Connecting to nature

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I spent this past weekend in Vermont for a 2-day environmental art therapy workshop. In the days leading up to my trip I noticed the normal feelings of excitement that go along with getting away, as well as some skepticism regarding how the material would  translate to my life and work in the concrete jungle. It's natural and almost automatic for me to feel connected to nature from a mountaintop, but  how would this apply in a city where a patch of grass or single tree is often at nature-y as it gets? As is generally the case, my skepticism was completely unwarrented. In addition to the grounding, expansiveness, and mosquito bites that typically accompany time in the great outdoors, I left with tangible ways to bring more nature into my work and a refreshed appreciation and understanding of the connection between environment and self.

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Instead of sitting in a classroom listening to lectures and power point presentations, the weekend was spent moving, creating, and connecting, engaged with the many layers of my surroundings, and in turn, the many layers of both myself, the group, and our community. In effort to keep this momentum going, here are 3 ideas to help you (re)connect with your environment, no matter where it is! 

- Peel your eyes from this screen, and look out your window! Pick 1 point of interest, and draw what you see. 

- Plant a potted plant- actually plant the roots into the soil, allow your hands to get dirty. Learn about your specific plant (watering, sunlight, etc.) and tend to it. Watch it grow!

- Use 5 minutes of your lunch break to take a loop around the block. Tune into your senses- what do you see, hear, smell, taste? How do you feel? What do you notice about your skin as it comes in contact with the air? Allow yourself to expand with each step. 

Top 30 Art Therapy Blogs!!!

<a href="http://blog.feedspot.com/art_therapy_blogs/" title="Art Therapy blogs"><img src="https://blog-cdn.feedspot.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Art-Therapy-transparent_216px.png" ></img></a>

Excited to announce that my blog has been included in FeedSpot's recent compilation of the Top 30 Art Therapy Blogs :)  Big thanks for all the support! Check out their comprehensive list for other art therapy related ideas and inspiration! 

Bed-time Rituals

Last posting I spoke about what to avoid for optimal zzz's. This week, let's focus on what to create! Establishing a bedtime ritual, i.e. following a consistent night-time routine, is an amazing way to prepare your mind and body for a good night's sleep. Here are some practices to incorporate as you begin establishing a ritual of your own..

- Be deliberate with your PJ's- Find something comfy and consistent that you can wear to bed each night. Be mindful of the fabric and fit. How does it feel on your body? Make it something you look forward to putting on. Changing into this special sleepwear signals your body that it's time to start winding down. 

- Streeeeetch- Do some simple stretching or a basic yoga sequence to prepare your body for the upcoming hours of non-use. Focus on alignment and general loosening up vs. exertion. 

- Listen to soothing music- Lighter sounds, such as classical music, help the mind relax. Experiment with what sounds feel best.

- Drink a glass of cherry juice- This is a less common pre-bedtime ritual, but definitely one worth considering. Tart cherries are high in melatonin, the same hormone that helps your body induce sleep. Try having a cup about an hour before you'd like to zonk out. Bring on the yawning!

- Write out tomorrow's to-dos- All too often our sleep is disturbed by pesky anxieties about tomorrow. Try tackling these anxieties head on before they even have the chance to creep into your dreams.  Write out a list of tomorrow's to-do's, helping to clear your mind and provide some itnernal organization. Rest assured they'll be there in the am.

Phone down, eyes shut

How's your sleep?? Do you find it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or maybe a combination of the two? If so, you're not alone. Studies from the Sleep Health Foundation. show that approximately 1 in 3 people have at least a mild form of insomnia. These sleep difficulties cause a decrease in energy, mood shifts, health declines, and cast an overall shadow on your quality of life. For many, you don't have to look far to find the culprit to these shut-eye struggles. In fact, you may  be holding it in your hand right now as you read this post.  You guessed it!--your cell phone, that mini extension of your hand. 

Studies show that there are huge benefits to putting your phone away before you hit the hay. In fact, technologically-checking-out 1-2 hours before bedtime could make a huge difference in your sleep. Thats because the blue light emitted from phone screens often interferes with the body's production of melatonin, the essential hormone in falling asleep. If it's impossible for you to check-out that early in the night, try setting the sleep setting on your phone, which automatically reduces the blue light. This way, those final hours of phone time aren't quite as disruptive. If you find yourself waking in the middle of the night, try your very best to avoid checking your phone. Instead try a body scan, relaxing back into bed. Get a clock to avoid this temptation! This way you can even store your phone in a separate room while you snooze. Out of sight, out of mind ;)

 

 

Speak no evil, feel no evil

When feeling overwhelmed, do you find that your stressors are the basis of your conversations? If so, you could be perpetuating the issue. Although your stressors and feelings are all real, the words you speak actually trigger a biological response in your body. So talking about feeling stressed automatically causes your body to stress-  cortisol levels rise and neurotransmitters go into overdrive. Your heart rate and blood pressure increase and you find yourself feeling clammy, short of breath, and paralyzed by anxiety. Although this sounds pretty terrible, the solution is actually extremely simple. Shift your words to shift your experience. 

Many of us understand stress as an external factor. Try taking an internal approach. Stress is all about our perception. That's why 2 people can experience the exact same event and walk away feeling completely different.  Once we decide a situation is stressful, that thought becomes our biophysical reality. This happens in the form of biochemicals called catecholamines. These are the hormones associated with fight or flight. Their secretion tells our body we're in danger and to prepare accordingly. This is great and totally necessary if you're actually in a dangerous situation....but if you're talking about daily life stressors, you're increasing your risk of all kinds of health issues.  

So what do you do??? Try erasing the word stress from your vocabulary. Take a fake it till you make it approach. Yes, you know you're stressed, but speak as if you feel grounded and in control. Begin incorporating more positive language. Replace your venting with healthy habits- go for a run, meet friends for a meal, watch a funny movie. Do things that genuinely make you happy. And smile! Research shows this fake it till you make it attitude is actually more than just an old saying. A recent study showed that people who smile when stressed have lower heart rates and report more positive emotions. That's a strong case for being optimistic!  

 

 

Time-crunch De-crunch

It's Monday morning. Your alarm goes off and you're suddenly jolted from a dreamy state into complete frenzy. You race out of bed, into the shower, shove some food and coffee in your mouth, and as abruptly as you woke, are out the door for your morning commute. In less than an hour the entire weekend's relaxation and calm has been completed erased. Sound familiar? Try one of these quick-fixes to regain some grounding. On a time crunch? All take a minute or less! 

  • Pet a pooch. Studies show that time with pups leads to healthy mind and heart. 
  • Plug in your headphones and tune into your favorite song. It's no secret that mood is significantly affected by music
  • Imagine a peaceful place. Not getting there? Open a travel magazine and pick your favorite.
  • Do 15 jumping jacks. Getting out those bottled emotions feels soo good!
  • Take 5 deep belly breaths
  • Bust a move (like no one's looking)
  • Stretchhhhhh

Narrow your mind, broaden your perspective...

Let's face it- life is busy! There's work and relationships, extracurriculars (possibly even hobbies!), squeezing in exercise, endless errands ....it can feel like a constant juggling act! How do you maintain a sense of grounding and balance with all these balls in the air? Here's a simple focusing exercise to help you stay present in the moment, even with all the hustle and bustle. Best part is, it can be done almost anywhere! Use the below steps as an outline, improvising welcome...

Focusing exercise:

  • Take a deep breath in and a deep exhale out
  • Look around you. Allow your eyes to settle on the 1st object that catches your gaze
  • Focus so acutely on this object that it becomes all you see. Feel that you're truly noticing it for the first time
  • Begin to describe this object (either mentally or on paper): 
    • imagine who it belongs to...

    • imagine what it would smell, taste, and feel like...

    • observe its size, color, shape, texture, density, purpose, use....

    • include any other observations that come to mind. Think outside the box!...

  • Observe it fully and completely, each and every detail.  Once you feel that you've fully seen the object, close your eyes and take another deep inhale and exhale, letting it go and returning to the space with a renewed sense of focus and calm  

  

         

 

 

Happy Spring

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Today marks the 1st day of spring! Although the streets are still lined with unmelted snow, the warmth from the sun is certainly giving the city a new and refreshed spring-time feel. I don't know about you, but I'm ready! This is the season of new life and growth. As you go about your day, try to make an effort to be present and mindful of your surroundings. Appreciate the bird's chirping and buds slowly pushing their way through the soil. How can you incorporate this growth into your own life?

Try incorporating something new to really embrace the seasonal-spirit. Here are some ideas to help spring you into action..

  • Buy a new plant- add some life to your space
  • Begin a daily mandala practice
  • Buy a new journal--and write in it each day
  • Get a little extra sleep-- we're always more tired as the seasons shift
  • Try cooking a a new recipe, something that will really nurture you
  • Dedicate 5 minutes each am to a meditation practice
  • Stretch before bed (and when you wake if you're really feeling ambitious!)

Artistic Noise Exhibition Tonight 6/23!

Installation in-process....looking amazing! 

Installation in-process....looking amazing! 

In addition to my private practice, I work as the art therapist for an organization called Artistic Noise. Artistic Noise is a small grassroots that works with young people who are incarcerated, on probation, or otherwise involved in the juvenile justice system. Many of the youth we work with were not previously given the tools or space to express themselves creatively. All of a sudden they find themselves painting, drawing, sculpting….their thoughts and feelings coming to life before their eyes. At Artistic Noise we help provide a safe space for young people and their communities to transform though the use of artistic practice. The creative process gives voice to their experience, allowing them to be both seen and heard. Come and celebrate their powerful voices tonight with us at the Artistic Noise annual exhibition. Its an incredible show that you won't want to miss. For more information about the exhibition and our organization, check-out our incredible write-up in the huffingtonpost! Show details below...

 

Artistic Noise Presents: INFINITE REVOLUTION

Our 15 year Anniversary Art Exhibition
Public Opening Reception: TONIGHT, June 23rd 6:00-8:00pm

Remarks at 7:00 p.m.

34 Stuyvesant St
NYU's Commons Gallery
(btwn 2nd & 3rd Ave) 

6 train to Astor Place

Free and open to the public!!!

Show on view June 23rd - June 27th

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All for One and Art for All

One of my favorite things about Art Therapy is the emphasis on the process. Taking aesthetic judgment out of the equation allows space for clients to discover their creative potential and uncover parts of themselves that they didn’t realize existed. Still, clients rarely come charging into this judgment free zone. Each person enters with preconceived notions about themselves and their artistic abilities (or lack-there-of), based on past experiences and messages they’ve received from teachers, family, friends, etc. Typically, these beliefs are deeply rooted in self-doubt. At an early age, most people become self-conscious and stop creating because they no longer feel they are “good” at art. The art therapy session is a time to challenge these past beliefs, to let go of fear and allow oneself to play. Once my clients give themselves permission to engage in this process, I find that they easily reconnect with their innate creativity. Within no time, they’re absorbed in the artistic process, focused and in the flow.

That said, its not surprising that studies directly link creativity to improved health and overall well-being. Engaging in art making has so many positive effects!....

  • Increased authenticity and self-awareness
  • Decreased stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms
  • Improved self-expression and socialization
  • Increased resilience and self-confidence
  • Improved physical health/Decrease in physical pain

So pick up a marker, and take 5 minutes (or more!) to create. Make a quick sketch, a doodle, a mandala. Let go of criticism and self-judgment and remember what it was like to be 4 years old, covered in paint and turning out only masterpieces….you just might feel better :) 

Art Therapy: The Movie

Judy Rubin speaks about the dynamics of working with different groups of people and the importance of training and education to become an art therapist.

Two-weeks ago, Pratt Institute hosted the 1st screening of Art Therapy: The Movie, a feature length film providing insight into the world of art therapy. This film takes viewers on a journey around the world, sharing the remarkable stories of people who are using art therapy as a tool to process their struggles and live more fulfilling lives. This journey includes a trip to Japan, where we see the incorporation of art therapy as mental health treatment following the Tohuku Earthquake and a stop in the Dominican Republic, where NYC art therapy students work with children, using art therapy as a tool for social action. In India we see art therapy within the schools, supporting special needs children to learn and thrive, locally in the Bronx as substance abuse treatment, and in Newtown Connecticut, within a healing project.  In addition to providing a culturally diverse framework, the film offers insight on both short and long-term treatment, a look into the extensive training process of art-therapists, and an opportunity to hear from several leaders in the field. Whether you're new to art therapy or have some background knowledge, this film is sure to deepen your understanding and offer new perspective. I highly recommend checking out the clip! (Additional clips and information available here).

Infusing creativity into holiday gift-giving

The holiday season has officially arrived. If you’re like me, it feels like it crept-up out of no-where! This means there are still lots of gifts to be purchased, boxes to be wrapped, and cards to be written. Knowing what you’re looking for can be a huge help amidst the seasonal crowds and chaos. Here are some great gift ideas, sure to impart inspiration and creativity to those who receive.  

* Kwik Stix - These sticks look like crayons, but apply like tempera paint. Think paint, without the mess or hassle of clean-up. Fast, fun, and easy! Great for kids, a must-have for parents, and perfect for artists on the go!

* Adult coloring book (available at Urban Outfitters for only $10!) -  Many of us haven't colored since our elementary school days. This said, studies are now linking this pastime with stress reduction and anxiety relief. When coloring, our minds and bodies are integrated, operating in the present in a focused way. Give someone you love this creative solution to soothe their system.

* Box poetry kit -  Help your loved ones think outside the box with a magnetic poetry kit. This tiny box of words can be arranged and rearranged into infinite combinations, check-out Amazon to see the full range. These clever kits come in all themes, so there’s sure to be one to peak your interest.

*Journals - Give your loved one the gift of space…a place for them to explore and store their thoughts and ideas. A journal does just this! An enticing cover never hurts....I like this set of 3 from Anthropologie.

 

.......Already have your gifts? Try making your own wrapping paper to add a touch of creativity and flair!

Materials:

  • Roll of brown craft paper
  • various paints/brushes
  • stamps/ink
  • tape
  • newspaper

Instructions:

  •  Lay out newspaper on the floor to protect your space.
  • Unroll the paper and secure down with tape
  • Experiment with different techniques to create your own DIY wrapping paper. Try different combinations, patterns, colors, etc.  Let loose and have fun!

Happy Holidays!!

 

When words aren't enough...

Photographer Chronicles Struggle With Depression Through Enchanting Self-Portaits

Photographer Chronicles Struggle With Depression Through Enchanting Self-Portaits

Don’t get me wrong…words are great. The ability to discuss, banter, describe and consequentially feel understood….all rewarding experiences that we are lucky to have. But have you ever had a feeling that you just can’t articulate with words? An experience that your vocabulary, no matter how vast, just can’t describe?  Huffingtonpost.com describes this very experience in an article about photographer Aleksandra Stone. Following the death of a friend, Stone began creating autobiographical self-portraits, using imagery to capture the feelings of deep depression she  experienced, but could not vocalize. In her photographs, Stone uses her own body, diverse landscapes, and intricate materials to explore the depths of her emotional states. The results are powerful compositions that speak loudly, providing a tangible narrative for Stone’s personal struggles.

Stone’s photographs are beautifully done and the article does a great job of describing her use of photography as a therapeutic outlet. Yes, words are great, but it’s important to remember that we have many other ways to express ourselves. So when words fail, try thinking outside the box. You may surprise yourself…

*If issues arise during your process, don’t hold back in getting the help of a trained art therapist to support you along the way :)

Pixar’s “Inside-Out”…Summer MUST-SEE

Animated cartoons and a bright retro-inspired design set the stage for Pixar’s latest block-buster “Inside-Out.” On the surface this may seem like just another cartoon, but after viewing it's clear that this film packs much more. Witty, entertaining, and scientifically sound, this is a film for the entire family. In planning for the film, writer director Pete Doctor consulted with a team of scientists to help create an accurate picture of the science and development behind emotional literacy. In these meetings he learned how emotions both govern the stream of consciousness and color our past memories and what the emotional life of an 11-year-old girl is really like. Fast forward to the release of “Inside-out,” set inside 11-year old Riley’s mind, where Doctor uses visual metaphors that are both clever and striking to bring all of his research to life. Through this film, viewers learn to both understand their own emotions as well as better empathize with others…useful lessons for all ages!

Although it’s Riley’s life experiences that dictate the plot, primarily her move from Minnesota to San Francisco, the central focus is really on her internal representations of Joy, Sadness, Anger, Anxiety, and Disgust, personified into brightly colored characters. These 5 characters reside inside her control center, managing her personality, memories, and emotions. Up until the move, Riley is a happy and easy-going kid, connected to friends, family, and her hockey team, a real goof-ball. Joy seems to be the head honcho, running the show with pride and at one point even questioning why Sadness is there. As Riley is uprooted from her friends and home everything begins to change and the importance of Sadness becomes clear. Riley’s not happy in San Francisco and Joy can’t regain charge of the control center. Everything is going haywire and Anger, Anxiety, Disgust and most importantly Sadness have to step in and up.

Riley is dealing with loss, depicted first in the loss of her childhood home and friends and second by her entrance into the preteen years and the natural loss of childhood. As these 5 emotions confront the affects of these losses, we discover that there’s space and necessity for each of them. Once Joy backs down and allows Sadness to guide the way, helping Riley to embrace her losses and move into her new life, a level of clarity arises, setting the stage for new identities to form, interests to develop, and relationships to flourish. What we’re left with is a clear understanding that ALL emotions serve a purpose…even those that are deemed uncomfortable. So begin to make some space. Be curious…ask yourself, your partner, children, and friends “WHAT’S WRONG?” before focusing on finding a solution. Practice being ok with the answer…regardless of which character comes to the table.  

Artistic Noise Show Thursday 6/18

In addition to my work in private practice, I also work as the art therapist for Artistic Noise, a fantastic non-profit organization working with youth involved in the juvenile justice system. This program provides participants with the opportunity to process their experiences using the visual arts. This Thursday, 6/18 we have our annual art exhibit from 6:00-8:00 pm, where artwork created throughout the entire year will be exhibited in a professional gallery space. It's a wonderful evening filled with amazing artwork, energy, and creativity. Hope you can make it! 

Artistic Noise presents:

UN/KNOWN 

The process of making art

can easily be compared to everyday life.

Everyday we are surrounded by things unknown

like daily experiences of school, court, family and friends.

Things that leave us questioning everything known.

Art has the same effect on the artist.

It'll leave you questioning the heavens, earth and death

boggling your mind with questions such as, 

what will this turn into? What do I want to say?

But everything unknown will soon be known.

Welcome to the Un/Known.

 

Location:

 

RAW SPACE

2031 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd.

(7th Ave between 121st and 122nd St.)

 

Opening Reception:

Thursday June 18th 6:00-8:00pm

 

Open Gallery Hours:

Saturday 6/20 and Sunday 6/21: 12:00-3:00

 

Youth Curators: Marcus, Roshawn, Angel, and Briana  

Exhibition Manager: Ebony 

Sales Manager: Tashawn

 

 

Merging medicine & art

This morning I came across a great article in the Huffington Post that I highly recommend checking out. As we shift towards a more holistic approach in healthcare and gain deeper appreciation for mindful practice, the field of art therapy becomes increasingly widespread, receiving attention and respect for its integrative approach. Still, its always exciting to come across an article that talks about the collaboration of art therapy and science, specifically art therapy teaching doctors. In the past, these two specialties have often been fairly separate. Doctors interacted with their patients regarding medical issues and art therapists regarding emotional, not the most collaborative approach.  This article describes an awesome initiative at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, in which guest artist Ted Meyer uses artwork to help doctors see their patients as more than just an illness.

In the article, Meyer describes the foundation for his work, his own personal illness and the artwork that followed. Meyer was born with a rare genetic disorder. From the age of six he was constantly in and out of the hospital, poked and prodded, ultimately not sure how long he’d live.  During this time, he began to use art as an outlet for expression and healing, exploring his feelings about living in a body that didn’t quite work. Incorporating materials found within the hospital, Meyer used imagery to investigate his body and physical pain. Then, somewhat miraculously following a new treatment, he found himself almost symptom free. Meyer began connecting to others through the artistic process, using it as an outlet to learn about their scars and illnesses, letting them share their stories. So many of the individuals Meyer connected with used art as a way to cope and process their pain. Although not in the medical field, they had so much valuable experience to share, which Meyer believed could be incredibly helpful to doctors. Consequently, he created a guest artist position for himself at UCLA (clearly no small feat!). In this role, he recruits and curates a wide range of artists, each exploring issues of illness and identity, sharing their artwork and personal stories to provide physicians with a “more tangible understanding of living with certain afflictions.” Art therapy has been used within medical settings for a long time, but this program completely flips the script. This is art therapy geared towards the doctors, an effort to expand their minds beyond the clinical.  A very exciting and innovative program. Hopefully just the 1st of many…

Connecting color and mood

As the weather gets warmer, the city welcomes a new color palette. Plants are blossoming, styles are shifting, and with the sun shining, once familiar territory suddenly has an entirely new glow. As I look out the window I see vibrant green leaves blowing in the wind, a pop of color against today’s grey sky. Despite the hustle and bustle, there's something relaxing in this view. 

In art therapy, the use of color is often used to reflect mood, but did you know that color is also connected to emotion in our day-to-day environments? The colors you’re surrounded by- the paint you choose for your apartment, the new rug in your office, your new spring wardrobe- all influence your mood in different ways. Similarly, the color choices you make on a particular day may be a reflection of your mood at that given time. For example, some days you may feel like wearing something muted, other days you may be inclined to wear something bright. Start paying attention to how you’re feeling as you get dressed in the morning.  How do people respond to you throughout the day? Cool colors (green, purple, blue) tend to be more relaxing and are linked to a mixture of emotions ranging from serenity to sadness. On the other hand, warm colors (orange, red, yellow) tend to be energizing and can trigger an array of emotions ranging from enthusiasm and love to irritation and anger.

Try this brief exercise to see how you react to different colors....

Materials: Box of crayons, white paper

Directions: Close your eyes and select a crayon. Set a timer for 2 minutes and create a monochromatic (using only 1 color) drawing. When done, write down the 1st 3-5 words that come to mind. How did drawing with this color make you feel? How did it affect your mood? Try the exercise again (as many times as you want!) with a different color. Notice the difference….

Below are some of the most common psychological effects of colors in the Western Hemisphere (www.arttherapyblog.com/online/color-psychology-psychologica-effects-of-colors). Feel free to compare/contrast your reactions with this list. Remember that shade, setting, culture, and personal associations all influence your relationship to color, so there is plenty of room for variation….

Color Psychology: The Color White

  • purity
  • innocence
  • cleanliness
  • sense of space
  • neutrality
  • mourning (in some cultures/societies)

 Color Psychology: The Color Black

  • authority
  • power
  • strength
  • evil
  • intelligence
  • thinning / slimming
  • death or mourning

 Color Psychology: The Color Gray

  • neutral
  • timeless
  • practical

 Color Psychology: The Color Red

  • love
  • romance
  • gentle
  • warmth
  • comfort
  • energy
  • excitement
  • intensity
  • life
  • blood

 Color Psychology: The Color Orange

  • happy
  • energetic
  • excitement
  • enthusiasm
  • warmth
  • wealth prosperity
  • sophistication
  • change
  • stimulation

 Color Psychology: The Color Yellow

  • happiness
  • laughter
  • cheery
  • warmth
  • optimism
  • hunger
  • intensity
  • frustration
  • anger
  • attention-getting

Color Psychology: The Color Green

  • natural
  • cool
  • growth
  • money
  • health
  • envy
  • tranquility
  • harmony
  • calmness
  • fertility

 Color Psychology: The Color Blue

  • calmness
  • serenity
  • cold
  • uncaring
  • wisdom
  • loyalty
  • truth
  • focused
  • un-appetizing

 Color Psychology: The Color Purple

  • royalty
  • wealth
  • sophistication
  • wisdom
  • exotic
  • spiritual
  • prosperity
  • respect
  • mystery

 Color Psychology: The Color Brown

  • reliability
  • stability
  • friendship
  • sadness
  • warmth
  • comfort
  • security
  • natural
  • organic
  • mourning (in some cultures/societies)

 Color Psychology: The Color Pink

  • romance
  • love
  • gentle
  • calming
  • agitation

Add some color to your week

Do you ever find yourself feeling creative, but without the time to fulfill your artistic urges? For better or worse, New York is the city that never sleeps. Between work, relationships, and daily to-do’s, making time for creative endeavors can often feel like an impossible feat. Expanding on my last post on Mandalas, this week I want to share an easy and relaxing way to work creativity into your routine. The Huffington Post recently posted an article where they discuss the benefits of the mandalas, specifically coloring in pre-designed mandala illustrations. This seemingly simple exercise has the potential for big gains. Research shows that coloring has real health benefits! Psychologist Gloria Martínez Ayala describes these benefits to the Huffington Post, explaining that coloring involves both logic and creativity, exercising areas of the cerebral cortex responsible for vision and fine motor skills. In addition to giving your brain an excellent work-out, the relaxation provided by coloring actually lowers the activity of the amygdala, the part of the brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress. Basically, the act of coloring helps us be more present, mindful, and relaxed. When coloring, we’re focused on this one activity, transported in time back to the imaginative world of childhood. Clearly coloring is not just for kids! The Huffington post article provides a sampling of mandala coloring pages from the book, Coloring Flower Mandalas. I highly recommend checking them out or searching "mandala coloring pages" for additional options. Enjoy!! 

Mandala Mondays

              "Whatever circles comes from the center." Rumi

              "Whatever circles comes from the center." Rumi

Creating mandalas is one of my favorite art exercises, both to incorporate with art therapy clients and within my own personal artwork. For those unfamiliar with this term, ‘mandala’ is a Sanskrit word originating in ancient India, loosely translated to mean circle. However, a mandala embodies much more than a simple shape. Created in the form of circular patterns encompassing a center, the mandala represent wholeness, a reflection of the artist and their connection to the larger whole. This micro/macro pattern can be seen as a metaphor for the structure in most of life.  Throughout history, cultures all over the world have connected to this image. Artistically and spiritually, the Navajo Indians and Tibetan monks use sand mandalas as a way to demonstrate and explore impermanence. Architecturally, we see mandalas in Buddhist stupas, Muslim mosques, and Christian cathedrals. The mandala pattern is also commonly found in nature, biology, geology, chemistry, physics, and astronomy. Think about the cell and it’s nucleus, the earth and it’s core, a sunflower, a snail’s shell. Begin to explore the mandalas that surround you on a daily basis. They're everywhere! Use this as inspiration for creating a mandala of your own. This can be done with any type of art material- pencils, markers, paint, collage, sand, etc.- as with most art therapy directives, it is much more about the process than the final product. Imagine the mandala as a story, an abstract self-portrait representing wherever you are and however you’re feeling when you sit down to create. So pick the materials that speak to you and create your own unique version. Enjoy!