While negative moods are a natural part of life, we’d all enjoy a little boost from time to time. Chances are, as someone visiting a mental health blog, you’re familiar with some of the more common ways we can regulate our emotional wellbeing: therapy, exercise, socialization, and even medications (when applicable) are all perfectly legitimate ways to make our experiences more positive.
But what if we’re looking for a way to boost our mood that’s a little less clinical and a little more fun? Is there a way to express our emotions without having to explain them in words to a friend or therapist?
Simply put: yes. You can make some art.
It may sound cheesy or simplistic, but studies show that engaging in creative activities has tons of beneficial health-related effects, including enhancing our mood. For example, music, singing, and dancing have all been shown to help us recall past memories and express our experiences through movement. Meanwhile, creative writing helps individuals regain control over their inner world, and the dramatic and visual arts help us understand our worlds and promote empathy.
Overall, creative engagement has the potential to decrease stress, anxiety, and mood disturbances. So how can we incorporate it into our daily lives?
Listen to or play music
Listening or playing music has been shown to positively impact our moods. When combined with emotion, instrumental sounds help us mindfully process our feelings and notice how our physical processes (such as our heart beat or breath) relate to our emotional experiences.
Not sure what you’re in the mood to listen to? Find playlists catered towards confidence, low mood, anxiety, and more mental wellness themes here!
Create visual art
Like music, the visual arts—painting, drawing, working with clay or other mediums—help us express our emotions in ways that words cannot. They allow us to process our feelings with visual stimuli, and also offer different tactile sensations (smooth acrylics, earthy potter’s clay, soft fabric, freshly cut flowers) that can alter our experience.
Consider exploring new art materials at a crafts store, looking up a how-to art video on Youtube, or even signing up for a local course. You may discover a new passion!
Write for expression
There’s a good reason that people turn to diaries to document their woes–writing down our feelings can help us process our emotions. Journaling and poetry have both been shown to positively impact our moods, and they offer different ways to be mindful of our experiences and emotions.
Consider investing in a quality journal and writing devices that work for you (pens, pencils, markers, and crayons all give us different sensory inputs). Try to build a habit by writing at least one sentence before bed, or first thing when you wake up. You may start to observe new patterns in your daily moods by reflecting on old entries.
Of course, these are only a handful of creative activities. The world of expressive art is incredibly vast and exciting to explore. You also don’t need to find new techniques alone–many therapists have been trained in expressive practices and can guide you in finding the one that works for you.
Is there a certain type of creative expression you’d like to learn more about, or have tried out yourself? We’d love to hear your story on Twitter! In the meantime, enjoy the creative process!
Erin Ross, MS OTR/L is an occupational therapist and an aspiring science writer in DC. She believes in evidence-based practice, clear communication in healthcare, and diligent inclusion of the Oxford comma.