How art helped me deal with depression and anxiety

Written by Jane Watson

For as long as I can remember, suffering with anxiety felt like a natural part of me, it took me until my late 30’s to finally kick the habit of biting my nails and only now do I feel as if for the first time I am able to experience long periods, sometimes even days, of feeling anxiety free.

Managing my depression on a daily basis has also been a chore, and any parent will know that there’s really very little time to be depressed when you have young children. I am married with two teenage girls, and being a good role model and source of support to my husband and kids is of the upmost importance to me.

 

Family life helped alleviate my symptoms

I decided to slowly decrease my medication for depression until I finally stopped taking it back in 2015. Having children, combined with the sense of stability that family life provided me helped me to feel a lot better in myself, all the family outings and special occasions I found made me feel a lot happier and more contented in life.

 

I decided to take up a new hobby to support my mental health

I also decided to start trying new things with the intention of finding a new hobby that would stick. I wanted to do this as I thought it would be a great opportunity for a bit of me time, and that it would help further support my wellbeing and mental health in the absence of medication. 

Having done quite a lot of drawing and sketching as a child, I decided to put my creative abilities to the test and explore a completely new art style. I enrolled onto a 6-week watercolour course for beginners, and it has turned out to be one of the best things I have ever done for my mental health!

 

A creative way to free your mind

I took to it straight away and soon started practicing in my spare time between sessions, and I noticed after a few weeks of doing the course that I felt calmer and more at peace with myself. Being immersed in the creative process I found helped to significantly relieve stress levels and calm my mind. I could get lost in a painting for a couple of hours, entering into a flow like state, and during this time I found that my mind was completely calm and free of any daily worries and anxieties. 

 

I learned how to become more present

These calming and soothing effects I found became more long lasting over time. I find now that I am able to concentrate and focus much better, as well as be more mindful and present in the moment. I think this is because when creating art, you are so tuned in and focused on what you are doing and the finer details, that it helps teach you to become more present. 

 

Moving away from destruction and towards creation

As depression and anxiety can be so destructive, the process of creation feels like a natural antidote to this. For me it was a great outlet for emotional expression, and it has helped me feel so much calmer and more centred in my everyday life. I found watercolour painting to be a particularly cathartic medium of expression for me, but there are so many different art styles out there, that it’s more a question of finding out what works best for you. Creating art I think is a great tool for helping people heal and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a therapeutic and rewarding way to help support their mental health.

 

Image credit: Ulrike Leone

 

Jane Watson spent over a decade working in personal coaching and counselling, helping her clients using art. Now she’s taken a step back to spend more time with her growing family and writing about her favorite subjects.

To check out all of Jane’s guest posts on MHT, click here. 


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