Art and Mental Health

Photo by Customerbox on Unsplash

There’s a common misconception that we only need to worry about improving our mental health if we are in the throes of depression or trauma, or if we are trying to calm our overactive anxiety. But mental health is something we all experience. Just like our body’s health, mental health is a state of being. Sometimes it’s doing well, other times, not so much.

Regardless of our current state of mental health, there’s always an opportunity to improve how we feel. Art—the act of expressing ideas, emotions or experiences—can provide us with a new way of exploring our state of mind. Sayon Syprasoeuth, local mural artist and community activist, spoke to us about the connection between art and mental health.

“Art is a visual language,” he said. “It triggers our mind to make connections.”

Photo by Madalyn Cox on Unsplash

Unlike talk therapy, art provides a way to express our experiences without relying on words. As we begin to express ourselves, we begin making connections between our experiences and our thoughts. That’s what gives us perspective, helps us build resiliency and allows us to move forward, Syprasoeuth said.

Reduce the Effects of Mental Health Issues

Plenty of studies have explored the connection between art and mental health. The verdict? Art can help reduce the effects of anxiety, depression, PTSD, and a variety of other issues. The ability to express ideas or experiences without relying on words can be an effective alternative to talk therapy.

An art therapist can guide a patient through the healing process, but that doesn’t have to be everyone’s first step. For those of us that have never explored art before, Syprasoeuth suggested starting small.

Photo by Taylor Heery on Unsplash

“Everyone can draw stick figures,” he said. You don’t need to create beautiful art to reap the benefits. Doodling, scribbling, or stick figures are enough to get the ball rolling. Once you’re ready for the next step, make your way to the dollar store and pick up the art supplies that make sense to you. Watercolor paints, colored pencils, or even a playdough set are all great places to start.

The Benefits of Being in Flow

Experimenting with art can be a great way to experience flow, a state of mind that can increase motivation and happiness, and can even help us regulate our emotions. It’s likely that you have experienced flow, even as a child, regardless of your experience with creating art.

When you are in flow, you are completely absorbed by the task at hand. There is no sense of time. You completely shut out your surroundings. Every part of you is experiencing the activity you are working on. You might even experience serenity and a sense of reward.

So how do you get there with art?

First, find the form of art that you enjoy. Remember that art is expression, so there’s no limit to what you choose, including painting, knitting, or even dancing. Once you’ve found your art form, put on some music—preferably without lyrics. The idea is to give your thinking mind a break so other parts of your brain can take over and you can begin to flow.

Most importantly, drop the expectations. Flow doesn’t come around every time you sit down to work on your art. The art you create doesn’t have to be perfect either. An open mind and a willingness to have fun are all you need.

Connect with Your Community

Syprasoeuth’s most important piece of advice—share your art with your community.

“You can do art on your own, but you need to share it in order to unpack it,” he said.

Sharing our creations with our community can help build trust and strengthen our relationships. As those bonds strengthen, we can begin to unpack the emotions, experiences, or perspectives that led to our artwork. Those conversations create room for growth and resiliency, the ultimate benefits of experimenting with art.

If you and your friends have never created art together and don’t know where to start, take an art class together.

This Thursday 7/15 we will be co-hosting a Wine and paint night—with Brushtrokes + Beverages and District Wine— these type of events are great opportunities to get first-time exposure, according to Syprasoeuth. These events remove the pressure of creating perfect art, while also allowing us to get in touch with our creative side.

Whether you decide to do art alone or with your community, and regardless of the art form you choose, the point is to enjoy the peace that comes from turning off your thoughts for a few moments. Give yourself permission to have fun; your mental health will thank you for it.

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Wine and Paint Night

Presented by Long Beach Home & Living x Brushstrokes + Beverages x District Wine

Thursday July 17th, 7:00PM – $35

Register HERE

Dock of the Bay

→ Instructed by Kat Krueger ✌︎

→ Located at District Wine – 144 Linden Ave, Long Beach, CA 90802

Learn how to paint “Dock of the Bay” step by step! This event is located on the outdoor parklet at District Wine in the East Village Arts District of Long Beach, CA! All materials included!

  • In-Person Tickets – $35 per person

  • District Wine offers our events Happy Hour prices! Please note: If you choose to BYOB at this event, District Wine will charge you a cork fee.

  • ONE TICKET. ONE TREE. We’ve partnered with One Tree Planted to plant a tree for every ticket sold!


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