The spread of the pandemic brought many challenges to our daily lifestyle. Travel restraints, fear of getting infected by the deadly COVID virus, financial loss, job insecurity, persistent flow of perverse news and the whole condition of remaining confined or quarantined in our homes during the pandemic are all adding to our increasing woes. Homes are simultaneously serving as offices and this has been quite mentally challenging. According to the social distancing norms, we all are being constrained to stay indoors and can step outside only when an emergency arises. The mind frequently oscillates between the past and the future, causing vexation and anticipation. Desires, fear, cravings, aversions grips our mind.
To avert the conflicts running inside the mind, it is quite indispensable to bring the mind to the present moment or rather practice mindfulness. Spiritual practices like mindfulness, yoga, and other holistic approaches like art therapies served as a potent tool to handle lockdown’s uncertainty and isolation, as well as in maintaining physical and psychological well-being.
Need for mindfulness-based spiritual practices
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has compelled us to concentrate on building internal resistance and embrace a variety of spiritual practices in order to augment our emotional resilience, reduce anxiety levels and calm our nervous system. Spiritual practices on a daily basis cleanse our physical body and mind of accrued stress and antagonistic impressions. With regular practices, it will be perceived as rising our thought process, improving body flexibility and inner balance and lastly enhancing our self-awareness thereby making us healthy. Spirituality gives inner strength to handle arduous situations and to remain happy.
When our inner self attains its serenity and calmness, it gets quickly dispersed outward thereby making us responsible human beings. Prior research has shown that spiritual practices like deep breathing, yoga and meditation help in enriching the Grey cells of our brain which are essential for learning, boosting memory and concentration, controlling anger and understanding. Recently, a new therapeutic holistic approach termed mindfulness-based art therapy (MBAT) became popular because of its simplicity and its easiness to be practised from the comfort of our homes. This inexpensive method helped people to explore their imagination, creativity and innovation by expressing themselves quite easily through their creative artworks.
What is Mindfulness-Based-Art therapy (MBAT)?
Art therapy is a well-defined discipline that integrates creative methods of expression through visual art media. Art therapy originated in the field of art and emerged as an integrative mental health profession that enriches the lifestyle of individuals, households, and societies through proactive art-making, creativity, practical psychological theory, and personal learning experience through a psycho-therapeutic relationship. Earlier in the 1940s, art therapy gained recognition as a healing approach of utilizing art as a therapy or as an integral part of the discipline of psychotherapy.
Mindfulness is an ancient Buddhist practice that reflects upon growing awareness of emotions, physical sensations in the body, and spiritual consciousness. When we are mindful, we have an increased cognition in terms of our self-awareness and susceptibility to reverberate on our daily routine experiences.
Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy (MBAT) was first pioneered by famous researcher Rappaport as a therapeutic treatment where he combined the notion of mindfulness within an art therapy setting. In other words, an individual keeps oneself absorbed in the creative process of making art as a means to explore our inner self in a mindful fashion. MBAT has slowly gained recognition as a tool for improvement in the field of psychology.
It is also termed as “focusing-oriented art therapy” where the emphasis is laid upon shifting focus as a vital part of the experience. Art therapy is basically concerned with working together with water, oil, pastel, and wax colours that led to the apprehension that things can take shape and come into existence without self-decisions. MBAT involves the eagerness to get engrossed in an enriching creative experience and flow with what seemed to want to happen. It can be perceived as a sense of flowing with substances, which reliably led to a new idea or imagination and also a learning experience. It can be treated as new means of getting relaxation and ultimate spiritual healing through freedom of creative expression. Rather, it can be viewed as a refuge from the hassles of life, but, more specifically, as getting connected to the vital facets of life and own self that previously was not given a thought.
It gave birth to a feeling of deep ‘inner necessity’, the profound drive that shows the pathway to a holistic transformation as an individual or in other words “self-healing”. The creative activity actuated by the thrust of inner necessity seems ineluctable to lead into unexplored areas and fragmentation of what has been adopted or imposed. Thus, MBAT unites the imagination to the body and permits the free flow of emotions that otherwise can’t be expressed through words.
How MBAT works?
Mindfulness-based art therapy (MBAT) can be implemented in a variety of ways. A few of the activities that might be performed is given below:
- Drawing a picture of self. This is an activity of self-acceptance where an individual draws a painting and tries to identify the mistakes within it.
- Mindfully studying art materials. Through this activity, an individual tries to examine an art utilizing all the five sensory organs thereby engaging in sensory stimulation and monitoring all art forms in routine life.
- Using art to express feelings. Through this art activity, an individual tries to express their true hidden emotions. The artist might reveal any happy or stressful event through painting or colouring as a means of communication to the outside world.
- Healing pain. If any person is suffering from depression or experiencing pain due to any chronic illness then one might observe how pain changes while creating the art.
- Painting and walking. This is a unique way of colouring the bottom of our feet and walking on paper to view the artistic impressions.
- Making a collage. Collage making is another activity through which one can express their deepest inner feelings.
- Before-and-after art pieces. Making a note of how one feels before and after creating a piece of art that enhances one’s emotional well-being.
Benefits of MBAT during the pandemic
MBAT can be used for individuals with physical ailments like anxiety or eating disorders, suffering from depression, occupational stress-related issues and even psychological concerns including people diagnosed with cancer or coronary heart disease (CAD). MBAT assist to reduce stress levels and improve the quality of life. Some of the psychological benefits of MBAT that have been demonstrated in the extant research literature are as follows:
- Improved emotional stability
- Improved quality of work-life
- Changes in brain patterns indicating a calm mindset
- Development of neural pathways inside the brain that assist in art-making
- Diminishing cognitive avoidance
- Enhancing intuition and trust in self
- A growing sense of control and aptitude to share deeper thoughts
- Increased emotional awareness
Lastly, MBAT is advantageous since it can be practised from the comfort of our homes rather than attending psychotherapy appointments. This practice can be adopted by anybody irrespective of age or gender.
Learning from my own MBAT experience
Since childhood painting has been my passion. Over the years I got busy with my career and professional assignments and art took a backseat. In the year 2020 when the pandemic broke out and we were compelled to stay indoors, I got an opportunity to regain my lost passion and explore my creative self again. The pandemic put a toll upon my physical and mental health as I had to single-handed manage household chores, family and simultaneously carry on with my research work at the professional front.
It was during this time I realized my urge to revive my passion for painting again and devoted some time every day as part of my daily routine. It really worked wonders and served as a therapeutic treatment to ward off my mental health problems. Practising mindfulness has been beneficial in circumstances where stress is believed to play a major role. Various mindfulness practices like meditation, cleansing and relaxation techniques etc are known to help regulate the psychological responses to stressors. Regular practice of MBAT served as a way to calm an agitated mind, improve body flexibility and being the constant source of inner strength. It helped me to regain my positive energy and be mindful while remaining completely absorbed in my artworks.
Some of the artworks which I have done myself as a part of my MBAT experience are demonstrated below
This unique way of re-discovering self through mindfulness-based art therapy(MBAT) has really earned much appreciation. It has helped individuals of all ages from kids to adults in exploring their creative side and helping themselves in their own ways during the pandemic from remaining confined in their homes. This has proved to be a useful method for self-healing and in the process gaining inner peace and improving mental strength and psychological well-being.