Recently, I’ve been trying to practise what I preach. I frequently find myself asking patients questions like this:
How do you destress?
What about some ‘you time’?
Or: What could you do that you know usually makes you feel good?
What I love about these questions is that I can never predict the answer – the things that make us feel good, that so absorb us they have the power to take us away from our present situation and help us forget our stresses for a while, are very personal. For one person it will be exercise; going on a run, working out in the gym or swimming 50 lengths. For another it might be music – listening to it or playing – while a third will find it helps to occupy their mind with a crossword or a sudoku.
The answer I would give is ‘Art’ (oh, and gardening, but that’s for another post!)
I never did art at school, but have loved it ever since – even more so since I learnt the importance of enjoying the process more and worrying about the end product less. When I paint or draw I have to concentrate so hard on what I am doing that there is no space left in my head to worry about anything else; any stresses that might be lurking there are pushed out by thoughts about line, tone and colour; time takes on a different quality as minutes turn into hours with unexpected swiftness and I have to set an alarm if I have something important to remember.
Most of all, I know that it does me good – and that I don’t do it often enough.
In the whole of 2014 I only managed the time to paint one picture and I am trying to rectify that this year – which is partly why the blog posts are coming less frequently. Making time for things that do us good means deciding what is important, and takes a bit of planning; the things that help often get pushed out by all the other, more urgent – but arguably less important – stresses in our lives.
Finding a regular time for art this year has really made the difference, and has come in the form of a monthly art space at my church. It’s not a class as such, since there’s no teacher, but we have a quiet room to use, regular tea and coffee and a mix of fruit and cake to keep us going; there’s no need for any talent, just enthusiasm for doing something creative and a willingness to spend a Saturday morning with others doing the same.
We’ve only met twice so far, but it’s got me drawing again at other times in the week too and now I’ve finished the picture I’ve been working on, I thought I’d share it here. On the whole I’m quite pleased with it, and it’s been great to try out a completely new technique – I’ve done a few charcoal portraits before, but not tried the 3 pencil technique before, and it’s emboldened me to have a go at a full colour pastel portrait next time. More than anything, it is a sign to me of 12 hours well spent, and it has done me a great deal of good.
There’s a bit in the Bible that I’m reminded of here – something that I’m sure we could all relate to, whatever our position when it comes to matters of faith, and it is this:
Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. (Phil 4 v 8)
I’d encourage everyone to think about things that do them good, and more than that, to make time to do them. It might not be Art Therapy – it could be Park-Run Therapy, Family-Weekend-Walk Therapy, Knitting Therapy or Origami Therapy – whatever it is, try to find time to fit it in if you can.