Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Creativity and Recovery

I recently gave a presentation at a conference to mental health care providers and consumers of mental health care and I was reminded of why I do this work. It focused on all of the mind, body, and spirit changes and activities we can do to create a stable foundation for our recovery. Of course, part of this included talking about how important and healing it can be to bring creativity into your treatment plan. Many people do not see creativity as an essential part of recovery, but it is. Creativity is not only a mind and body activity, but a spiritual one as well. When we create things, we tap into our inner wisdom and power. We discover how amazing we are, how we can create something so beautiful or interesting. When we create something, we are reminded of how we do contribute special things to this world, not only for ourselves but for those around us sometimes too. We also feel the power of something greater than ourselves. Maybe that is God for some of us, the Universe, greater humanity, or the Spirit of Love. Through creating something special, we feel a sense of awe and wonder at all that is in the Universe.

Many people do not understand this spiritual and important part of creativity, especially people who do not consider themselves artistic. However, every time I have asked someone to keep an open mind and just try a simple art project with me, they end up being proud of what they did. They see themselves in a new light, and they love the fact that they created something special. It makes them happy.

I was reminded of this at the conference when I asked everyone to engage in a mediative art practice inspired by the Zentangle® method. In this practice, you create patterns, any patterns you imagine, on a small sheet of paper. You do this in pen, which helps you accept things as they are. We let people know that there is no wrong way to create this art, and in so doing, this helps people learn to accept themselves as they are. Creating patterns allows your mind to slow down and become calm, which is great in all kinds of situations, especially in helping with anxiety. When people see the finished product of what they made, they see the beauty and feel a sense of accomplishment and pride.
Meditative Art Practice. Bipolar Spirit©

After everyone finished their meditative art I asked how they felt. One man, who is just about a year into recovery from mental illness, said that he never considered himself an artist, but he liked what he created. He said this simple art piece made him feel like he had worth. All of his repetitive thoughts of self-loathing, despair, and thinking he was not good enough stopped for a bit when he saw what he had made. He said the art showed him that he was not worthless. We talked about how every time those negative thoughts come to his mind, he can look at this piece of art and know he has worth, he is creative, he contributes to the world, and the world can be beautiful.

This is why I do this work. I show people different ways they have agency in their own treatment and help them find things that give them strength, hope, and purpose. People need support for all the times between visits to therapists and doctors, and they need to know they have the ability to be active in their recovery. People with mental illness need to know that something as simple as a 4"x4" piece of paper and a pen can stop a panic attack or manic episode. It can help you manage your illness enough so that you can remain in recovery rather than end up in a hospital ward.


Rev. Katie

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