Art Therapy: Mandalas

I read somewhere that drawing mandalas (basically, geometric patterned shapes/designs) could be a good way of coping with stress and anxiety. Having a bit of a creative bent, I thought I’d give it a try. A little art therapy is good for anybody, right? So, for a while, I took to doodling mandalas (most often when I was watching T.V or doing some other mindless task that had me sitting down).

I had mixed results with this activity. On one hand, I think it can be useful to get your mind off things because you’re focused on creating your pattern. It gives you something neutral to concentrate on. This is handy if you’re feeling a bit anxious!  On the other hand, I’m not sure it’s a great task for somebody with perfectionist tendencies (like me) because you will notice every wonky line, uneven shape, etc. Perhaps for the especially self-critical among us, coloring mandalas would be more relaxing and less infuriating (You can find lots of mandala colouring pages online that are free to print off!). Colouring is also pretty popular these days as a way of dealing with stress and anxiety; I do that once in a while too.

One great things about this activity is that it’s pretty easy and incredibly inexpensive to do. All you need is some paper and some sort of writing utensil. I used lined paper and a black pen (plus a red pen to colour one). You can make your mandala very simplistic, or very intricate. If you need some ideas, I recommend looking up images of mandalas for inspiration.

I’ll show a few I did (and I’ll try not to mourn my sloppy line work too much haha!):

If you click on the image, it should enlarge. Number 3 is my favourite 🙂

So, if this seems like something you might enjoy, I suggest giving it a go. Just try not to stress about it too much – I’ll try this too!

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Review: HOW TO BE HAPPY – Lee Crutchley

cover of HOW TO BE HAPPY  bookYou know how you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover? You shouldn’t judge a book by its genre descriptor either. I’ve read a fair few self-help books; I’m willing to bet you have too. I’ve got a pretty good idea of what self-help books are like. So, I was surprised when I received my copy of Lee Crutchley’s HOW TO BE HAPPY (OR AT LEAST LESS SAD). I was expecting a self-help book like any other, but it is a little different from other self-help books.

First off, it’s a workbook filled with activities (If you’ve done CBT, ACT, or similar therapies, you’ll probably recognize some of the activities.). With this book, you can cut right to the chase and do helpful activities instead of just reading about them. I believe a lot of us spend enough time sitting around thinking when we should be doing!

Second, it’s a fairly modest book. The author doesn’t claim expertise. There are no assumptions that the book will cure you. There is even acknowledgement that not all activities will work for everybody. However, there is a good range of activities, and I think there is something there for everybody.

When flipping through the book, the first thing I noticed was the fun design. It is decidedly more pleasant that the photocopies-of-photocopies-of-worksheets you usually get in therapy sessions. The second thing I noticed, upon closer inspection, was that it is witty. I caught myself truly laughing out loud more than once (and couldn’t we all do with a laugh?)!

If you’re looking for a nice book of activities to lift your mood, I think HOW TO BE HAPPY could be just the thing for you. Will it work for you? Well, I can’t tell you that, but the book comes with my recommendation, nonetheless! I’ve been working on a few of the activities myself (though I still can’t bring myself to write in the book; the idea makes my eye twitch), and I’ll be sure to report in with any excellent results.

If you’re in the US, HOW TO BE HAPPY hits shelves near you today. If you’re in the UK, sit tight till July. Regardless of geography, you can take a peek on Amazon. Also, check out the #HTBHbook tag and/or one of these other reviews to see more information about the book, and even some of the activities. And, if you want to learn more about Lee Crutchley and his work, you can go to his site, leecrutchley.co.uk.

I don’t get paid to do reviews as I’ve not yet started a ‘will work for books’ campaign, so you’re looking at my honest opinions!

Bubbles!

Well, I’ve been so busy I’ve barely had time to breath (I’m ready for this school term to be over now…). I have a proper post planned – part two of my last post – I just need to find time to write it! But, for now, I want to share an image from Tumblr I came across.

image from Tumblr

My favourite ‘cheer up’ tip in the image is the one about saying bubbles in the angriest voice you can. Maybe it won’t work for everybody, but it has been bringing me some amusement. My brother and I have been joking about it: every so often, one of us will make an angry face and grit out “BUBBLES!”, and we’ll both break out into smiles.

Mood Journaling

Very recently, I kept a mood journal for two weeks. I sometimes find it hard to keep track of whether I’ve been having a good week or a bad one. It’s hard to remember how you felt three days ago when you feel terrible today! I thought that if I could look back and see how I felt, I’d be better able to gauge my overall disposition.

I have a small notebook in which I keep my schedule and to-dos. I laid out one page for the mood jounral, writing down each day for a week. Every day, I would draw at least one face to describe my mood. If needed, I would also add a bracketed note. After the first week, I went on to do a second.

Here were my results:

Thurs 😦 🙂 😦
Fri 😐 (productive)
Sat 🙂 (artsy)
Sun 🙂 😦
Mon 😐 (rest day)
Tues 😐 (distracted)
Wed 😦
Thurs 😥
Fri 🙂
Sat 😐
Sun 😐
Mon :/
Tues :/
Wed 😐
Thurs 😐 (distracted)

I was a bit surprised by what I saw. I expected more days to be clearly good days or clearly bad days. Instead, I have a whole bunch of…blankness.

They aren’t truly neutral days. They are empty days. There is nothing to make it good or bad.

In a way, they are bad days. I don’t want to have empty days. When somebody asks “What did you do today?”, I’d love to be able to give a response that isn’t “Nothing.”.

It is hard to change though. It’s hard to get started. A body at rest stays and rest and all that jazz. I just have to remind myself to take a little steps towards improvement. That first Saturday in my journal – the one that says ‘Sat 🙂 (artsy)’ – all I did that day was paint. I didn’t create anything grand. I didn’t even finish a painting. But I painted, and it made me happy. I believe I can find ways to do little things like that, and I believe incorporating those little things into my life will improve things.

So I recommend mood journaling to you all. It’s pretty low risk (though it could be upsetting, so, please do judge the risk for yourself). You already have materials to do it. If you miss a day, it’s not a big deal. But it can help remind you of how you’ve been feeling, and it can give you a glimpse of the bigger picture.

Activity: milkmilkmilkmilkmilk

I came across this post the other day. I encourage you to check it out yourself, but I’ll describe the bare bones idea that I wanted to share with you. The suggestion is, that if you repeat a word or phrase over and over and over, it will begin to lose its meaning. Try it with a random word – the post uses ‘milk’ – and say that word as many times as you can for the next minute or so. You’ll notice that the word begins to sound weird and doesn’t really make sense anymore. You can also do this with words that are a little bit closer to your heart, like ‘stupid’, ‘ugly’, ‘worthless’, etc..

I think this could be a great in-the-moment disarming technique! Next time you are in a slump and ruminating on something, why not try repeating that thought ad nauseam? It might just help break the cycle of rumination. I’m going to try it!

Eulogize – a writing activity

I happened to come across a blog with an interesting activity I knew I had to try. The activity was the following:

Write your own eulogy. (more…)

Compliment Yourself!

I believe that I have received more criticism in my life than I have praise. So if nobody else is going to praise me, I might as well! It really lifted my mood to write this list, and I highly recommend this activity to others.

(more…)

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