form of disability. In addition to this vast number, a wide range of mental and physical health issues go unreported and untreated. Canadians with diverse abilities make up a significant proportion of the population. Art therapy is one method of helping those who have diverse abilities, depression, or who simply feel detached from society, start to live happily again.
One good example of how art has helped people who have experienced trauma is James Poon. A member of Strive Centre Headway New West, Poon refused to be defined by his health condition and became an artist. He has recently donated pieces to Strive and his work says a lot about, not just James, but the power of art therapy as a whole. With the painting entitled “Embrace All”, he merged adult and child themes to show how the two perceptions of the world live together. James’ work is an inspiration and it shows just how far art therapy can go. This form of therapy starts on a much smaller and personal scale.
The most basic therapy is the most powerful
Adult colouring books have increased dramatically in popularity in recent years. These books are exactly what they say they are – colouring in. The simple act of pausing a busy life to focus on painting or penciling in small blocks of colour is a very powerful one. The monotony of the task mixes with the creativity of it to block out the worries of a troubled mind. The pause gives time for reflection and the task forces you to live in the moment. As you don’t need to think too hard about creating your own images colouring in helps you to enter a mindful state and almost meditate whilst you take part in it. The importance of taking a break to recharge your mind has been recognised by some businesses and colouring has become an essential part of the working day.
Taking it a little further by creating your own basic art
Art therapy is something that builds gradually and allows you to get new benefits as you engage with it at different levels. A step up from colouring in is the following of easy online tutorials to learn how to draw. By starting with something as simple as learning how to draw roses this therapy maintains the mindful aspect of the task and shuts out other issues whilst allowing you to get the rush from having created something beautiful from a blank piece of paper. Remember to pick up a good stock of artistic supplies before starting your pictures.
The benefits of creating your own art
Having undertaken the benefits of coloring in and following tutorials, you may wish to explore art as a therapy in and of itself. Free drawing, painting or sculpting does not always allow one to enter a mindful meditative state due to the multifaceted nature of the work being done, but this free expression brings its own massive range of benefits.
Those who use art as a therapy report that they are able to express themselves better emotionally and intellectually. Artists with limited communication skills have found that by explaining their art they are better able to express what they are going through. Others with far more profound communication issues are able to use the art in and of itself as a communication method to express their feelings directly. The act of creation brings direct physical benefits with increases in dexterity, fine motor skills, and hand-eye coordination. Related to this are the mental health benefits of increased concentration and a sense of accomplishment and achievement.
Art is there to help everyone whether they have diverse abilities, are overcoming traumatic events, or simply want to feel better about themselves. Whether you simply color in mandalas, follow instructions to draw flowers, or create your own art from scratch, the benefits to your health and mental well-being are clear and well established. Art therapy is for everyone.
By Jane Anthony, Freelance Author and Content Editor