Art ‘as therapy’: Healing through creative expression

mywisdomfromatree

Exercising our creativity enhances the quality of our lives and nurtures overall well-being.  Creativity is an innate gift that every person has, which for some, may require some mentoring to activate. Creativity takes many forms.  Arts and crafts have long been the go to for art therapy. Any hobby or activity that allows for the creative process can be considered art therapy. Whether you like to paint, draw, craft, sew, woodwork, knit, scrapbook, play music, write, compose, cook or garden; your brain and overall health will reap the rewards of the creative process involved in them.

Studies have shown that art can reduce depression and anxiety, and improve cognitive functions by producing both new neural pathways and thicker, stronger dendrites. Exercising our creativity can ensure that we are less likely to develop cognitive impairment and memory problems as we age. Immersing ourselves in the creative process of art gives us a temporary time out from the body and mind’s focus on life’s stressors, ‘the unexpected’, past trauma and grief. Engaging in some form of ‘art as therapy’ regularly allows us to escape from our feelings of stress and pain; providing our body and minds the time and space we need to promote healing.

For me, other than creating decorative comforts for my own home, art had always been about producing a product to generate income. My family heritage of producing handwork for money has been a strong and compulsive influence throughout my life. In the past I spent many hours producing hand painted folk art pieces and marketing them at shows. These are a few of my handcrafted works. I recently crossed paths with the jug in the first image at an antiques shop.  When I first saw it, it looked familiar, and I wondered where I had seen it before.  Then I realized that it was one of my artistic reproductions which I had painted decades earlier.

birds jug farm animal lampRooster jug

I left the above type of income producing ‘handwork’ behind decades ago when it was no longer a good fit in my life, and went on to study nutrition and natural health to improve my health. My career focus then changed to helping people to improve their health through changes in diet, lifestyle and adding natural strategies.

Recently, after experiencing the loss of a friend to suicide and being thrown back into the grief process while still grieving the passing of my mother, I felt a strong need to return to the creative process to distract my mind’s focus. Accessing the ‘creative side of my brain’ had always helped me in times of stress in the past, and we all know that life’s stressors can add up at times and feel overwhelming. Over the years I had read a lot about how art was therapeutic so I made the decision that I would start painting ‘for therapy’. What I didn’t expect was the huge block I had getting started. In the past the motivation for painting, other than my home décor items, had always been to produce a product to generate income. My mindset had difficulty with the concept of painting for therapy, although I understood the health benefits. My psyche and perfectionist tendencies, influenced by my family heritage, was stuck in my old pattern of ‘produce for income’.  It took me quite some time spent meditating and praying to start letting go of my old mind set, and allow myself to spend time painting without focusing and seeing the end product as a marketable commodity. This was not an easy transition for me. I am still meditating and praying regularly to help reprogram my brain’s previous default setting about producing art solely as an income source.

In the interim, I have put my paint brushes to canvas.  Many years ago I had purchased a poster plaque at a thrift store (image below) with an inspirational message I liked and planned to someday reproduce.  I loved the ‘Advice from a Tree’ message but did not like the artistic presentation.  From an internet search I found that there were many longer versions of the poem, originally written by Ilan Shamir, which I felt tied into my ‘balanced lifestyle’ quest; and would more easily prompt me to make the ‘art as therapy’ transition that my brain needed. When I purchased the thrift store plaque below, the border, now dark brown, was a bright emerald green.

advice from a tree 2

My artistic interpretation of the ‘Advice from a Tree’ poster would be a better fit for my décor and draw more of the ‘wisdoms’ from the alternate versions of the poem I found on the internet. It would also reflect the beautiful tree view that I see daily through my living room window.

mytreeview

The real relevance of my art work version is the creative ‘therapeutic’ process and finished product ‘therapeutic’ messages. The creative process would provide me with the therapy that I needed while making the piece and the end product would provide me with ongoing visual prompts to help me in my quest to maintain a balanced lifestyle, be grateful and mindful.

The image below is my finished version which I decided to title as ‘Wisdom from a Tree’. It is a better decorative compliment to my family room and the messages and reminders of the creative process provide me with comfort, calm, motivation and inspiration. I am grateful for the healing it has brought me.

mywisdomfromatree

A ‘Wisdom from a Tree’ art therapy mindfulness workshop can help you in your quest to manage life’s stressors, process painful emotions like grief and feel more mindful, grateful and grounded. Join me for a therapeutic two day workshop to create your personal ‘Wisdom from a Tree’ unique artwork. I can lead you through the steps that I used to create my version and you can customize your creations by selecting your favourite ‘Advice from a Tree’ poem messages and other creative embellishments. This two day art therapy mindfulness workshop is suitable for beginners as well as providing advanced artists opportunity to further their creative expression. For more information visit my workshops and retreats page and scroll down to Holistic Menu item #12.

Whatever you are going through in your life, or feeling, consider some form of art ‘as therapy’  or art journaling therapy to help your body and mind to cope and heal. For more supports during your grief journey read my post.

Get started in your quest for greater resilience like that of a well rooted tree by reading Rick and Forrest Hanson’s book Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness.


Elisabeth Hines, C.N.C., C.B.P., Holistic Wellness Practitioner, Health by Design, www.mybodycanhealitself.ca, elisabethlhines@gmail.com

 

‘ITCHING’ TO RUN or FIGHT: Managing a ‘Ready to Take Off’ Stress, Fight or Flight Response

Itching

Remaining cool, calm and collected has been my ongoing goal to ensure that I stay grounded during times of stress, emotional upset and tragedy. My baseline calm default was altered in the past due to stress trauma and at times had me ‘idling’ on the edge. When stress and grief became a factor in my life, my ‘itchy’, ready to respond sympathetic nervous system ‘gas pedal’ would activate. This disrupted my overall balance, exaggerating my ‘not yet’ overcome vulnerabilities.

Some people have an over active, under active or faulty blood sugar, hormone, immune, heart or blood pressure response. Medically and generally accepted as ‘out of a person’s control’. An over active or run away stress, fight or flight response is seldom given the same understanding or acceptance. Extreme cases may be diagnosed as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

So what do you do if you find yourself somewhere between an ‘itchy’ stress, fight or flight response and PTSD? I am not going to mislead you by telling you there is a quick fix.  I have been working on restoring my baseline calm default for years using a variety of natural strategies and have made gains and experienced set backs.  The good news is the gains have been greater than the set backs. I am a ‘work in progress’, daily keeping my focus on my ultimate goal of ‘think, feel and respond like a Buddha’. You can find many of the holistic strategies that I have used in the past that have helped me to make huge gains in my health in my book The Whole Person Well-being Equation. Below you will find some additional and expanded strategies that I use and you can use to help you.

  1. Maintain life balance. This can be a challenge when you are going through major stress provoking times of your life.  Sometimes I feel like I am on a roller coaster ride when these major life stressors come my way. I have worked really hard to maintain life balance over the years and help clients and workshop participants to assess, restore and maintain life balance so that they are better prepared when the major life stressors come their way. You can learn about my life balance tools and workshops by clicking on the image below.  Board with
  2. Create a mantra.  This can help reprogram how your body and mind respond, gradually resetting your base ‘calm’ default. One of my mantras is ‘I chose to remain cool, calm and collected in the midst of stress, drama and the unexpected’.
  3. Use breathing. I recently started this practice again after a major life stressor. Inhaling to a count of ‘1,2,3’ while exhaling to a count of ‘1,2,3,4,5,6’ prompts the parasympathetic nervous system to slow your heart, putting on the brakes to prevent an out of control stress, fight or flight response. When at home I set my cell phone timer to remind me every hour to repeat the breathing sequence several times. When away I can ignore it when it goes off or take a few moments in my busy day to repeat the breathing sequence.
  4. Use imagery and visualization. Combined with the breathing sequences, imagery and visualization help engage my parasympathetic nervous system’s braking action, decreasing my stress hormones and ‘itchy’ sympathetic nervous system’s gas pedal response. Lily of the valley has been a favourite image for me since I was a child visiting my grandmother’s farm garden, and I use it as my ‘go to’ visual and sensory reset. The perfect little bell shaped flowers and calming aroma bring me back to my grandmother’s garden. I have a picture of the lily of the valley on my cell phone wallpaper. I use a variety of sensory essential oils to provide a calm reset.
  5. Incorporate Symphony of the Cells. Symphony of the Cells is an orchestrated application of therapeutic grade essential oils developed by Boyd Truman after 20 years of experience working on thousands of people with chronic and acute emotional and physical conditions. The professionally designed protocols combine the layering of specially selected essential oils with therapeutic properties which are applied in layers to the spine and feet and inhaled aromatically. The spine is an excellent application site since the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system travel along the spine and the spinal cord fluid can carry the therapeutic benefits up to the brain and central nervous system. Each protocol application provides an immediate relaxing and sometimes releasing impact with continued therapeutic benefits as the oils therapeutic properties reach the cellular level. I alternate the neurological, sensory and forgiveness protocols regularly since they can be helpful for managing stress, PTSD, emotional trauma, fear, anger, tension, hyperesthesia, anxiousness, OCD, mental fatigue, loneliness, self-doubt and grief. I highly recommend adding the Symphony of the Cells to your wellness plan. Come and see me for a one on one complimentary introduction and application to get started.  Attend or host a Symphony of the Cells workshop. Contact me at elisabethlhines@gmail.com  or my daughter Amanda Dumouchel @mamasandoils for more information.
  6. Prayer, gratitude, nature and quiet.  My daily companions to promote calm and keep me balanced.

Wishing you ‘cool, calm and collected’ living!

Elisabeth Hines, C.N.C., C.B.P., Holistic Wellness Practitioner, Health by Design, www.mybodycanhealitself.ca,

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#stress #PTSD #emotionaltrauma #fear #anger  #tension  #hyperesthesia #anxiousness   #OCD  #mentalfatigue  #loneliness #selfdoubt #grief #fightorflight #posttraumaticstressdisorder #lifebalance #bloodsugarregulation

CONNECT WITH YOUR INNER CHILD: For a healthier you!

Connectwithyourinnerchild

Regardless of whether your childhood was traumatic or not, connecting with your inner child as an adult can provide you with some insights and opportunities or ‘a healthier you’ in the present.

That’s a picture of me on the right above as we are boarding the airplane in Amsterdam to immigrate to Canada in 1953. With the recent passing of my mother in the spring of this year I felt like an orphan and it took me time to process my feelings, including grief. I grew up with loving parents who raised me with loving, faith filled care. My inner child was a very sensitive and bashful child and I still display those personality traits as an adult at times – ‘not a mental illness’. Some researchers suggest that emotional sensitivity is an intrinsic part of people with high abilities and driven by perfectionism.  Regardless, this is the way God created me. Fast forward to today and I am connecting with my inner child and celebrating my uniqueness daily.

As a holistic wellness practitioner I spend much of my time researching physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health challenges; and what strategies might help people to manage or overcome them. Emotional aromatherapy has been a valuable strategy for me and my clients, helping them to connect with their inner child and sometimes suppressed or misunderstood emotions and personality traits.

I have been increasingly drawn to particular essential oils during this time of inner reflection.  Interestingly the oil that has had the greatest draw for me has been Ylang Ylang, the oil of the inner child. Ylang ylang is recommended to reconnect an individual with the child self and the pure, simple ways of the heart. For those with past emotional trauma, it is a powerful remedy for release. It also helps to release bottled up emotions.

To learn more about the use of essential oils to heal your inner child or other emotions, I would recommend the Emotions & Essential Oils, A Modern Resource for Healing, Emotional Reference Guide.  It comes with a companion Emotions & Essential Oils Wheel which makes it easy to select the right oil for what you are feeling.

Get started on ‘emotional aromatherapy’ today!

Elisabeth Hines, C.N.C., C.B.P. Holistic Wellness Practitioner, Health by Design, www.mybodycanhealitself.ca, elisabethlhines@gmail.com

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