A few weeks back, I started up a Gratitude Group on Facebook and you are welcome to join and contribute to it. The more the merrier as the saying goes.
It is growing organically and it is interesting reading what others are grateful for in their lives.
Research shows that having a daily gratitude practice helps to strengthen our immune systems and reduce heart related issues. A quick Google search will give you lots of articles to read – some more scholarly than others. I liked this one – The Neuroscience of Gratitude as it was an easy read plus the opportunity to sign up for a few exercises to help navigate through grief.
Having a Gratitude Journal helps you to record on a daily basis the little things that you are grateful for. You may have joined the previous 30 Days of Gratitude challenge way back in 2019 and developed your own gratitude practice.
I often write about gratitude and you may wonder why. I’ll let you into a little secret…. having this daily practice not only has benefits for you, but it’s free and the rewards are great! If you are having difficulty in getting started, join the Gratitude Group – that’s free as well. I look forward to seeing you there!
There has been a long relationship between art and spirituality. Early civilizations used art to make sense of events around them. It was also a way to record the culture of the time. Over time, the various civilizations and their spiritual life evolved. Art became the means of expressing their spiritual, philosophical and cultural concepts.
The action of creating the artwork was and still is a deeply rewarding endeavour. When an artist connects with their inner self they are able to bring forward insights and themes in the images for others to appreciate and to reflect upon.
Furthermore, the action of creating the artwork is a meditative and often spiritual experience can lead to an inner understanding of self.
By using meditation as a precursor to an art therapy session, the conscious mind is stilled and in this stillness, there is the opportunity to access the subconscious mind with less resistance.
A short, relaxation meditation provides a safe and supported place for you to enter into a quiet space. Whilst in this space, you can create or produce images that come from your subconscious mind. So too, the process can lead to creative problem solving.
A Blank Mandala to download and enjoy.
So what is creative flow? Creative flow can best be described as a relaxed state of mind that has been brought about by focusing on creating an image or piece of art work.Creating or colouring in mandalas are an ideal way to achieve this.
Benefits other than creative flow are:
- self reflection
By engaging our senses – visual and kinaesthetic – we are able to enter into a meditative state. The action of colouring in, as well as engaging the mind in selection of the colours, helps us to distract the conscious mind. In turn, this allows the subconscious mind to create images that may represent previously forgotten conflicts or traumas. These can then be interpreted by having a discussion about what meaning the image has to you.
During the course of a therapy program, you may well discover that as you experience this creative flow, you also become more aware of strategies that help you to reduce your stress. With stress reduced, you will enjoy more self awareness and able to better focus on daily tasks.
In these changing times we may be experiencing a multitude of emotions. Some will be quite unfamiliar to us as we adjust to a new way of doing things. Grief is a common emotion that is being experienced. There may be many circumstances surrounding bereavement such as loss of income or loss of support or friendships. If it is a sudden event, shock may be experienced. All of these factors demonstrate a need for the bereaved to be supported as they work through their feelings. The process of grief cannot be hurried. Everyone has their own time frame as to when they will have moved through the various stages of grief.
In addition, there may be unresolved issues that the grieving person has to work through during this process.
When their needs have not been met (as per Maslow’s Hierarchy) then the time taken to process the grief will take longer.
At the base of the pyramid is the first of five needs that humans seek.
However the needs must be satisfied from the base up and cannot stand in isolation.
The first need that we must have fulfilled is the physiological need for food, water, warmth, rest and shelter met before the other four needs can be satisfied.
The second need is to feel safe and secure and that can include both physical safety and the security of being able to earn an income. Once these needs are met, then we can begin to experience a sense of connection that the third need will give us when we form friendships and relationships. It is sad that these changing times have created a world where opinions have been polarized and friendships fractured.
The fourth need is where we feel good about our achievements, accomplishments or status and the final fifth need of self actualization, is where we can fully express ourselves, often creatively when we have achieved our full potential.
Gratitude is where you acknowledge the positive things that are in your life and that you appreciate on a regular basis. Why is gratitude important? By acknowledging the things we are grateful for, we are not focusing on anything that we may perceive as lacking in our lives.
Gratitude focuses the mind on the “now” and is a form of mindfulness, especially when we write down on or journal on a daily basis.
As we focus on the positive, endorphins are released and we feel better. A positive mindset is important to wellbeing and especially in today’s pandemic, helpful in maintaining wellness and a more balanced emotional state.
Having a daily practice that helps you to focus on things that you are grateful for will help you to form a new and more helpful mindset.
In the past I have run a couple of 30 Days of Gratitude, both here and on Facebook. It may be a little difficult to find the posts now as the last 30 day challenge was in 2020. A little time consuming, but another way to jog the mind to think about what you are grateful for is to write a single sentence in you diary each day about what you were grateful that day. You can go out and buy an expensive journal with the prompts already printed or make your own.
When you love what you do and are engaged in the activity, hormones such as Dopamine, Serotonin and Oxytocin (happy hormones) are released and stress is reduced.
As stress is reduced, wellbeing is increased. When you love what you do, you may discover or rediscover something that you yearned to do as a child but put aside due to societal or cultural expectations.
What dreams did you put aside?
Pursuing what you love to do will bring you a great sense of satisfaction and completion. The joy in creating has immense benefits. It could be cooking, woodwork, pottery or another craft. Not only crafts but writing or art can bring great joy to both creator and observer. Have you noticed that when someone is engaged in their passion, their inner energy is apparent and they radiate that out to those around them?
If you need help in rediscovering your dreams let’s have a chat.
Coping strategies as we begin to return to more social contact and are vital in mental health recovery. Effective coping strategies empower you when you take note of and recognize what may trigger you in a crisis situation. When you have access to these strategies, it will give you a sense of control over some part of your life that otherwise may seem out of control.
For example, recognizing that stress is inevitable for everyone at some stage can help to normalize stressful situations. Furthermore, being aware of your response to stress and using more helpful options to manage that stress can help you move towards recovery. Good coping strategies lead to good Emotional Intelligence. Once you are aware of what stressors are most likely to trigger you, then you can start to work on your emotional response in an emotionally intelligent way.
In the workshops and sessions that I facilitate, clients are offered a variety of simple, yet effective strategies to help them cope with the ever changing landscape that we encounter as we navigate to our “new normal”.
Why Workplace Art Therapy?
A workplace art therapy program has benefits for both the employer and employee in that for the employer, it can fulfill their workplace health and wellbeing criteria, lower stress in employees as well as increasing productivity, creativity and performance.
Participating in a workplace art therapy program encompasses relaxation techniques and can be described as a preventative measure in addressing employee stress.
Staff and management alike can experience art therapy sessions as a part of a “Wellness in the Workplace” program that actively encourages mindfulness and creativity which has benefits beyond the session.
As the participants focus on any particular exercise, their conscious minds can be distracted from their daily tasks and demands of the job. When stress is reduced with a tailored art therapy and EI program, you can look forward to increased performance and achievement, better decision making and productivity.
How does it work?
Firstly, it would be necessary to discuss the length of a session or sessions; how many participants; their physical needs; and finally the venue itself. When working in a corporate environment, it is taken into account if the venue is most likely to be unsuited to having paint or clay used. It is also necessary to ascertain that there are no materials that may have an adverse effect (such as glues) on the health of the participants. Introductory sessions would include a guided meditation followed by doodling or Mandalas where there would be no prerequisite for artistic comparison.
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Using Art as a therapy during a time of grief allows you to express your thoughts, feelings and emotions. This can be done in a variety of non verbal ways such as painting, drawing or clay work.
Other non verbal ways of expression, such as journaling and letter writing that help define what the event or deceased person meant to you allow you to start the healing process.
Guided visualizations and Reiki can help relax you. As you allow the body and mind to relax you can begin to sort out conflicting emotions. Therefore by using art therapy activities, your healing takes place at a deeper level and many people find that they are better equipped to move forward.
Eastern traditions have long been more aware of a mind/body connection than the modern Western medical profession which has based much of their thinking on the theory put forward by Descartes who was a French philosopher in the 1600’s. He believed that the mind and body were separate entities which had no influence on the other.
Modern medicine is a reflection of this, and is shown by the desire to remove symptoms of an illness rather than addressing any underlying mental/emotional issues that could contribute to an illness. Compare this to traditional Eastern healing systems where illness is considered to be an imbalance in the energy (Qi or Chi) which in turn affects the mental/emotional and physical body systems.
Western science has since discovered that the impulses to the cells can be affected by either negative or positive thoughts, thus having an effect on things such as immunity and health. Previously thought to only be present in the brain, these neurotransmitters have been discovered in other major organs such as the heart and gut. A regular meditation practice can help to still the mind and help with general health. Checking in on your thoughts and changing or reframing them to a more positive attitude will also help. For instance if you find yourself saying “I should…….”, change the language to “I choose to……” and notice the difference.