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.

You Don’t Have to Smile

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Oh no! I’m not smiling!

When I started this blog, I was thinking about self expression as a person expressing him or herself in a creative way.  However, we express ourselves in a number of ways, including our facial expressions.  I know my face looks different when I am happy or sad, when I am excited or nervous, when I am tired or wide awake.

And here’s the thing.  My facial expression can be whatever it is.  I can choose if I want to smile or if I want to frown or if I just want to have a neutral look.

During the last two weekends, I had two people tell me “SMILE!”  And I really hated it.

The first time was when I was walking to the coffee shop to work, and I was thinking about my projects.  A man told me to smile because life isn’t that bad and because God loves me.  This man who knows nothing about my choice to smile or not smile or what I was thinking at the time.

The second time was when I posted an updated photo of my hair on a “going gray and loving it” forum on Facebook.  My eyes looked really blue, and I really that I could see my emerging gray with my hair pulled back.  I didn’t have a cheesy grin.  I just had my unfiltered face.  When I posted the picture, I was commanded to SMILE! by a group member.  Uh, no thanks.

I’m writing this to remind myself that I never have to smile.  I am not a little girl sitting in a photo studio trying to look cute for a picture.  I do not have to smile when I’m walking down the street, and I do not have to smile for photos.  My body and my face belong to me, and I can decide what I want to do with them.

I do like to smile, laugh, and giggle, a lot.  On my own terms.

To smile or not to smile, that is the question!  (You decide!)

Rachel

Journal, if you’d like: How do you feel when people tell you to smile?  Do you think they are just being concerned about a serious or grumpy or intense look on your face?  When people tell you to smile, how does it make you feel?  Or: what in your life makes you smile?  When’s the last time you smiled?  How would you describe your facial expression at this point in time?