You only have to run a quick internet search on “mindful activities” and you'll be inundated with ideas about painting, colouring, craft and all things ‘art'. Art has long been known for its meditative qualities, it’s a time to switch off from external distractions and concentrate only on what your hands are doing in the present moment.
When I create art in the form of my mandalas, they are a form of pure meditation for me, I completely disconnect from everything else and am focused only on pen to paper. It doesn’t matter if they are perfect or not, I don’t mind what other people think of them, because they are what they are, and they come, I think, from a place of pure wonderment.
According to Arts and Minds, a leading arts and mental health charity for people dealing with depression, stress or anxiety; of those who took part in weekly art workshops 71% experienced a decrease in feelings of anxiety, 73% a fall in depression, and 76% said their wellbeing increased. Lord Howarth of Newport, co-chair of the APPG parliamentary group on arts, health and wellbeing, says: “The time has come to recognise the powerful contribution the arts can make to our health and wellbeing.”
You don’t need to be ‘good’ at art, you need to enjoy it, you need to feel free and you need to connect to a part of yourself that perhaps you didn’t know existed.
What we need to refrain from though, is the feeling like we need to create art to please others. This is something I really struggled with as I was growing up. I was always very self critical, never feeling myself quite ‘good enough’. Good enough for what I’m not quite sure, but my lack of self esteem and confidence really held me back from fully expressing myself artistically. It wasn’t until I had children that I started to get more into my artwork, maybe they bought out my inner child and, inspired me creatively!
It was also around this time that I was completing my 200hr Yoga Teacher Training, where we had to meditate for 2 hours a day. During these long meditation sessions images literally came to me fully formed in my mind. I often get images when meditating, sometimes even a whole story, but these were different, they were so clear I wanted to jump right up and start drawing. As it happens, I had neglected to bring any form of sketchbook with me and so I had to keep these pictures stored in my mind until my return. The first image was of a a Wolf mandala in the form of a wolf, and similarly, all the images I experienced were mandalas in the forms of different animals or objects, mostly inspired by nature.
I had never drawn a mandala before but these felt like they belonged to me and literally flowed out of me.
If you want to awaken your creative side but have no idea how, I have some suggestions for you:
- Start doodling. This could be random shapes and lines on a page or more intricate. It doesn't really matter. The key is to keep going, you might surprise yourself what you one up with.
- Meditate with an openness to creativity. You might see nothing and that's fine. But maybe a colour or shape comes to you that turns into an idea that you can develop and explore.If nothing comes to you while you're meditating then just enjoy your meditation!
- Get into nature. Sit with the flowers and the birds and just draw what you see, no pressure to make it "right" or "good."
- Remember, it doesn't matter what your art looks like. What matters is that you're giving yourself a creative outlet and being completely present with what you are doing
Editor's Note: Creative freedom and expression is a key pillar in our overall wellbeing strategy here at Balance Garden. Even if you don't consider yourself a creative person, inside you is a well of ideas and possibilities just waiting to be expressed, and when you do start tapping into it life will feel richer and more vibrant because ultimately it's about feeling free and experiencing pleasure.
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Jodie is passionate about alternative health after it changing her life when she was young. This continued into a yoga practice which led her to give up her career as a Primary School Teacher to teach yoga and mindfulness to children. She then certified in Zen Yoga, to share her passion further. She works with the body’s energy channels assisting students to release physical and emotional blockages. She also uses her artwork as a form of personal meditation and tries to lead a spiritual life. Her ethos is that Yoga and other alternative therapies are about being in tune with your body, healing, letting go and above all, being happy. You can find out more about her over on her website or on instagram or facebook