ART THERAPY: benefits and how to do it at home (60+ ideas to try)

We’ve been taught to see art as a finished project, when the reality is much more complex than that.

Art is all about the process. And that makes art an incredible tool when it comes to mental health.

Art and mental health

Doing art can be an enjoyable way to push us out of our comfort zone and make us think about our life. Art can help us express our emotions, fears, and hopes without having to use words. Others don’t even have to understand it. The process and finished piece can be just for you, if that’s what you wish. You don’t even need to keep it.

Studies have shown that creating art can help those suffering from depression, PTSD, and anxiety. But even if you don’t go through one of these, you can still get the benefit of creating art.

What is art therapy?

Most people know of therapy, I’m sure many of you reading have even been to therapy. Art therapy is similar to traditional therapy in the sense that there is a professional therapist that guides the session and that it is used for treatment. The main difference is, of course, that the main source of treatment is art.

In most cases art therapy involves visual arts: painting, drawing, collage… However, all forms of art can be beneficial to mental health. Some therapists especially in drama, others in writing, others in music, and some are multimedia.

Getting the benefits of art at home

If you can go to art therapy sessions, that’s best. The therapist will help you work through your issues and push you further than you can on your own. But that is not always possible. Therapy is expensive, especially art therapy. Not everyone has access to local art therapists, it is still very much a niche profession. And not everyone feels comfortable opening up to a stranger, and art will force you to open up much more than a conversation ever will.

Luckily, a lot of the benefits of art therapy can be obtained at home. But you should be aware of the limitations. Creating art on your own can bring many mental health benefits, but you might feel limited by your access to materials or resources. Going to groups or attending classes is a way to overcome that problem, but it can be hard for those who don’t enjoy social situations and they might be hard to access (due to location and/or money).

If you suffer from a debilitating mental health illness, you won’t be able to treat it yourself by doing art in your living room. But it might just be able to help if you combine it with other activities and treatment.

Some art therapy ideas to try at home

The main thing to keep in mind if you’re going to try art therapy at home is that there are no mistakes. This is not about creating aesthetically pleasing finished pieces, it’s all about the process.

If you need art materials, try finding them second hand, buy children’s supplies, or check your area for a scrap store. You don’t need expensive artists quality materials to reap the benefits of creating art.

  1. Choose a colour you feel attracted to, close your eyes, and paint/draw.
  2. Write a journal entry for today.
  3. Start an art journal.
  4. Create a postcard that shows where you are physically and/or mentally (don’t worry you don’t have to send it to anyone).
  5. Use playdough to create shapes.
  6. Choose a shape and fill a page with it. Try different sizes, colours, and materials.
  7. Go for a walk and try to copy the sounds you hear, either with your body or materials you find.
  8. Play music without words and just move. No need to dance, any kind of movement is ok, even if all you feel like doing is tapping your foot.
  9. Create a mandala. You can use pencils, paint, pens, or other materials like stickers, leaves and flowers, food… anything you have around.
  10. Choose a colour you dislike and create something with it (any media).
  11. Grab a camera (it could be your phone) and go for a walk. Take photos of small details that draw your attention.
  12. Act out a feeling.
  13. Doodle. Just doodle.
  14. Describe what your perfect day would be like.
  15. Take a photo of something you think it’s ugly. Write about what makes it ugly.
  16. Try slow stitching. Here’s a video to help you get started if you’ve never done it before and have no materials.
  17. Build a fort.
  18. Cook a meal.
  19. Make a decorative bento. These are some examples, but yours doesn’t have to be so complicated.
  20. Draw yourself.
  21. Start a writing journal.
  22. Do an art challenge (there are loads in Pinterest for all kinds of art).
  23. Choose an animal and take inspiration from it. You could draw a pattern, paint the animal, write a story from their point of view, create a mask, move like the animal, make the same sounds, or do a whole bunch of things.
  24. Paint using your hands. Don’t be scared to get dirty.
  25. Write a fairytale based on your life. Don’t forget, you’re the hero of the story.
  26. Start a blog. Don’t worry about marketing, or views, just write about the things that interest you (that’s pretty much what I am doing here!).
  27. Create a shrine or altar. You decide who or what it is dedicated to.
  28. Try pebble painting.
  29. Try a 1, 2, or 3 colour challenge (any media).
  30. Try stick weaving.
  31. Make bread.
  32. Make jam.
  33. Rummage through your recycling and create something.
  34. Make your own version of a famous work of art. Remember that it’s not about the result, it’s about the process.
  35. Do mark making with random objects.
  36. Try a colouring book.
  37. Create a moodboard.
  38. Write down whatever words come to your mind, and create a story with them.
  39. Open a book on a random page and choose a random word. Use it as inspiration to create something (could be a drawing, a poem, a monologue, a melody… anything goes). Don’t cheat, use the word you land on.
  40. Write a haiku.
  41. Try soap carving.
  42. Decorate a cake or a cupcake.
  43. Wear an outfit that makes you feel powerful (don’t worry, you don’t have to leave the house).
  44. Put on make-up in a creative way (and yes, this is for all genders and ages).
  45. Draw a map. Could be based on a real place or completely imaginary.
  46. Play a role-playing game. If you’re alone, you could try solo roleplaying.
  47. Design your own coat of arms.
  48. Create a collage poem.
  49. Write down all your bad qualities, and then paint over them all your good qualities.
  50. Create a series (any media).
  51. Draw using an app.
  52. Create an amulet.
  53. Write a kennings poem.
  54. Try knitting or crochet.
  55. Try origami.
  56. Design a room. You can use apps, draw, or create a moodboard.
  57. Write a mini autobiography.
  58. Create a meme.
  59. Design a shoe.
  60. Paint a feeling.
  61. Cook a meal using only one colour.
  62. Make a friendship bracelet for yourself.
  63. Do your hair in a completely different hairstyle.
  64. Sing out loud.
  65. Go to a performance.