As a student, you have a unique privilege you may not have considered. Many schools have art galleries on campus that you can visit for cheap or for free, and many off-campus galleries offer student rates, meaning you can see great art on a budget. Have you considered taking advantage? It could be just what you need. Visits to the art gallery allow for the chance to step away from daily life and engage with the world in a new way.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of viewing art in a gallery is the mental exercise of creating our own interpretation toward the art we are observing. This is a practice that encourages the type of creative thinking needed for problem-solving. By practicing this type of creative thinking, we learn better ways to come up with our own unique solutions to difficult problems, a key skill required for better mental health. When we leave difficult emotional problems unsolved, we may end up feeling even more frustrated and stressed. Understanding how to solve problems in a creative way may at times be what we need in order to improve difficult relationships, our own self-esteem, and circumstances within our lives that are causing us stress and anxiety.
You do not need to be a Renaissance painter or a beret-wearing artISTE spewing art-speak in order to reap the mental health benefits of visiting a gallery. The actual act of observing and appreciating art stimulates the same areas of the brain that are involved in processing feelings of pleasure and reward. When we’re feeling especially anxious, stressed, or emotionally down, a visit to the gallery may help us re-focus our attention in a therapeutic way. This can allow us a moment to take a step away from our overwhelming emotions and provides us with the opportunity to revisit these feelings at a time when we are less emotionally drained or anxious.
A gallery visit may also be a source of inspiration and has the power to boost our own personal creativity. Engaging in creative expression has significant therapeutic effects in decreasing anxiety. For example, acting creatively can get us into the mental state known in Positive Psychology as “flow.” It’s where we are totally and completely immersed in the enjoyment and involvement of what we are doing, and it’s why being creative feels so good.
The next time you’re having a difficult mental health day, consider the therapeutic benefits of visiting a local art gallery. It’s a wonderful way to incorporate creativity into your self-care practice!
When we practice regular self-care, we are allowing ourselves to engage in what it is that we need to feel emotionally, mentally, and physically healthy. When we remove our focus from our own needs and place it entirely on the things that do not nourish us emotionally, we may begin to feel unbalanced and emotionally unwell.
Placing our needs consistently on the back-burner can really wear us down, which is why practicing self-care is essential for taking care of our own mental health. And P.S.— self-care is not selfish. Meeting our own needs can allow us to be in a better headspace to be more emotionally present and caring for others!
So, with the Fall season and semester quickly approaching, how can we make the best of the last few weeks of summer? How can we enjoy the outdoors while also incorporating self-care?
1. Plant something… anything!
Fun fact: the best time of year to plant a tree is late in the summer or beginning of Fall. Why? Cooler temperatures help encourage new root growth (don’t ask me how I know this). Planting a plant or gardening can help keep us connected to nature. What does this have to do with self-care? Gardening can be a pretty awesome practice in mindfulness, allowing us to stay connected to the present moment and in touch with all our senses.
2. Journal in the park
Journalling is a great stress reliever as it helps us to process our thoughts and externalize any difficult feelings we may have had throughout the day. Journalling while enjoying some time in the sun? Even better for boosting serotonin levels and our mood. Check out some journal prompt ideas here.
3. Browse local farmers’ markets
I love farmers markets because they’re a win-win situation for us all. Purchasing at a farmers market means we get to enjoy something delicious that we may not have necessarily picked out at the grocery store, while also supporting a local or small business owner (yay sustainability!). It’s also an awesome way to get outside ourselves and be surrounded by a community of pretty cool people!
4. Solo picnic
Picnics offer a lot of social-related self-care benefits. We can use it as a means to bond with our loved ones by enabling communication in a relaxing environment. But a solo picnic also allows us some time for self-reflection. The occasional solo time is great for self-care as it provides a chance to self-reflect and to develop self-awareness so we can better understand our emotions.
5. Have a Yard Sale
I don’t know about you, but having a cluttered space really stresses me out. Sometimes the best thing we can do for our mental health is to let go of the things that no longer serve us. That may start with cleaning up our physical space. And when it comes to self-care, throwing a yard sale adds a few bonus points. We’re decreasing our stress levels by clearing up our physical space, we’re getting in touch with a community by spending time in the neighbourhood, and we’re enjoying some much needed time outdoors while doing it.
I am a huge proponent of daily journal writing. Journalling allows us to better process our thoughts and externalize any difficult feelings we may have had throughout the day. It can be a helpful tool in allowing ourselves to get to know what situations trigger us, how we process our thoughts and emotions, and how we might use our creativity to solve difficult problems.
And yes, sometimes writing feels tedious. Or we just have no clue where to start. For those moments, I’d encourage you to try these 6 journal prompts and see where they take you.
1. What’s on my mind right now?
This prompt can allow you to practice mindfulness and awareness of the present moment.
2. What has been going well in my life lately? What has been more difficult? Why?
This prompt motivates us to get more in touch with how situations, relationships, or circumstances in our lives are playing a role in influencing our feelings.
3. What inspires me? Why?
Exploring what inspires us is a helpful tool in determining our values and coming to understand what feels enriching for us.
4. What are 5 things I am grateful for right now?
Gratitude! Practicing a little bit of gratitude can help us feel more positive emotions and relish our experiences.
5. What are 5 ways that I can go out of my comfort zone this year?
There is no better way to grow than by stepping outside of our comfort zones. Experiencing and growing through a new challenge is a great way to boost self-confidence and belief in our abilities.
6. What area of my life needs more love and attention? Why?
This prompt may allow us to recognize where we need to cultivate more care and self-love. It can also be a helpful prompt toward setting small goals to make us healthier and happier.