The thing about doodling that I like so much is the spontaneity. That is the secret. I never know what I am going to get and were the doodle is going to take me. Sometimes I don’t like my doodle. But that’s ok. I don’t see my doodling as a way of producing art, but rather see it as art-making. Art is a form of self-expression. Process plays a big role in my expression, so the more spontaneous the better, at least for me. Other times I succumb to my desires to make something decorative, with repetitive lines and designs. This too serves a purpose. It soothes me at the end of a long day. It helps me refocus my mindset from work to play.
On Wednesday I presented a workshop (part talk, part experiential) to the Ontario Medical Association: Beyond Doodling, Using Art for Self Expression and Self-Care as part of their self-care series for GP psychotherapists. It was wonderful to present to such a diverse group of practitioners; some were GP psychotherapists, some wer social workers, medical interns, GPs, retired GPs, psychiatrists, and even surgeons. A few of the participants felt out-of-place in that they did not feel doing art was beneficial for them (though they identified that making or listening to music was a self-care outlet for them). Many participants shared with me after that they gained some insight into a stressful situation through art making and found it useful to explore their feelings in this way.
For some the idea of making art was daunting at first. And as I always do, I emphasized that artistic skill was not a requirement. What they drew did not have to look like anything. Self-care is something that we all need to do a little more of, whether in a helping profession which takes a lot out of you emotionally or you are dealing with a lot of stress on a daily basis. Here’s why I believe art can help with self-care:
Art-making can be a way of releasing feelings after a difficult day or situation so that they don’t stay pent-up inside. In this way art-making allows for self-regulation, a chance to get in touch with how we are feeling and the way it may be impacting us both physiologically and psychologically.
Art-making promotes self-awareness. When we make art for self-expression and reflect upon it, we shine light on our inner selves, fears, and aspirations. In this way we can begin to connect with ourselves on a deeper level.
Art-making can be a way of shifting gears after a long day, rather than reflecting on what has happened, focusing on the here and now and making art as a kind of meditative practice. Mandala making, crafting something visually pleasing, drawing from memory or drawing something that is front of you are some ways that art can be meditative.
Of course in order for it to benefit you actually need to do it.
Next week we will look at exactly how one can establish a sustainable self-care practice using art.
In the mean time, keep doodling! If you haven’t already joined in on the #DoodleADayJourney there is still time with the final week of November coming up. Why not just jump in? For some tips on how to get started you may wish to read: Doodling Paves the Way and Begin Where You Are