Art therapy is medicine for the soul. Art itself has the ability to change a person’s outlook and the way they perceive the world. We learn many wonderful things about ourselves and life by creating art. Here are the lessons we can bring to everyday life through art therapy:
Nothing has to be perfect
Often we fail to start projects because we think they have to be perfect. Art therapy teaches you the opposite, which is that the imperfections are a part of the process. Every stroke of your paintbrush is meaningful, even if it doesn’t come out the way you had envisioned. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just that you do it. The same applies to everyday life. What will you accomplish by being so concerned about doing things perfectly? If you are so focused on doing everything the “right way” all the time, how will you grow and learn? Part of learning to trust yourself is knowing that you could fail, but showing up for yourself and doing it anyway. For example, if you are dreading writing a paper for class because you are lacking confidence in your writing abilities, you might procrastinate it out of fear of it not being perfect. Instead of avoiding it, face the task knowing that it won’t be perfect.
Life happens the way it was intended
Oftentimes, when we are creating, we get frustrated with ourselves for not doing things the way we envisioned. We think that because we made one wrong move with our pen or paintbrush, that the project is done for. We want to throw it away and start over because it didn’t turn out the way we hoped it would. Part of the process is accepting the mistakes along the way and adapting to them. Art therapy teaches you that creativity is your birthright, and that every stroke you make means something, because it is meant to convey parts of you that you didn’t have access to before. Just because things didn’t turn out the way you hoped they would doesn’t mean you failed, it just means that life doesn’t always meet your expectations, and you need to accept it, adapt to it, and move forward. For example, you and are going through a break-up, and you beat yourself up for all the mistakes you made in that relationship. Instead of letting that negative self-talk play over and over again in your mind for months on end, take control of your life and adapt to the situation by redirecting your thoughts. It takes a lot of radical acceptance to adapt to painful situations, but it is pertinent to your healing.
Don’t overthink it, just go with the flow
You are not meant to overthink your art in art therapy, you are meant to dive in and do it. This applies to life! Instead of worrying about the details, just let it take you and focus on what you can. It is incredibly vulnerable to dive into something without knowing for sure if you will succeed, but be courageous and do it anyway.
Sometimes, when you’re first starting your art project, it doesn’t quite look the way you want it to. Maybe you have the outline, but you haven’t filled in all the details yet. Sometimes I start an art project and want to give up before even finishing it because I don’t like the way it looks yet. When I push through those feelings and continue to create regardless of how it looks in that moment, unfinished, I am proud of myself and feel productive. In life, we have to be patient with our own process. If you’re starting your healing journey, and you’re not quite where you would like to be yet, it’s just because you haven’t filled in all the details. If you continue to water yourself with positive affirmations and give yourself love and compassion, you will create a work of art within yourself.
Self-expression frees you.
If you struggle with communicating how you feel, art therapy teaches you how to do this in a healthy way. It shows you how to move through those feelings while still being focused on your task and producing something new in the process. On the surface, it just looks like you are creating something pretty to hang on your wall. In reality, however, you are freeing yourself by diving beneath the surface of your feelings and releasing them through the creative process. Sometimes, we get lost in the stories that run on an endless loop in the back of our minds. Art therapy shows us that we can quiet our negative thought cycles because we are able to be engaged in a task that allows us to move through heavy emotions and come out on the other side with something beautiful, that we made. Through art therapy, we learn the important lesson that vulnerability and self-expression are what will free us from our heavy emotions.
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Alli is our office manager and writer who is passionate about connecting people through words. Alli studied English at Arizona State University, just recently moved to St. Pete and is enjoying paradise. Her interests include painting, history, and learning about other people.