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Study Finds Making Art Can Reduce Your Stress (No Matter How Skilled You Are)

Study Finds Making Art Can Reduce Your Stress (No Matter How Skilled You Are)

In Kindergarten, just after recess, at the end of the day, or after any “rowdy” activity, my teacher would dim the lights, put on very soft music, set the timer for 15 minutes and pass out coloring sheets. We were not allowed to talk during this time–just color. There was no pressure to finish the picture or “produce” a work of art, it was simply a time to allow us to unwind, calm down and de-stress.

Unbeknownst to me, she was definitely on to something.

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What my teacher understood and was able to tap into was the therapeutic effects of creating art. Today, Art therapy is actually a thing. Research shows that there are legitimate benefits of art therapy even if you are absolutely horrible at all things creative and crafty.

In a clinical setting, art therapist use this medium to help people resolve conflicts, improve interpersonal skills, manage problematic behaviors, reduce negative stress, and achieve personal insight.

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Stress reducing benefits of art therapy

BY: A. SYN
    Photo Credit: A. Syn on Flickr

    Recently, Girija Kaimal, EdD. Assistant Professor of Creative Arts Therapies at Drexel University, conducted a study on the effects that participation in art activities has on stress hormones in the body. The conclusion was simple yet profound: 45 minutes of creative activity significantly lessens stress in the body, regardless of artistic experience or talent.

    “It was surprising and it also wasn’t,”  Kaimal said in an interview with Drexel Now. “It wasn’t surprising because that’s the core idea in art therapy: Everyone is creative and can be expressive in the visual arts when working in a supportive setting. That said, I did expect that perhaps the effects would be stronger for those with prior experience.”

    The research found that cortisol levels (or stress hormones)  of 75 percent of the participants were lowered during their 45 minute art making session. And while there was some variation in how much cortisol levels lowered, there was no correlation between past art experiences and lower stress levels.

    Reaping the benefits of art therapy

    By: SFU
      Photo Credit: By: SFU on Wikipedia.org

      Whether you could give Picasso a run for his money or can barely sketch a stick figure, you can reap the benefits of art therapy. The focus of this exercise is not on the finished product but on the transformative process that occurs during the experience. You don’t need a professional art therapists to reap the benefits of art therapy. Here are a few simple tips to help you become your own art therapist:

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      • Keep it simple. If you know very little about art and don’t consider yourself an especially creative individual, start with a good old fashioned–old school coloring book and a box of crayons or colored pencils. This is a great way to still be creative without actually increasing your stress level trying to create something outside your artistic realm.
      • Paint your feelings. This is another fun and simple way to be creative without the stress of producing a finished product per se. You get to decide what the finish product should be. By painting something intangible like your feelings, you won’t feel limited by your artistic inexperience in the same way you would if you were trying to paint something realistic like a landscape. Just allow yourself to flow freely and paint how you feel.
      • Try a DIY project. This is great for those who are not neccessarily “free flowers.” If you prefer a bit more structure and need to produce a finished product, DIY projects are for you. Remember to ensure the project correlates with your ability and level of expertise. You can try a new recipe, build a book shelf, build a model plane or find something interesting and different on YouTube. Again, perfection is not the destination–it’s about the journey.
      • Draw a picture with your less dominant hand or paint a picture with your toes. This is not just art therapy it is an exercise in hilarity. You will not only create something very unique but you will be completely consumed in trying to master the dexterity to accomplish the task. You will de-stress and have fun simultaneously.
      • Try Journaling. If words are a way that you enjoy expressing yourself, this may be the best creative outlet for you. Try not to focus on grammar, spelling or being entirely coherent and eloquent. Just get it out. You can create lists, journal about your dreams, write short stories, or create perfection (your perfect life, spouse, child, world, etc.). Journaling need not be an everyday activity–just when your mood is right.

      No matter what medium you choose making art is good for the body, mind and soul–even if your creation resembles the deranged scribbles of a grumpy toddler.

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      Denise Hill

      Denise shares about psychology and communication tips on Lifehack.

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      Last Updated on July 10, 2020

      How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

      How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

      We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

      We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

      So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

      Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

      What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

      Boundaries are limits

      —they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

      Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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      Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

      Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

      Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

      How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

      Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

      1. Self-Awareness Comes First

      Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

      You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

      To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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      You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

      • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
      • When do you feel disrespected?
      • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
      • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
      • When do you want to be alone?
      • How much space do you need?

      You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

      2. Clear Communication Is Essential

      Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

      Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

      3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

      Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

      That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

      Sample language:

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      • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
      • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
      • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
      • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
      • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
      • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
      • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

      Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

      4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

      Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

      Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

      Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

      We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

      It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

      It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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      Final Thoughts

      Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

      Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

      Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

      The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

      Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

      Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

      They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

      Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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