Knowing how to de-stress and relax is an essential skill for a healthy life. These art activities are excellent relaxation therapy.
With life being so hectic and unpredictable you constantly find yourself stressed and burned-out. Art therapy activities are a healthy and efficient way to release stress and regain control over your emotions. Remaining calm in spite of life’s troubles will allow you to see the big picture and find creative solutions to your problems.
Art Therapy Activities for Relaxation
Combine the relaxing powers of meditation and creation with meditative painting. This way of painting is very calming and terapeutic. If you’re having trouble relaxing while meditating, then this type of art therapy activity might help you. Repetitive movements will help you to focus on the present moment and bring about calmness.
You will need:
- Thick paper (A4 or bigger)
- Gouache paint set
- Set of brushes (use variety of brush sizes)
- Disposable plate (for paint) and two cups (filled with water for cleaning brushes)
Find a calm place where you can spend some time undisturbed. And prepare paper, brushes, plate and cups with water. Choose at least two colors that you will use. Pick only the ones that evoke positive emotions in you.
When you have everything ready, focus your attention only to the paper and colors you’ve chosen. Start by painting repetitive patterns like straight lines, zig-zag lines, waves, spirals or curls.
Paint until you completely cover the paper, then move on to the second layer. Use a contrasting color or different shade of the same color, choose a different pattern. Change the speed of painting and thickness of the brush. Find colors and patterns that relax you the most. That is the point of layers, discovering what works for you in that moment.
Don’t think about aesthetics, your goal is not to create art, it is to relax. Once you’re finished you can throw away the painting, it has done its purpose.
Finger painting was one of my favorite art activities as a child. It’s captivating and relaxing. Gliding with fingers across the paper with no direction or a purpose, but to play and explore. Leaving the colored trail behind. Feeling the texture of a paper through liquid paint. All of this makes finger painting a great art therapy activity.
You will need:
From the paint set choose only the colors that have a calming effect on you. Remember that your goal is the process itself, not the finished product.
Bring your attention to the fingertips. Take notice of the texture of the paper and how the paint feels on your fingers.
Move across the paper in every direction, use all fingers at once or just one or few. Use both hands at the same time. Repetitive movements in the rhythm of your heartbeat will relax you and align your body and mind in a similar way as the meditative breathing. Drawing the infinity symbol and retracing it over and over again can be very soothing.
Draw your happy place
Drawing your happy place is a beautiful meditative art therapy activity that will not only relax you, but also make you happy. While drawing you will be imagining and intensively thinking about something positive. We too often get caught up in a stream of negative thinking so this activity is a great way to break up that stream.
Draw or paint in whichever medium you are most comfortable with, and choose your favorite colors. Your favorite place doesn’t have to be just a physical place. It can also be an activity, or a thing. Whatever makes you feel peaceful, relaxed and happy, draw it.
Create a mandala
Drawing and coloring mandala activates both left and right side of the brain. This activity induces balance in the brain.
Some studies have shown that creating mandala has a similar effect as that of a meditation. It calms your mind and focuses your attention to the present moment. Circular patterns and repetitive shapes of mandala bring a feeling of balance and have therapeutic effects on the mind.
To help you start I found a detailed guide on how to draw a mandala.
Create a calmness collage
Looking at and working with tranquil images will calm your mind and bring you in a relaxed state. You will find this art therapy activity peaceful and inspiring.
You will need:
- Large piece of paper, it can be white or in your favorite pastel color.
- Scissors, glue and gel pens.
- Assortment of magazines with lots of calming images like travel, nature and spirituality magazines. Alternatively you can find images on the web and print them out.
Creation of calmness collage is a meditative activity that starts with browsing through serene pictures and looking for those that hit the spot.
Next step is cutting. I like to pick one shape for example oval and then cut all the pictures in that same shape, just different sizes.
When all the pictures are ready, start gluing them on the large paper you prepared.
Lastly, if you feel like it, you can write quotes or words in between the pictures to complete your calmness collage.
It’s good idea to keep your calmness collage near the bed to look at it before sleep.
This is an activity borrowed from kindergartners. Lots of art projects for kids are developed with an aim to strengthen their attention and focus. Both of which are important for staying in the present moment and intentional relaxation. Softness projects are particularly beneficial because they involve soft materials that make you feel cosy.
You will need:
- Piece of cardboard or fabric to use as a base.
- Variety of soft materials like sponges, pom-poms, cotton balls, faux fur details, fuzzy socks
- Hot glue gun or textile glue
Create soft art by glueing soft materials to the base. You can do it randomly, focusing only on the softness of objects, or you can be creative and arrange objects in different patterns and shapes. Allow the soft materials to relax you and bring you calmness.
Coloring inside lines gives your brain a much needed relaxation. It’s been shown that coloring reduces restless thoughts and calms the mind. It’s easy and effortless.
Sometimes it can be really hard after a long and exhausting day to prepare and start an art activity, but coloring requires no preparation.
All you need is a design and color pencils to start unwinding. There are plenty of free designs for coloring that are available to download and print.
Have a cup of hot, calming tea to complement the experience.
Relax with the playdough
Mold your way to a more relaxed state. Oftentimes life can feel like it’s out of our hands and that causes stress. Manipulating the dough gives a sense of control while keeping hands busy allows the brain to relax.
Take a scented playdough and try to make simple shapes or objects. Take deep breaths and allow scents coming from the playdough to calm you.
Here you will find a recipe for the playdough with suggestions for relaxing oil blends.
Paint to the music
Calming music in combination with movement and creation is a powerful relaxant. Painting paired with calming music is a wonderful art therapy activity for relaxation.
Play some calming music while drawing or painting and let the music lead your hand. Close your eyes and allow your other senses to take charge. Express yourself freely and release the stress and tension that’s been holding you back.
Hope you found this post helpful and it will help you manage your stress in a healthy way.
I would love to hear your experiences and if you know of any other art therapy activities for relaxation please share in the comments.