by: Kelly Fliller

We all know the usual go-to stress relief techniques – yoga, meditation, deep breathing. These are great ways to feel more relaxed and centered. But did you know that creating art can reduce stress and make you feel calmer? Danielle Bursk, Director of Arts Education of the NJ State Council on the Arts said, “Creating and experiencing the arts can be great stress relievers for people of any age. Listening to music, drawing, dancing – art in all its forms provides both an outlet for emotion and expression, and helps people to relax, unwind and open their minds.”

Here are some different artistic ways you can reduce stress while exploring your creativity.

  1. Coloring – Let’s start by taking it back to when we were kids. Remember how exciting it was to open a brand new box of crayons? The sight of the colors, the smell, organizing the colors into the perfect order (looks like Crayola® is up to an impressive box of 152 crayons) – that was therapeutic in itself. Coloring can bring on relaxation and help clear the mind. Focusing on the colors, patterns and staying in the lines is very calming (and fun)! And over the last few years, we’ve seen the growing trend of adult coloring books, specifically for stress relief. Harrison H. Haney, New Jersey State Teen Arts Director said, “Art is such a fantastic way to relieve stress! The simplest artistic task of coloring inside the lines of coloring book page creates a fun focus activity which can quickly distract you from the daily pressures of life to relieve you of your unneeded stress.” Check out Crayola’s free coloring pages for kids and adults, available in various themes, for whatever your mood may be!
  2. Cut and paste the old fashioned way – find images in magazines of whatever makes you happy, cut them out and make a vision board. You can pick a goal-oriented theme (career goals, personal goals, vacation goals) or just go for images that evoke pure relaxation. Don’t want to pick a theme? Use any variety of pictures that make you feel good. I made my own vision board using magazine photos of some of my favorite things – dogs, watermelon, the beach, fitness – it was random, but each image brought me happiness and got me thinking positively. Choose what feels best to you. It’s a relaxing process to create it and the stress relief continues each time you reflect on it.
  3. Paint or draw to music – music is powerful. It may pump you up, make you sad, take you back to a specific memory, relax you – music can bring out many emotions. Pick a genre that is relaxing to you. I find that Yoga Radio on Pandora makes me feel like I am at a spa or sitting on a quiet island. Whatever music makes you feel good, set the tone and pick up your paint brush or pencil.  Draw or paint whatever comes to your mind in conjunction with your mood and the music. Teresa Staub, Executive Director of Monmouth Arts said, “I think adults seeking stress relief, no matter how artistically gifted, should stop making excuses and start making art. Activities like drawing, painting, and sculpting are relaxing hobbies that can lower stress levels. I find that at the end of the day, I’m tired and stressed. It’s so easy to pour a glass of wine and jump back on the computer.  However, this typically makes me more stressed, so try I try to put on some relaxing music and start drawing. No matter what the final creation, I feel better.”
  4. Drawing journal – Keeping a journal to write down your thoughts is a great way to reduce stress. A creative spin on this is a drawing or artistic journal. Drawing has a calming effect on the brain. Amy Maricle, founder of Mindful Art Studio, is a Massachusetts-based artist, author, and art therapist who helps others focus on creative self-care. Her work and writing have been featured in Psych Central’s Everyday Creativity blog, heART Journaling Magazine, and The First 30 Days blog. She works with people all over the world who want a creative outlet for stress relief and she has some awesome tips on art journaling to decompress and relax. Check out her 15 Ways to Doodle and De-Stress. You will find many more great resources on the Mindful Art Studio website.
  5. Positive affirmations – There is something special about reading a positive affirmation or favorite quote that can immediately lift your spirits. Find a quote that makes you feel calm, strong and happy, and cut it out or draw it in your drawing journal. Keep it close by so you can see it whenever you need a pick-me-up or when you’re feeling stressed. You can even paint it on a small rock so you can carry it with you wherever you go. Or, create a keychain with your favorite saying in your favorite colors. The creative possibilities are endless and part of the process to find peace and relaxation.

There are so many fun and creative ways you can reduce stress. What are your favorite stress relief methods? How do you combine creativity and art to reduce your stress?

I will leave you with a great and useful quote from Amy Maricle, “Doodle slow, chill out fast.”

One of Amy Maricle’s beautiful doodles in her art journal.

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