From boosting immunity and improving cognitive function to regulating blood pressure and bringing down your stress and anxiety levels. There is almost nothing that even diehard rationalists can declare that meditation can’t do for you.
But here’s the deal. While a lot of people continue to swear by meditation, there are still some of us who struggle with it. The whole process of sitting still with your eyes closed and concentrating on your breathing for 30 whole minutes, especially for days on end (because practice makes perfect, haven’t you heard?) seems so…boring. And hard. And unnatural. But mostly boring.
Some of us like to do, rather than just sit and be. We’d expect the same sense of epiphany that a runner’s high gives us after a good three-mile run. Instead, we only end up thoroughly frustrated when that doesn’t happen after what seems like an eternity of Om-ing.
So how do people like us, who want to be more centered and less prone to stress, enjoy the benefits that meditation has to offer without actually following the whole sit still-breathe in-breathe out process?
We make art, that’s what we do.
Reasons Why Art Is The New Alternative Form Of Meditation
1. Artistic Flow
Can you remember the last time you enjoyed doing something so much that you completely lost track of time? Have you ever been immersed so deeply in reading a book, or talking to a friend that the next time you looked at your watch, you were shocked to find that two hours had gone by without you even realizing it?
This experience is what is referred to as ‘flow’ – and researchers claim that it has a powerful healing effect on both our mental and emotional health. This ‘flow’ happens to be particularly common during any and all forms of artwork and is what makes activities like drawing, painting, coloring, sculpting, and pottery such relaxing hobbies.
2. Letting Go
Once you get into a state of artistic flow, you’ll stop feeling the need to control every move. You may not even be conscious of the fact that you’re making far fewer decisions about how to go about your artwork; rather, you’re allowing yourself to become a medium, where your art emerges and develops at its own pace.
This is an important lesson because a lot of our stress comes from the need to control everything, including the things that we can’t – for instance our future, or the sudden death of a loved one. We keep holding ourselves responsible and keep pushing ourselves even though we know the result is not in our hands. This added pressure is what causes us so much stress.
Learning to let go and focus on one singular thing such as your artwork trains you to let go of control, and as a result, leaves you feeling much more relaxed and rejuvenated. Now ask yourself – does this honestly not sound a lot like meditation?
3. A Healthy Distraction
Each time you throw yourself into something creative, you’re essentially demanding your brain to tear its attention from those worrying thoughts because it’s got another job to do. The human brain can’t focus on both stress and creativity at once. Therefore, when you’re creating art, you’re concentrating on the forms, your hands, and your eyes. Your brain stops nagging you about those situations that are responsible for causing you stress and all those negative voices in your head will automatically mute themselves while clay takes shape between your fingers, or while colors swirl on the paper in front of you.
4. An Outlet For Tough Emotions
There are plenty of times when it becomes hard to communicate our thoughts and feelings. This is because these exist as a jumble inside our minds and we can barely make any sense of them ourselves. It is, however, possible to express these in the form of shapes, colors, musical notes strung together, or a clay pot rising to take shape between your hands.
Art has a magical power of transcending words and touching those parts of our being that don’t understand any language. And sometimes, all it takes to relieve your mind is to translate your fears into any form of art that you feel the closest to. When you see them taking a form you can see, hear, touch, and smell – they will automatically seem far less intimidating than they appeared while being tucked away in the corner of your mind. In fact, you’ll be surprised to find how often you can deal with your fears by simply acknowledging and expressing them!
5. A Soothing Ritual
Just as a good exercise routine is essential to physical health, a routine in art is also equally important to maintaining a healthy creative mind. We tend to find ourselves seeking a routine, simply because that feeling of familiarity is nourishing to the mind. Actively pursuing your artistic routine every day will help you relieve your frazzled nerves. And since the mind and body are all interconnected, it’s obvious that your art will improve your physical health too.
The healing powers of art for a wide range of ailments that include depression, trauma, and illness have been recognized by science and is effective across gender, age, gender, and ethnicity.
A study was conducted where the electronic databases for a total of 56 papers published between the years 1987 and 2009 on the effects of drawing or painting-based art in oncology were analyzed. Although this research had some limitations in that it lacked adequate focus on gender differences, and the results after controlling possible influencing factors, it still reached some positive conclusions. It was found that art helped bring down depression and anxiety in some cancer patients, while an improvement in personal growth, coping, the development of new forms of self-expression, and social interaction was observed in other patients.1
Another study was conducted to assess the impact of creative expression as a healing process in both informal and clinical practice to foster overall wellness and healing. Four creative therapies to be most often employed were identified – namely music engagement, visual arts therapy, movement-based creative expression, and expressive writing. Once again, the method involved searching databases and Internet sites between 1995 and 2007. The study confirmed that there is indeed a huge potential in achieving positive outcomes and promoting healing by making use of these four primary art forms. This is, however, not a comprehensive overview of all the literature that is available, and should, instead, be considered as a sampling of the wide range of potential benefits of art in promoting good health and wellness. 2
Art Forms To Choose From
If you’ve never indulged in art, or believe yourself to not be artistically inclined, it can be tough to decide what form of art to pursue. Here are a few options that are considered by people all over the world, and are notable for their healing powers. We suggest you do a little research on each method and see what appeals to you the best.
- Mandala coloring books
- Sketching or doodling
- Ceramic and clay pottery
- Paperwork like collages
- Inspiration Boards
Note: Remember, that as someone seeking to meditate through art, your goal is not to accomplish perfection, be it in the process or the product. Your aim should be to only practice. Show up, be present and do your job. Like any other habit, rewards can only be reaped once you’ve practiced enough. From then onwards, you will find it much harder to stop indulging yourself with artwork, than it was to start this habit in the first place!
|↑1||Geue, Kristina, Heide Goetze, Marianne Buttstaedt, Evelyn Kleinert, Diana Richter, and Susanne Singer. “An overview of art therapy interventions for cancer patients and the results of research.” Complementary therapies in medicine 18, no. 3 (2010): 160-170.|
|↑2||Stuckey, Heather L., and Jeremy Nobel. “The connection between art, healing, and public health: A review of current literature.” American journal of public health 100, no. 2 (2010): 254-263.|