Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Making Art = Happiness

A wonderful article from written by Cathy Malchiodi, PhD, LPAT, LPCC
Please read!

"...The creative process is itself a source of joy for most people. And with new creative powers we're also better able to solve the little problems that beset us daily." And the more recent research of Semir Zeki, University of London, connects the mere viewing of art with an increase in dopamine and activity in the brain's frontal cortex, resulting in feelings of pleasure that are similar to being the throws of romantic love. What's more, positive sensations are almost immediate when viewing an enjoyable or stirring work of art.
Repetitive satisfying art making may actually mediate depression and anxiety by stimulating the "accumbens-striatial-cortical" connection in the brain. It is perhaps connected to what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi named "flow," an experience of complete concentration and absorption. Because flow is close to other mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga, it may offer many of the same positive, attention-focused benefits through deep engagement in an art process.

The concept of flow points to two happiness factors that have enhanced human life for thousands of years via the arts. One is the capacity to find joy in creativity through the pleasure of invention and exploration. This capacity is based in evolutionary biology to ensure survival of individuals and communities through innovation. The other is the ability to get pleasure and relaxation from creating useful, yet aesthetic objects; this is a form of rejuvenation that is not only practical, but also health-enhancing.

Even when expressing what are obviously painful experiences and memories through art, people invariably report that art making is a source of joy for them despite what their art communicates. They report that they find comfort in art's ability to take them outside their personal struggles and refocus their attention to positive sensations of exploration, relaxation and stimulating challenges. There also is pride in mastery of new skills and in discovery of previously unrealized abilities. But most of all, there is "client consensus" that art making holds the possibility to transform that which is painful into something eventually positive. To me, that is the ultimate testimony that art and happiness are inevitably intertwined."

Monday, September 12, 2011

Stone Soup as Art Therapy

Once upon a time a shrewd villager was standing by the front door, enjoying the last of the day's sun. Along came a tired traveler just as the kettle began to whistle inside.

'Hello there', the traveler called. 'You've got a nice garden.'
'Hmm yes, the result of hard work.'
'Is that your kettle I hear? I'd love to join you in a cup of tea.'
The villager scowled: 'I'm not sure about that. Tea doesn't grow on trees.'
'Well if not tea, how about a nice bowl of soup?' The cheeky traveler responded, only receiving a deeper scowl in reply.

'Do you have such a thing as a nice smooth stone in your garden? I can tell you how to make soup from a stone.'

The scowl immediately lifted, and a gleam came into the villager's eye. 'Can you indeed. Here is a stone, and now what?'
'Well you need to wash it well, put it in water in a big pan on the stove, and perhaps shake in a little pepper and salt.'

This done, the traveler stood beside the stove gazing around the kitchen, and through the window to the vegetable garden with a speculative eye, while pretending to think hard.

'And now?' Prompted the villager.
'Well. I don't suppose you have such a thing as an onion, do you?'

You can guess the rest. The onion wasn't the last ingredient the villager 'happened' to have, and put in the pot. They sat down later together to a magnificent mixed vegetable and meat soup. Both were very pleased with themselves.

"Healing art is like magic soup. In the beginning there can seem to be nothing but the heaviness and unproductiveness of a stone. Giving ingredients can seem tiresome, ridiculous, dangerous: because a suggestion to make art is outside many people's normal way of being. An art therapist can make it seem straightforward and enjoyable do dip a paint brush in color, feel the clay, make a hand gesture, offer an image. These are the onion, gradually peeling open to revel its layers. No art gives answers. It does however present fascinating questions, the answering of which is an endless quest."

taken from the book: "Dying, Bereavement, and the Healing Arts" by Gillie Bolton