I read an article by Ryann Tanap where she describes visiting a powerful exhibit in Pittsburgh called, Mindful: Exploring Mental Health Through Art. All forms of art provide a way for persons to share their life experiences. For this reason, art can be especially therapeutic for persons living with mental illness. In an exhibit like this, the art also offers an opportunity for others to gain an understanding and perspective of what mental illness may feel like from the perspective of the artist.
Tanap writes, “The great thing about art is that it is created and experienced in a safe space. Art, a form of creative expression and storytelling, lends itself to providing a unique immersion into the world of mental illness when it is created by individuals with lived experience. We can begin to break down stigma when we approach mental illness through the perspective of an artist or performer. No single person’s lived experience is the same, and we discover that their artwork, through sculpture, painting, writing, video and other mediums, captures the very real and human side to mental illness.”
I recently joined a beginners watercolor class offered in my community. Even though the participants in the class were learning techniques while painting the same picture, I was amazed at how different each finished painting turned out. And because I was involved in the creative process, my stresses and concerns faded. Another benefit was enjoying the new people that I met and sharing some of their life experiences through our respective paintings.
We are seeing a proliferation of “coloring books” for adults and children. Many cultures use mandalas for meditation and healing. Coloring the detailed designs helps us to focus as well as quiet inner thoughts. When our stress and anxiety is calmed, we are able to redirect our thinking, relax and maybe even come up with creative solutions to the things that have been bothering us. Whatever form of the arts you choose, I encourage you to experience the healing power of the arts.