Sometimes it can be difficult to find the right words to express how you feel, especially after the past two years of bushfires and what feels like an endless pandemic.
Studies show 1 in 5 people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their life and while that sounds pretty bleak, what if there was an uplifting and affordable way to potentially counter this – one that doesn’t need words and can provide space instead?
Art helps empower people living with mental illness; of first responders and veterans using art to cope with PTSD to legendary musician and Stolen Generations survivor Archie Roach, who uses the power of music to help her heal.
How to start?
As a member of ABC television series Space 22 Artist and psychotherapist Noula Diamantopoulos partners with well-known Australians to show them how to manage their mental well-being using creative art.
The first technique Noula shares is a Japanese art form called Hirameki, which means “brainwave” or “bolt of inspiration.” She teams up with actress and comedian Celia Paquola who struggles with anxiety.
After trying Hirameki, Celia says it’s a useful tool.
“I think it’s a good exercise for people who might find meditation difficult,” she says.
“I leave with tools to manage my anxiety and a little more knowledge about myself.”
Items you need:
- Acrylic paint
- Pens, pencils or crayons
- 1.Dip your brush into the paint and freely create strokes or drops on your paper without any control and letting your brush and hand flow. If you find yourself thinking about it too much, Noula recommends using the opposite hand you write with.
- 2.Once you’re done, let your paint dry.
- 3.List on a separate piece of paper three of your greatest strengths. Noula says these are your “superpowers”. “‘Super powers’ [are] a reminder that we have inner resources that we often forget [and are] strengths we can rely on,” she says.
- 4.Go back to your painting and using the highlights you listed, choose a stroke or drop for each word that you think best represents it.
- 5.Now is the time to animate! Using a pen, pencil, or crayon, draw body parts of an animal or human that will help bring this word to life, and when you’re done , give it a name. “It’s about representing what the word means to you and bringing it to life through a character,” says Noula.
- 6.Take a picture of it and keep it in your phone so the next time you’re feeling anxious you can look at it to remind yourself of your superpowers. “[This] will help you enter a different state of being that doesn’t allow anxiety to enter as quickly or as quickly,” says Noula.
If you wish, after doing the Hirameki exercise, you can take the Black Dog Institute’s two-minute pollwhich contributes to a larger body of research on the benefits of creativity and mental health.
Other Creative Art Outlets
According to the Australian Council for the Arts, there are a variety of creative art options that are family-friendly, accessible, culturally appropriate and can accommodate different mental health issues. It may take you a few tries to find the right one for you.
If you’re looking to try something new, here are some tips to get you started:
- Art: Research local art classes or clubs in your area. If there aren’t many options locally and you don’t mind traveling, museums and galleries often hold classes. There is also an art directory you can use to search for accessible options.
- Musical group or choir: Check your local council, community center and performing arts websites for advice or search for the music directory to find out what’s happening in and around your area.
- In writing: Check the notice boards and websites of your local library, bookstore, and community center to find writing groups or classes. State writers’ centers also offer courses.
- Dance: Contact local dance companies or dance schools in your area or visit their website to find out what classes or groups might be available. Check with your local RSL or gym to see if they have classes available.
You can also try searching for local classes, courses and clubs on social media or through Facebook groups and if they don’t exist, this could be a great opportunity to start one.
The Australian Arts Council says these suggestions are only for non-clinical arts and culture programs. You may choose to see an art therapist or for more specialized needs you may need to see your doctor.
The Black Dog Institute collaborated with the ABC to create this survey. The Australia Council for the Arts collaborated with the ABC on this article.
This article contains general information only. You should consider obtaining independent professional advice based on your particular circumstances.
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