Three years ago, I made the first New Year’s resolution I’ve ever kept. Essentially, I challenged myself to create something new every day. These didn’t need to be tangible items. Sometimes it was art. Often it was in the form of food–trying new recipes or new plating designs. I even included the creation of new memories. In fact, my resolution in 2017 was to focus more on creating these meaningful memories.
That simple resolution became my everyday mantra. Create something new every day. With 2018 approaching, I found myself examining my strengths and the growth I’ve experienced over the past few years. At the same time, I took an honest look at what I needed in my life. I wanted more peace and less stress. I wanted more appreciation for the simple moments. I wanted to be more present in my life. I wanted to take time to focus on my own well-being.
I didn’t just want these things. I needed these things.
The need for meditation was obvious to me, but I was realistic enough to know I would struggle to find time each day to devote to this. Mornings are a constant struggle for me. As an in-home daycare provider and mother of three, quiet times are incredibly hard to come by during the day. Finally, when the kids go to bed, that is typically the time I focus on my other jobs. Free moments are hard to come by.
Then, in the most obvious yet subtle way, in the midst of making excuses for not finding the time to meditate, I caught a glimpse of my six-year-old daughter. I have three extremely creative daughters, but my six-year-old has the innate ability to lose herself in everything she makes. In nearly a trance-like state, she will experiment with lines and colors, oblivious to any noise or activity around her. Sure, as a parent it can be frustrating when you need her attention. However, it’s a blessing when she finds herself overwhelmed and I can encourage her to unwind by creating something. So, why couldn’t I apply this same practice in my everyday life?
I turned to google and began to type things like ‘creative meditation’ and ‘artistic mindfulness’. There it was, in black and white, exactly what I needed to read at that very moment.
“Most of us have had an experience at some point in our lives of being so immersed in art making that we lost track of time. This happens because creative activities ease us into a process of focus, concentration, absorption and flow, which is the same process we experience when we’re meditating.”
As a childcare provider, I’ve often stated the importance of process over product. The process is where the magic happens. The mixing of colors… The transition of lines… The development of textures… The play light and shadows. This is where you can get lost. Bringing your full attention to the process, quieting the outside noise, and focusing instead on the joy in the moment.
Here are six creative ways anyone can practice the art of meditation–no art background or training required!
6 Ways to Practice Mindfulness Through Art and Creativity
1. Hand Lettering / Modern Calligraphy
I, like many, am interested in learning modern calligraphy. Likewise, I have always had embarrassingly poor penmanship. Instead of approaching this as an attempt to improve my penmanship, I view it as a challenge to learn a new artform. I despised handwriting in elementary school, but now, as an engaged adult, I find the repetition of creating these strokes to be therapeutic.
If this is a skill that you are interested in, you could further the experience by choosing a mantra to practice with. This helps place your focus not simply on the process of creating the desired strokes, but also serves as a constant reminder to a word or phrase that is important to you.
Zentangles is method of drawing intricate designs that allows you to relax, focus, and trust your creativity. There are endless patterns to spark your imagination, and you can read more about the method and benefits of Zentangles.
While there is no right or wrong way to create these patterns, a simple way to start is by tracing overlapping circles then beginning to fill in each space with unique designs.
3. Adult Coloring pages
This trend has been popular for a few years now. Use fine tip markers, pens, or colored pencils to color in intricate designs.
4. Paint by Numbers for adults
I actually never realized adult paint by numbers were a thing until my brother gave one to my dad for Christmas. The first time I saw a photo of him painting, I realized how relaxing this process could be (specifically for someone who may feel they don’t have a natural talent for painting).
You only need to be able to match up numbers to colors. Additionally, these are incredibly detailed paintings which gives you a process that you can continue to return to over time as you relax and watch the transformation take place.
5. Draw your breath
Breathing. Something that should be the most natural action can feel forced when you begin to focus on it. Any time I’ve meditated in the past, I get fixated on the fact that my breath never seems to flow naturally. Am I holding my breath? Am I breathing too quickly or too slowly? Why can’t I transition from inhaling to exhaling more smoothly? Instead of clearing my thoughts, my mind becomes overwhelmed with my own breathing.
That is why I love the idea of drawing your breath. Simply grab a piece of paper and the medium of your choice (pen, pencil, marker, paint brush) and begin to create strokes as you visualize your breath.
I love creating abstract watercolor artwork. It’s a process that I typically approach without any expectation or plan. I blend colors then create the final design based off the natural form that takes place.
Whether your creative ambitions include those above, or something that requires more technique such as photography, writing, music, or mixed media, I encourage you to use that process to calm your mind and be present in the moment.
Show gratitude for the process and the materials in your hand.