Art and Healing
At Wellspring Alberta (an incredible resource centre for people impacted by cancer) there have been excellent programs in the creative arts since day one. Also, in Japan, Dr. Jinroh Itami’s cancer patients took daily lessons in art, along with chemotherapy: drawing, calligraphy, painting, flower arranging, writing haiku and more. This was back in 1984 when he developed Ikigai Ryoho to help boost his patient’s spirits, immune systems and longevity.
Besides our medical treatment, the doing, the practice of learning how to draw and paint, and so many other creative expressions made a difference. Consequently, today, art is offered in chemo labs, prescribed by neurologists, and is part of standard care in more and more hospitals. PBS Newshour did a program on Arts in Medicine, and this 8-minute video is worth watching.
One of my favourite articles on art and health comes from NPR. There are so many good ideas that I recommend you read the entire thing: Making art is good for your health.
Two of the suggestions that I have implemented for myself are:
You don’t need to be an artist with a capital “A”
We tend to think that only people who are very skilled at art can call themselves artists, but really, anyone can be an artist, says Professor Girija Kaimal, a professor at Drexel University in the UK and a leading researcher in art therapy.
“Everyone is capable of creative expression,” she says. In fact, her own research has shown that there are no differences in health outcomes between those who identify as experienced artists and those who don’t. So that means that no matter your skill level, you’ll be able to feel all the good things that come with making art.
Think about making art like any healthy habit, such as eating well or exercising
Just as you make time to work, exercise and hang out with family and friends, you should make time for your artistic endeavors, says Strang. ( a professor of neuroscience at the University of Alabama at Birmingham) “Creativity in and of itself is important for remaining healthy — remaining connected to yourself and remaining connected to the world,” she says.
To help me and later others with the first habit, I studied with Lea Seigen Shinraku, founder of the San Francisco Center for Creative Self-compassion and was delighted with what she knows and how she teaches. I love her whimsical drawing style and her use of poetry, one of many practices. And like my own webinars, you can do no wrong in any of hers. I also like to call what I do a hobby. It removes the pressure to perform and allows me to enjoy.
With the second habit, I had to do some serious planning. I spent most of two days meticulously planning out my time until the end of the year and into January. This was to ensure that I reserved time to be able to do the other things that I love to do besides my significant responsibilities. By doing the four months all at once, I could pace my teaching so it was not competing with other essential purposes, nor was I going to be behind the 8-ball, with no time left over for my creative hobbies, moodling, reading, visiting, and studying.
This may sound simple and ordinary, but it wasn’t. It required getting my grandson’s school calendar ahead of time to ensure I was available for major events, and it required me to look at everything that needed doing and see what had to go. As a result, it meant saying no to some things so I could say yes to others. Not easy.
Here are some examples:
- I now get to take a four-week program in September at the San Francisco Zen Centre with Lea Shinraku, called Awaken Self-Compassion through Art Journaling. Four Tuesdays in September from 1:00-2:30 ET. The price is on a sliding scale, making it affordable for everyone. (even less than the scale indicates if necessary) Here is the link in case you are interested.
- And I have two hours on Saturdays to devote to “the doing” of art.
- I can also attend my non-book club’s winter retreat in January for the first time in a few years. This is a delightful event to look forward to.
- I will get to spend time with my new great-granddaughters.
- And my teaching schedule is now approved for in-person and online, with time to enjoy the process.
Here is what Oliver Burkeman says about hobbies and why my whimsical art journaling is a hobby. “A good hobby probably should feel a little embarrassing; that’s a sign you’re doing it for its own sake rather than for some socially sanctioned outcome.” To pursue an activity in which you have no hope of becoming exceptional is to put aside, for a while, the anxious need to “use time well.” It’s about, he says, the “freedom to pursue the futile.”
Of course, we all know that life will have other plans. But, if we want to do anything, we up our chances by having a time and a place to show up so that most of the time, we get to do it. I learned that I need a paper monthly calendar to see the big picture per semester. It is now my anchor that sits on my desk, and I have the overview and the details. My phone is my assistant to keep me from double booking and remind me of where I need to be at 2:00 this Friday. But I can’t see the scope of my life on a phone. So, I look at the handwritten paper version before I say yes.
You know that I have been here before, but that’s OK. I start again.
1:) The banner picture is thanks to Allison, my daughter-in-law. My regular readers have seen her cards before, where she cuts out bits of paper in various shapes and puts them together in a design. This was a card she made for my son’s birthday this summer.
2:) The photo of the grapes arrived in my inbox from Gottfried on the west coast. I genuinely love it. It reminds me of being in Austria and Germany in autumn, just before the grapes were harvested. I could sit and look at those wine fields all day.
3:) Padraig O’Tuama has become a poet I love to read. He was writing on artistic insecurities last week and said this: “We are all artists: there are things we are creating (a home, a painting, a song, a friendship) and the creating of this thing is an act of vulnerability. Not far beneath the surface of creativity lurks a swamp: is what I’m doing good enough, will anyone notice, will it sustain, what does it mean? Swamps are places of life and growth, though, provided you don’t drown. Art is as much a relationship with everything that swamp holds as it is its product.” Now, that is something to think about.
4:) Thank you for stopping by. I hope if you don’t already, set aside time to make art (a broad definition). You can have fun and improve your mind body health. Warm end-of-August wishes, and a reminder that there will be a blue moon next week. May you enjoy it. Warmly, Trudy