How to Practice Art-Based Mindfulness

Art-based mindfulness is a relatively new concept that was initially introduced by psychologist and writer Laury Rappaport in 2009 in her book Mindfulness and the Arts Therapies. Mindfulness is the practice of becoming more fully aware of the present moment — non-judgmentally and completely — rather than dwelling in the past or projecting into the future. It generally involves a heightened awareness of sensory stimuli (noticing your breathing, feeling the sensations of your body etc.) and being "in the now." Art therapy, as we covered in a previous blog post, is a technique rooted in the idea that creative expression can foster healing and mental well-being. Art-based mindfulness puts mindfulness and art therapy together, combining the benefits of mindfulness with the framework and structure of art therapy.

Tips for art-based mindfulness

Make mistakes

making mistakes in art
Try new things and be willing to make mistakes in order to learn. Most artists practise for years before they are able to produce something realistic, and they are willing to make many mistakes along the way, likely because the brain rewards learning. If you are trying this at home, don’t encourage anything messy with children unless you have time to oversee it. There is nothing worse for kids than getting in trouble for something you have encouraged — it can crush their love of art and inhibit creative exploration.

Reuse and repeat
reuse recycle sign

Play and experiment with reusable materials and mediums, such as dry-erase markers on windows that can be easily wiped away, or sculpting materials, like playdough that can be squished and reshaped. This emphasises practice and process over product and takes the pressure off to make something that looks good right away. If you really must keep a copy, snap a quick photo of the work, then let it go.

Limit language

Picture of no talking

Try not to talk when you are practising mindful art and if you are listening to music, choose something without lyrics. The parts of the brain activated during visual art are different from those activated for speech generation and language processing. Give those overworked parts of the mind a break, and indulge in the calm relaxation that comes from doing so. The neurochemicals that are released feel good and that is your brain’s way of thanking you for the experience.