People have become machines. We are expected to behave like robots in order to work unrealistic hours, juggle intricate calendars, excel in our fields, be good parents, good spouses, and somehow still find time to stay fit and look great.
The result? Society is becoming emotionally illiterate. Emotions are treated as obsolete and taboo. We lack guidance on how to process difficult feelings and traumatic experiences, let alone how to use them to become better people.
A society filled with numbed out, mildly sociopathic people is not only a waste of human emotion, it is also dangerous: understanding one's own emotions develops compassion for not only oneself, but also for others. Without it, we remain in an illusion of division and create breeding grounds for mental illness, bigotry, and hatred.
What are therapeutic arts?
Therapeutic arts can be anything (e.g. music, painting, rock climbing, etc.) done intentionally to help us think and feel. The best part? How well you do is irrelevant. The entire purpose of therapeutic art is to let go of expectations, slow down, and and simply feel.
It doesn't matter who you are. It doesn't matter what you've been through. There is no experience too small to justify healing and self-care isn't always manicures or bath-bombs. Sometimes, it's tuning into your deepest needs and giving yourself the gift of emotional literacy.
Here are a few examples of therapeutic activities:
By its very nature, words are meaning. Using words allows us to examine and rewrite the meaning of ourselves and our experiences. Writing is one of the easiest ways to tap into our emotional worlds, make sense of them, and give them whatever meaning we see fit. Keeping a daily journal, attending poetry meetings or experimenting with short stories are all effective methods of writing to heal.
2. Outdoor Activities
Spending time in nature is one of the easiest ways to slow down. We tend to adapt to our environments, so by intentionally surrounding ourselves with nature's beauty and tranquility, we begin to mirror these qualities.
Humans have an inherent connection to Mother Earth--a connection often severed by technological addiction and bustling corporate culture. Whether it's hiking, biking or bird watching, time outdoors will help you reconnect with your inner self.
3. Dance and Meditative Movement
Often we neglect our bodies and only use them to get from Point A to B. However, using dance (or any type of meditative movement) transforms our bodies into tools of expression. Expression is powered by emotion. Dance can literally help us move through our emotions and help us embody them in visual ways.
Some types of movement to check out: contra dancing, flow arts (like hula hooping), and ecstatic dance.
4. Making Music
Dig out your old guitar from the back of your closet, find a local drumming circle or even teach yourself a new instrument. Music compels us to feel. It provides a platform for difficult feelings and beautiful emotions when words alone are not enough to express them.
Therapeutic arts and activities can help combat and reverse the numbed-out state encouraged by modern society. No matter which activity you choose, the key is for it to make you feel excited and alive--to live deeper and to allow yourself to be human.