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It’ll make you feel better in so many ways, and that’s why therapists are adding a bit of creativity to their addiction recovery programs: to help patients achieve a greater sense of well-being that goes beyond abstinence. Whether it’s a strum of the strings or a brush to the canvas, the arts heal your damaged psyche and enrich your life physically, mentally and spiritually. Here’s how.
This is the basis for good health. Difficult situations in life, such as being laid off, getting dumped or struggling with an addiction, can lead to stress, which has physical effects such as high blood pressure. That, in turn, causes even more stress. Creativity ends this vicious circle, as it brings peace of mind and helps you become energetically engaged with your body, according to A Lust for Life, a website devoted to well-being.
When you play an instrument, you focus your ears and eyes on what your hands are doing to produce a specific sound. This is a form of mindfulness, or being in the moment, in which nothing outside of you and your music matters, and that includes those worries and anxieties that you’ve been dragging around all day that are compounded by the pressures of readapting to a sober life. You can gain the same benefit from the visual arts.
Artistic expression allows you to let go of the troubles that have been weighing on your mind. Painting is especially therapeutic for some people in addiction recovery. The Treehouse points out, “Whether it’s watercolor, acrylic, or oils, painting is a wonderful way for those suffering with addiction to cope. Not only is painting a quiet, soothing activity, it allows an artist to bring out whatever emotions they’re dealing with onto the paper or canvas and leave it there. Because drugs and alcohol can dull a person’s emotions, painting can bring you back to yourself, little by little.”
Start with plucking a string while you tap your foot to the beat. Now, add another string to the mix. Then, place your fingers on the fingerboard, and add new notes to the composition. The next session, you’ll build even more complexity, and as your skills grow, you’ll learn to play songs in their entirety. Do you see how that works? Little by little, you become better and better. That’s how you accomplish things, and accomplishment is how you build your self-esteem.
Imagine yourself in front of the canvas for the first time, making your first tentative brush strokes. Seeking the same release of negative energy, you come back to the same place at the same time the next day to add to your budding work of art, but this time, with a steadier hand. You’re gaining skill, but also creating a routine, one that’s invigorating to your mind and spirit. This adds structure to your life, which you need to overcome the negative habits you developed in your previous life.
“Express yourself in some way you enjoy on a regular basis, just once a day, and benefit from a more positive state of mind,” says a doctor writing in Psychology Today, citing research in which over 600 people were surveyed on their artistic endeavors and the positive and negative emotional responses they felt. The study also revealed that creativity increased happiness in their relationships as well as positivity in the workplace.
There was a time when you were full of hope, before the weight of the world came crashing down on your shoulders. That child is still there inside you, waiting to reconnect. Art offers a way to reach them. Children are masters at creativity, naturally diving into lumps of clay and pots of fingerpaint to bring their imaginations to reality, and here you are doing the same thing, adding a dash of playfulness to your life. “Nothing is more important than creative play through imagination. Never stop playing, and never stop imagining!” says writer Carmela Dutra.
Painting, sculpting, music – any of these creative arts can be added to your recovery efforts, whether in-patient or outpatient, 12-step or holistic. Talk your therapist for some suggestions, or begin your personal vision quest with a trip to the music or art supply store. Either way, it starts with you.
Image via Pixabay.
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Ian Morrison, Marketing Manager, Institute of Counselling.