Self-Expression: Art Therapy Activities

Art therapy with crayons
Art and a sketchpad

“The simple act of creative expression connects us with an inner-self of vitality.”–Doreen Meister, MA, MFT

Meister is an expressive arts therapist who practices out of Oakland, Calif.  I recently read an article where she discussed the benefits of art therapy and gave three techniques that you can try yourself.

The article “3 Art Therapy Techniques for Anxiety” talks about the importance of art for calming the nervous system and allowing people to work through things that may be troubling them.  Says Meister: “when we’re focused on creating, our minds shift from worrisome ruminations.”

Art Therapy: Another Tool for Self-Expression

I happened to have a sketchbook and box of crayons on hand, so I decided to modify one of the activities from the article: select a crayon, draw a squiggle across the page, flip the page over, decide what the squiggle reminded me of, and turn it into some sort of drawing.

For someone who doesn’t draw, this activity was fun for me.  Starting with a squiggle is easy…and there’s no pressure to draw “real art.”  I turned my squiggle into a ghost family holding hands by a river. I think they must be fishing in a forest because I think the brown lines filled in with green represent a wooded area of trees.  There’s grass on the other side of the river, and they’ve all signed their name: ghost, ghost, ghost, ghost, and ghost.  img_7200

I also had fun just coloring on a blank sheet of paper.  If you haven’t colored for a few years, give it a try.  Even writing your name in crayons or drawing simple shapes can turn into a hour of self-expression!

Journal, if you wish

If you want to take it one step further, you can journal about what your picture means to you or how it connects to your daily life.

Read 3 Art Therapy Techniques to Deal with Anxiety at Psych Central for specific ways to use drawing with crayons as ways to deal with anxiety.

Why Self Expression Matters

Self expression is important, and I recently realized why.

trauma sensitive journaling
Expressing myself in a bright pink shirt and my cat’s eye sunglasses.

Yes, creative activities can be enjoyable, but they are also an important way to remind us that we exist, that we all have a unique vision, that we are always enough, and that we are brilliant.

The fact that we can create something from nothing, that we can write poems, essays, song lyrics, blog entries, and stories is actually incredible when you think about it. The fact that we express ourselves through the multitude of choices we make each day in what to wear, what to feed ourselves, and how to make our way through the world is also incredible–another part of self expression.

You matter.  You have value. Your self deserves a place for expression.  A safe place where you can create without judgment or competition.  A place where you can create to create and express to express, without fearing that you are doing it right or wrong. For years I’ve held back from going to dance classes for fear of doing it wrong–when all I want to do is rock some awkward moves in a group full of accepting, happy people.  My hope is that my blog is to you what that (still imaginary) dance class is for me.

Here, I’ll post insights into my own self expression as I search for balance in my own life.  Feel free to follow along and participate as much or as little as you’d like.