Improving Your Mental Health Through Wellbeing Therapies
My Daughter's Gift to Me
My daughter bought me a Colour Yourself Calm colouring book; even though I hadn’t coloured-in since childhood, I was totally hooked. Mandalas, by nature of their design, are very ancient guides which symbolically allow you to look into yourself as they draw your eye towards their centre. As I coloured-in these beautiful shapes, I noticed how aware I was of the present moment and how quiet and relaxed my mind became.
Colouring-in—specifically this form—can be linked to mindfulness and even has the same therapeutic benefits as meditation, leading to profound and positive changes in your lifestyle. Regardless of how many or few mandalas you colour in, the practice of centering yourself through creativity and relaxation is a great tonic for the stressed-out, anxious mind.
Over time and with practice, I began to see and feel patterns within myself, a valuable lesson as it allowed me to recognise those which may have been unhealthy or negatively impacting my life and change them. These negative thoughts become colours—colours become patterns—and these patterns awaken the soul. The stillness and relaxation I felt is linked to the mind shifting from the logical and reasoning left side of the brain to the intuitive and emotional right side of the brain.
Engaging with my inner creativity and being completely calm and focused led to a change in my outlook on life. This transformation created a deep well of happiness which I constantly drink from. As a mental health therapist, I would certainly recommend colouring-in as an aid alongside mindfulness to help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Although adult colouring-in books will not bring the same benefits as completing an art therapy session with a professional, research has proved that anxiety levels drop significantly for those who use colouring-in as a tool in their anxiety management and even further drops were noted when mandalas were used. Their focus on movement, shape and centering in the present moment help alleviate free-floating anxiety.
As I do not consider myself to be an artist in the true sense of the word, I actually felt very creative after completing a mandala colouring-in. I also felt I had found a safe, contained space where I experienced feelings of tranquillity. Living in the hi-tech world of today where everything seems fleeting and chaotic, the health benefits of feeling centered are becoming even more apparent.
Alternative Activities for Meditation and Calming
If you’ve read up to this point and have been thinking to yourself, “That’s great, but I hate colouring-in” . . . don’t worry, even if colouring-in is not your thing, there are a wealth of other activities out there that can be done as an alternative with a similar calming and meditative effect.
I love walking, mainly because it is a low-impact form of exercise with the added benefit of increasing your circulation. Being out in the fresh air and at one with nature is medicine for the soul; I always have a feeling of tranquillity after a long walk in the countryside, so it is a definite must on my list of relaxing things to do.
Closely related to colouring-in is Art Therapy, which encourages the creation of art in any form; painting, music, drama and dance are but a few that you could choose from. A 2006 study found that Art Therapy for women with cancer helped to significantly decrease symptoms of physical and emotional distress during treatment. Colouring books are a first introduction to Art Therapy and for those of us who go on to enjoy other art-related activities, there is real evidence to show that all art activities are positive in terms of wellbeing and resilience.
Growing up I was surrounded by knitters. Many birthdays and Christmas presents were in the form of a hat, scarf or a really weird jumper. I can remember, in particular, a knitting day at my school where we all sat together in the assembly hall and knit squares which were then sewn together to make blankets for those in unfortunate circumstances in Africa. Coming together as a group was not only good fun but very relaxing; the fact that we were helping others also gave this pursuit purpose and a feeling of self-worth.
Research has shown that for those people who suffer from depression or anxiety, knitting encouraged feelings of happiness. Knitting is very grounding—you are forced to sit while engaging your brain to focus on the pattern. It is a great distraction from life’s everyday stresses and anxieties.
Nurturing yourself is essential to your wellbeing.
I have always loved doing a good jigsaw puzzle, and I think we have all probably experienced the joy of finding that one elusive piece after hours of searching. Completing a jigsaw puzzle is beneficial in so many ways—did you know that it puts the brain into the same mental state we experience while dreaming by naturally inducing a state of imaginative and engrossed meditation?
Studies have also found that doing jigsaw puzzles can lead to a longer life expectancy and may reduce our chances of developing memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s as we constantly have to use our memory in order to find the right pieces.
Remember to Care for Yourself
These are just a few suggestions to get you started on the path to becoming a more relaxed and mindful person. I think we can all benefit mentally and physically from any pursuit which takes us out of the world of stress and anxiety.
Remember that caring for yourself is not lazy or a waste of time, even if the lack of action makes you feel that way.
© 2018 Lorna Lamon