Just Breathe

This is a short and stunning video, about how to deal with difficult feeling.
When life gets hard, just slow down, take a moment to focus your attention deep into your body, and breathe into your stomach. All feelings will shift, when given the opportunity.  We have no control in the many difficult moments in life, but at the most basic, we always the choice to slow it all down and breathe through it, rather than letting life and emotions take over.

via: http://amysmartgirls.com/short-film-just-breathe-helps-kids-deal-with-emotions/

My favourite part is the look in their eyes when they emerge from a closed eyed, deep breathing moment…
What do you see?
Imagine if all the children in the world were taught this simple and empowering skill? How might the next generation of adults walk differently upon the earth?

Colouring is good for children of all ages

The Huffington Post recently published an article entitled: “Coloring Isn’t Just For Kids. It Can Actually Help Adults Combat Stress,” by Elena Santos. While I do not necessarily agree with the use of the word “combat” as a helpful way to talk about managing stress (war and combat are by their nature very stressful…), I do appreciate this article. If you have ever spent any time colouring as an adult, you will know that it is totally common sense that it is a stress reliever. In my own drawing process, for example, I often create black and white images with pen or ink. I will sometimes copy these images with a photo copier, so that I can attempt different versions of colouring in while maintaining the original template. I then spend quite a long time colouring in the images. The creation of the black and white image is a wonderful creative endeavour, and very exciting, but I would have to say that colouring in the image is slightly more relaxing, as I am able to relax into the image with colour. The creation of an image from out of a blank page is less relaxing and more invigorating, as the element of creating something out of nothing requires, in my experience, a lot more focus and attention. While colouring books for adults is a great idea, especially for those who find that creating something out of nothing is too anxiety provoking, I would encourage you to try and make your own colouring book images! Both sides of the process are fun :)

I have quoted the entire article below. It can be accessed via: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/13/coloring-for-stress_n_5975832.html

“Coloring is an activity that we tend to associate with children. As we grow older, we put aside our crayons and colored pencils in favor of more respectable writing utensils like pens and highlighters. However, it turns out coloring can be beneficial for adults — namely for its de-stressing power.

The practice generates wellness, quietness and also stimulates brain areas related to motor skills, the senses and creativity. In fact, publishers have lately been launching coloring books specifically for adults. The trend is alive and well in countries in Europe and North America. Most recently, in Spain, the publication Espasa published Coloréitor, with illustrations by well-known cartoonist Forges.


Does Coloring Really De-stress?

One of the first psychologists to apply coloring as a relaxation technique was Carl G. Jüng in the early 20th century. He did this through mandalas: circular designs with concentric shapes similar to the Gothic churches’ rose windows. They have their origin in India.

When coloring, we activate different areas of our two cerebral hemispheres, says psychologist Gloria Martínez Ayala. “The action involves both logic, by which we color forms, and creativity, when mixing and matching colors. This incorporates the areas of the cerebral cortex involved in vision and fine motor skills [coordination necessary to make small, precise movements]. The relaxation that it provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress.”

In simplest terms, coloring has a de-stressing effect because when we focus on a particular activity, we focus on it and not on our worries. But it also “brings out our imagination and takes us back to our childhood, a period in which we most certainly had a lot less stress.” This leads us immediately and unconsciously to welfare, exposes the specialist.

“I recommend it as a relaxation technique,” says psychologist Antoni Martínez. “We can use it to enter into a more creative, freer state,” he assures. We can also use it to connect with how we feel, since depending on our mood we choose different colors or intensity. “I myself have practiced that. I recommend it in a quiet environment, even with chill music. Let the color and the lines flow.”


Coloring Books for Adults

In countries like France or the UK, coloring books for adults are bestsellers. The French publisher Hachette even has a collection called Art-Thérapie with twenty de-stress volumes including all kinds of drawings from books of butterflies and flowers to cupcakes, graffiti and psychedelic patterns. There’s also the book Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book (M & E Books) that has snuck into top selling lists.

In the United Kingdom the books of illustrator Mel Simone Elliot are popular. She lets you color celebrities like Ryan Gosling, Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Kate Moss in her series Colour Me Good. And we can’t forget the aptly named Coloring for Grown-Ups, released by comedians Ryan Hunter and Taige Jensen in the U.S.

The trend has struck Spain too. The Spanish cartoonist Antonio Fraguas, or Forges, published Coloréitor, “a de-stress book,” its publishing house proclaims. The psychologist Luis Rojas Marcos says in the preface that “coloring comforts us, gives us peace, and lets us enjoy ourselves — it even temporarily frees us from daily pressures… Although coloring a couple of hours does not eliminate all problems and worries, it takes us away and relieves us from the stress that overwhelms us.”

If you’ve yet to try coloring as a relaxation technique, Forges has dedicated the drawing above to readers of The Huffington Post. He gave this tip for beginners: “Despite how highly stressed you may be, the most important thing is to not use pen markers with alcohol that go through the paper. The proper thing is to use crayons.”

You heard it here first.”

The Missing Piece Meets the Big O

Maria Popova from Brain Pickings recently featured one of my favourite allegorical tales by Shell Silverstein, entitled “The Missing Piece Meets the Big O”. The first time I read this book, I was an adult. It touched me deeply. I vividly remember that I was in a secondhand bookstore in Downtown Vancouver, and that I picked it up randomly just as I was getting ready to leave the store. I proceeded to read the whole thing. I was very touched by this book, and it’s message has stayed with me ever since. The simply told story, with the simple black and white line drawings, was powerful and unforgettable. I recommend this book to all children and adults alike.

Find the article, along with images from the book, at the following link. And enjoy!


And here is a YouTube video which animates this story!

A Brief Guide To The Basic Fundamentals Of Art Therapy

Here is a link to an article by Priscilla Frank in the Huntington Post, about the basics of art therapy. It features an interview with Dr. Sarah Deaver, the President of the American Art Therapy Association.
Great to see art therapy gaining growing awareness in popular media!


For more about art therapy in Canada, visit the site of the Canadian Art Therapy Association, at http://canadianarttherapy.org/

Serve the world. Don’t try to help it, fix it or save it.

your work is

What is the difference between helping, saving or fixing, versus the idea of serving? Why is it so import to discern between these concepts in relationship with the world?

If these are questions that titillate you, I recommend reading and digesting the following article:
“Helping, Fixing or Serving?” by Rachel Naomi Remen.

A teaser from the article:

“Fixing and helping create a distance between people, but we cannot serve at a distance. We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected. Helping, fixing and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul.” -R.N. Remen

LINK: http://www.uc.edu/content/dam/uc/honors/docs/communityengagement/HelpingFixingServing.pdf

“The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality.”


We know depression through metaphors…Half the purpose of art is to describe such iconic states.” – Andrew Solomon

Andrew Solomon, in this revealing and beautiful talk, shares his experience with depression and gives us all a bit of hope by reaching out and sharing his vulnerabilities with bittersweet comedic relief, and some education. Break the secret, he is seeming to tell us. Depression is a killer. It destroys people’s lives in many ways. But we don’t have to suffer alone.

Best viewed in full-screen mode



What is depression?

Following the suicide of Robin Williams yesterday, who was living with depression, it seems even more important than usual to share this video about depression. Get educated. Reach out for help if you need it, or reach out a hand to someone who may need one.

“The only shame, is missing out on life.”

Written, illustrated and narrated by Matthew Johnstone.

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