Get Creative! DIY Projects for Emotional Wellbeing
When you flex your creative muscles, focus intensifies, attention shifts, and imagination expands. Time passes at a different pace. Your breathing and heart-rates slow down. Hours whiz by like seconds. And a blissful sense of wellbeing overtakes you in the flow state. Much like Yoga and meditation, artistic projects involve mindfulness and can positively impact your physical and emotional body. According to Carla Rose, MA, LCAT, ATR-BC Licensed and Board-Certified Creative Arts Therapist, “By using drawing and other creative methods, you can circumvent the logical left brain and get right into the heart of the matter.”
Abandon preconceived notions about your talent or artistic ability. Release self-judgement. Benefits of making art/crafts are not limited to a select few. According to Carla, “When we take away the idea of having to create something beautiful or aesthetically pleasing, we increase the opportunity to enjoy the creative process without worrying about liking the result.” For a sense of connection, and a window into your soul, try these projects...
Breathe & Create
Aligning with your breath is always a good idea, as it calms the nervous system and helps you focus. Carla says, “taking a crayon in each hand, closing the eyes and allowing the hands to roam over the page engages both left and right hemispheres of the brain. Using mindful techniques like focusing on the breath and painting along with rhythmic music can reduce stress.”
Make creativity a daily practice and expand your imagination by art journaling. Use a cloth bound sketchbook that you can't rip pages out of; this way you’ll resist the urge to judge, and dispose of pages. Explore different materials: colored pencils, pastels, markers, all work well. Don’t sketch models or attempt to make perfect recreations. When journaling, let yourself be guided through instinct. Each time you approach the page, channel your thoughts, feelings and dreams into visuals; working this way will help access hidden emotions and intuition. When it comes to examining the results, do this at a different time of day, when you are not drawing. Ruminate on the imagery and see what surfaces.
Dream Collage Journal
Breathe life into your dreams. In the process, strengthen your ability to visualize, manifest, and foster positive vibes. Get started with a large sketchbook; one that houses plenty of space on each page. Choose a theme for each collage, such as travel, nature, social, and romance. Then select images that conjure up a positive representation... maybe it's a villa in Barcelona, riding horses in the country, or a Yoga pose you've been working toward. In addition to visuals, write on a separate page in boldly colored playful lettering, words, and phrases that inspire.
Alternatively, Carla suggests another type of art journaling called, “altered books.” While Carla says it's not aimed at relaxation, it is “fun and inspiring over time.” How do you do it? “Instead of using a new journal, choose an old or recycled book (libraries sometimes get rid of old books). You can paint over pages, use collage, glue, tape, draw, paint, cut and create your own book,” says Carla.
Craft Your Own Mala Beads
Mala beads are used as a meditative tool to help center the mind. Stringing your own beads gives you a beautiful chance to imbue them with a specific intention, such as a willingness to flow with change, courage, or a compassionate heart. Choose earth based, and/or semiprecious stones with energies that align with your birth, chakra, mood, or chosen intention. Instead of simply performing the action of beading, make it a moving meditation; feel the texture and energy of each stone or bead. Is it cool or warm against your fingertips? Absorb the color on your hands. Involve your senses. Go as slowly as possibly and align with your breath. For instructions on how to string the beads, check out this short video, How to Make a Mala Necklace.
Intersperse your own beads within a mala, or use them to make a unique necklace. Alternatively, use a cord to accentuate one particular statement bead. Air clay is easy to work with, clean, and comes in a rainbow of shades. Enjoy the tactile experience... Carve shapes into clay. Press designs from vintage metals, coins, or stamps. Make mini sculptures of flowers, faces, fruit, stars. Create however you wish. After you craft your desired bead design, while it's still soft, use a needle or metal stick to gently pierce the middle, widening the space slightly to a hollow valley where your string will go. Since drying clay causes it to shrink slightly, to avoid the hole closing up, make sure to create a bit of extra room. Dry time is 24-48 hours. After beads dry, paint with acrylic paint, glaze, or leave natural. Check out this video for another take on making clay beads.
Watercolor Flowers & Meditation
Choose a fragrant flower that evokes an emotional response; find one in nature or choose a photograph as your model; it can be abstract, surreal or representational. Use vibrant watercolor paint or pencils. As you recreate the petals, along with visual colors and shapes, recall their scent. Notice how it makes you feel.
After you paint your lily, violet, or jasmine, use it as a focal point for gazing meditation with open eyes. Sit in a comfortable cross legged position. Draw your awareness to your breath. Roll your shoulders back and down; keep your spine aligned, head reaching naturally towards the sky. Take a deep inhale through the nose, very slowly into your abdomen. Exhale. Once you’re in a highly relaxed, comfortable state, bring your awareness to the image of the flower. See its color glowing with vibrancy. Inhale its scent. Imagine a cool gentle breeze blowing the petals. As you steadily gaze, allow for discovery. For more about the specific meanings of various flowers, read: Flower Meanings, the Language of Flowers, in the Old Farmers Almanac.
Natural Beauty & Self Care
Whipping up your own beauty/skincare products is a natural way to intermingle self-care & crafting. Infuse healing florals, such as chamomile, calendula or lavender petals into coconut oil, for a dewy facial and body quencher. For instructions, see: Coconut Flower Infused Oils. And create DIY Natural Face Mists; for more about homemade beauty products, check out Skincare Kitchen.
Take something old and broken and reinvent it. Making a mosaic is not only calming, it's a green way to breathe new life into formerly unusable items. You'll need some broken dishes or pottery, to break into smaller pieces, and paper and pencil to sketch your design. For instructions see How to Make a Mosaic for Beginners.
On the path to inventing new wondrous objects, why not introduce a selfless element into your creative process, by "making a gift for someone else. Pick a neighbor or friend that you are creating in honor of and watch how their joy and appreciation is reflected back to you when they receive the gift,” says "Psychotherapist Haley Neidich, LCSW.
Always approach projects with a loving, lighthearted vibe. And notice which ones especially resonate. Haley finds in her therapy practice, “that people struggling with their mental health neglect their creativity and are not spending time doing the things they love most.” Additionally, Haley suggests revisiting arts and crafts you once loved as a child. Integrate those forms of creative expression into your life on a regular basis. Be playful. When it comes to expressing your artistic side, it's all about the journey. Haley says,”Creative endeavors are one of the absolute best coping skills due to how versatile they can be in supporting mental health symptoms.” So take your time. Be playful. And remember, you are on an unfolding path of self-discovery.