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Personal Growth

Art is an Amazing Way to Teach Your Brain About Mindfulness

Kill stress and gain perspective by way of creative expression.

Mindfulness is in vogue. Amidst an ever-changing and daunting modern world that keeps demanding our full attention, the impetus toward slowing down and, as Peter Baumann puts it, learning to pay attention to your own attention, has emerged as an extremely popular way of unwinding.

For those who may balk at the idea of meditating and connecting to your body via your breath, a new book may have a solution.

Mindfulness and the Art of Drawingauthored by Wendy Ann Greenhalgh, suggests that we can explore mindfulness through creative expression. As Greenhalgh notes: 

“In traditional mindfulness practice this is usually done by focusing on the breath or sensations in the body. In ‘creative mindfulness’ it’s done by engaging in a specific creative activity such as drawing or creative writing. I teach all creative activities in an embodied way: getting people to focus on how it feels to hold a pen, to draw or write, and encouraging them to keep checking in with their breath.”

This is in line with the increasingly ubiquitous trend of adult coloring books, which aim to tackle the same problem: how to use creativity to unplug. Indeed, in an article aptly titled “The Zen of Adult Coloring Books,” The Atlantic’s Julie Beck points us to the way these coloring books are a great way to help subdue her mind, especially when paired with something as seemingly passive as binge-watching:

“If the front of my mind is occupied by the show, and the back is focused on picking colors and staying in the lines, there’s not room for much else. It’s a sort of mindfulness that’s more like mind-fullness.”

As more studies and research keep pointing out how stress may be affecting everything from our empathy to our monogamy, Greenhalgh’s philosophy may very well be offering us a helpful way of being mindful while recovering that childlike enjoyment that came from cracking open a boxful of crayons and drawing to one’s mind’s content.

Below, psychologist Paul Bloom challenges the assertion that children are better than adults at things like play and imagination:

Photo credit: anandaBGD / iStock

Manuel is an NYC-based writer interested in all things media and pop culture. He’s a regular contributor to The Film Experience and Remezcla. His work has been featured in Mic News, Film Comment, and Model View Culture. He also has a PhD but hates bragging about it.