I am sure you’d agree that the language of visual art – colours, shapes, lines and images- speak to us in ways that words cannot. Art therapy is a modality that uses the non-verbal language of art for personal growth, insight, and transformation. It is a means of connecting what’s inside us – thoughts, feeling, perceptions, dreams and aspirations – with our current reality and life experiences. It is based on the belief that images and colours can help us understand ourselves better and enhance life through self-expression.
While the field of art therapy is relatively new, the idea that art can be a form of therapy is very old. In fact, art has always been used to record and portray a wide range of emotions and experiences, from profound joy to the deepest sorrow, from triumph to trauma. Since our earliest recorded history, art has served as a means of reparation, rehabilitation and transformation, and has been used to restore physical, psychological and spiritual well-being. In recent years, we have rediscovered the benefits of art for personal growth, self-expression, transformation and wellness. One such rediscovered art form that can be used to capture true self-expression is a ‘Mandala’.
Mandala is the Sanskrit for ‘circle’ or ‘completion’. Mandala is far more than a simple shape. It represents wholeness, and can be seen as a model for the organisational structure of life itself. It is a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relationship to the infinite; the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds. Making a mandala is a meditative experience. When someone creates a mandala, it becomes a window for exploring their inner self. Colouring a mandala can be equally profound. This is the reason why mandala colouring books have become so popular and are readily available in all bookstores.
Colouring a mandala is both soothing and stress reducing exercise that is quick and simple to do and can be used as a way to transcend troubling circumstances or life’s challenges. I have been using colouring mandalas as a way of healing art therapy in my workshops and it has always worked as an effective tool for helping the participants process difficult emotions. At the end of the workshop, I suggest the participants to buy and keep a mandala book handy, and once a day find at least 15 minutes to colour a mandala. I believe this simple exercise can help them deal with routine pressures and not allow the stress to build up.
In fact, there are many other benefits associated with colouring a mandala. Before you break out with the crayons or coloured pencils, find out more about the benefits of this healing modality and how to make it therapeutic.
Benefits of colouring a mandala:
- Promote Mindfulness. Colouring a mandala can help you to put aside regrets about the past and concerns about the future as you focus on what you’re doing in the present moment. In that sense, it does have positive effects similar to meditation.
- Enhance Your Mood. Shifting your attention away from overdue bills, surmounting work pressure and stressful relationships can feel good. Your mood brightens as you fill the colors in a mandala.
- Social Media Detox. Any offline hobby that allows you to take a break from technology is a bonus these days. Studies show that checking social media or phone messages too frequently contributes to anxiety. Colouring a mandala on a daily basis can prove to be a great way of taking a social media detox.
- Enjoy The Flexibility. Compared to other hobbies, colouring is inexpensive and portable. You can do it in a cab, waiting at the airport or even sitting in a coffee shop.
- Easy Start. Another major advantage of coloring a mandala is that it requires no significant skills to succeed. If you felt like an underachiever in high school art classes, you can still color between the lines.
How to make colouring a mandala therapeutic?
- Challenge Yourself. The flow state occurs when you engage in an activity that stretches your abilities but is not so difficult that you become discouraged or bored. In other words, choose a mandala pattern that engages you at a level slightly above your current creative ability.
- Explore different themes. Mandala coloring books offer a wide range of topics. Pick something that interests you.
- Share your work. Add a social aspect. Frame your favourite masterpieces and put them on display for friends to see. Post images and comments on social media. Throw a mandala colouring party and colour side-by-side with your friends and family.
- Have fun. However you colour, think of it as playtime. Let go of expectations and simply enjoy the process.
Colouring a mandala is a potent and effectives means of self-expression available to people of all ages and capabilities. It’s an inexpensive and easy hobby that can help you relax. Whether you stick with putting the finishing touches on someone else’s designs or move on to creating your own works, you can use this healing modality to increase your mindfulness and find peace and tranquility.
- Consider art therapy. If you’re dealing with serious issues, art therapy may provide more relief than just colouring. That’s because you interact with a trained counsellor and you make your own original works.
- Express yourself. Of course, trauma isn’t the only reason for creating art. You can learn more about yourself and communicate with others through drawing, painting, colouring and other methods.
- Continue your education. You may be more creative than you think. Sign up for a art class or join a Meet-up group where you can share feedback with other budding artists. Check the event listings at your local museum for lectures and hands-on activities.
- Practice meditation. If you use colouring to promote mindfulness, you might want to deepen your experience with other forms of meditation. Try sitting for a brief period each day and working your way up to longer sessions.
- Remember your childhood. Colouring seems to be especially effective with adults who previously enjoyed it as children. Maybe there are other youthful pastimes you want to revive like playing a piano, singing, dancing or baking cookies.