Art therapy gets a lot of comedic laughs, but did you know it’s a real, recognized form of therapy with tremendous benefits? I’ve rounded up 12 art therapy activities to feel more grounded and less stressed.
While you can (and definitely should!) go to a professional art therapist or a psychotherapist who uses art therapy, art therapy activities aren’t limited to counseling sessions.
You can use art therapy activities as part of daily meditation practices, or simply turn to them when things are getting a little too stressful. Plus, I love pairing art therapy with essential oils and crystals–more on that later!
In this article, I’ll explain:
- What does an art therapist do?
- What are 3 uses of art therapy?
- How can art therapy help me feel less anxiety and more peace?
- 12 ways you can use art therapy at home.
- How to use art therapy alongside essential oils to feel more balance and joy.
Let’s get started!
What Does an Art Therapist Do?
If you were to visit a counselor trained in art therapy activities, he or she would use creative activities and exercises like finger painting, sculpting with modeling clay, or creating collage art to help you communicate and get in touch with your thoughts, feelings, ideas, and memories.
A trained art therapist has experience deciphering and understanding the way patients are using art to express themselves, but you’ll still benefit from art therapy activities to feel more grounded and less stressed, even if a professional isn’t present.
What Are 3 Uses of Art Therapy Activities?
Art therapy activities can help a person:
- Feel less stressed
- Connect more readily to feelings, emotions, and memories
- Express themselves more readily
- Feel more balanced, calm, and joyful
How Can Art Therapy Activities Help Me Feel Less Anxiety and More Peace?
Many of us become frustrated with creative pursuits at an early age because we’re taught to “color inside the lines.” Art therapy helps by removing the pressure to make something good; instead, art therapy is about making art for the sake of making art.
Science has already shown us that essential oils like ylang ylang can help reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality, and we know that alternative therapies like crystals can bring us moments of joy and peace throughout the day. Art therapy is simply another tool to use in your daily life!
12 Ways to Use Art Therapy Activities to Feel More Grounded and Less Stressed
1. Finger Paint
Children’s art supplies are fantastic because they’re low-cost, low-expectation, and…fun! Grab some children’s finger paint the next time you’re at the store, and enjoy the feel of the medium and the basic colors.
Can you blend colors to create new colors that express your mood? Can you use lines and abstract shapes to help you communicate how you’re feeling? The sky’s the limit!
If finger paint and abstract paintings sound way too open-ended for you, you can still benefit from painting as an art therapy activity with a paint-by-numbers paint kit.
You won’t necessarily experience the benefits of communicating or expressing yourself, but many people still find these kinds of paintings to be incredibly soothing and relaxing, especially since there’s no planning involved.
3. Make a Sand Tray
You can find sand trays premade, or you can make your own by using colored sand and a plate or container with sides.
Sand is a great medium to work with because it’s very tactile (it feels good in the hands) and it’s also very temporal. If you’re somebody who fears “messing” up, sand allows you to express yourself without fear.
4. Create a Collage
Collages are fun and super versatile ways to use art therapy activities to feel more grounded and less stressed.
You can try a couple different kinds of collages:
- Create a mood board by using images with only certain colors
- Use collage to create a “power mask” that helps you project who you want to be to the world
- Use a collage to make a vision board for your life or year
5. Modeling Clay
Working in an art medium directly with your hands can feel incredible, and sensory experiences can do a lot to help calm your mind and engage your heart. Enter: modeling clay, a great way to benefit from art therapy activities.
You can use the clay free form (diffuse some oils and put on some calming music while you work), or you can create with a goal in mind: use the clay to create a diorama of an important memory to you, for example. Doing so can help you form and work through big emotions you’re experiencing that you’re having trouble expressing otherwise.
Grab a pen and a piece of scrap paper (scrap paper keeps expectations low) and start scribbling whatever comes to mind! If you’re having trouble getting started, start with lines or curves. You can grab crayons or markers to add in color once you’ve finished with the pen, if you’d like.
7. Write a Story
Did you know that art therapy doesn’t just involve traditional forms of art, like sculpting and painting? It can also involve writing!
Here are a few ideas for utilizing writing as an art therapy activity to feel more grounded and less stressed:
- Create rectangles on blank sheets of paper to draw your own comic strips
- Create a story in which your six-year-old self is the star
- Write a “found” poem by using words and phrases you clip from newspapers or magazines–sort of like collage meets poetry
8. Paint Something Unusual
Painting on paper is great, but to really get out of your art comfort zone and encourage creative release, try painting on unusual surfaces or on found objects in nature. You can collect and paint rocks, shells, feathers, sticks, flower petals, leaves, and so much more.
You can also save interesting containers from the recycling bin, and paint those.
9. Work in an Art Journal
Art journals are great ways to help you use art therapy activities to feel more grounded and less stressed. You can use a pen or pencil, or you can use high-quality colored pens or markers or paints.
You can set time aside daily to work, or turn to your journal when need compels you. Either way, art journals are fun ways to see how you’ve changed and developed over the course of a month or year. They can even help you notice trends in your emotions, techniques, and symbols.
10. Work in Nature
Nature is a natural (pardon the pun) de-stressor, so combining art therapy with the great outdoors is a major win!
You can make this as simple as just taking your art outside, or you can try some of these ideas:
- Create collages with found objects, like leaves, flowers, and sticks
- Create temporary art from stones, dirt, sand, or other materials
- Make your own paints from nature items you find and your own paintbrushes from things like leaves and twigs
11. Make a Print
Remember elementary art class, when you used a potato to make a stamp? You can do the same thing now!
You can use potatoes, of course, along with paint or ink pads, or you can use something more sophisticated like bits of metal or sticks from outside or even cardboard cutouts. In fact, you can use just about anything to make your own prints and patterns–and that’s part of the fun.
12. Carve Soap
There’s nothing quite as fun and soothing as carving a block of Ivory soap–trust me on this one! Use a butter knife, a spoon, or something sharper, and carve the dry blocks into anything you’d like.
Just peeling away at the soap can be soothing for many people, especially thanks to the sound, which some people consider ASMR.
How to Use Essential Oils Alongside Art Therapy Activities for More Balance and Joy
If you’re turning to art therapy activities to feel more grounded and less stressed, essential oils are a powerful addition to your practice, and a great way to level up. You can use oils–and even crystals!–to help you relax and enjoy the creative process more, and to heighten the peaceful effects of art therapy.
Here’s an easy shortcut you might love: our Whimsy + Wellness community loved these crystal rollers when they launched–they’re beautiful clear glass rollers with gold matte tops, and they use high-quality crystals inside the bottle and in the roller top.
The Creativity & Motivation roller is perfect for pairing with art therapy–it even comes with an essential oil recipe included in the box.
How Will You Use Art Therapy Activities to Feel More Grounded and Less Stressed?
I can’t wait to hear how you’ll get started using art therapy activities to feel more grounded and less stressed. Find me on Instagram and let me know which activity you’ll try first!