Art and colour therapy offer new ways to help you look after yourself that also feel fun and rewarding. Here, Momtaz Begum-Hossain, a trained colour therapist, talks through the best ways to get started with creative therapy at home.
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Mental health issues are diverse, specific and personal and the ways we treat them should reflect this. Talking therapy is the most common form of counselling in the UK and it can be a hugely beneficial for so many people. But, it’s not the only way you can look after your mental health.
Art and creative therapies are becoming increasingly popular as a way for people of all ages to destress and look after themselves. It involves using arts-based activities, like painting, collaging and creating sculptures, in a therapeutic environment with the support of a trained professional to help you make sense of things and understand yourself better. It can also help you resolve complicated feelings and find ways to communicate and express yourself.
Momtaz Begum-Hossain is a colour therapist who uses art therapy to help people come to terms and deal with their mental health issues. “We look at the ways colour benefits different parts of our body and our mind and our soul,” Momtaz says.
You can practise art therapy techniques using whatever creative practice you’d like, whether that’s sketching, colouring or another kind of art form. Many of the techniques used in art therapy are things you can practise at home.
Art and colour therapy is about giving yourself time to relax into your feelings through making art to then see what kind of emotions materialise. “It is not at all about the art,” Momtaz says, stressing that there should be no pressure on the final creation. “It’s about the process.”
You can reflect on your final artwork or totally abandon it but, either way, it can be useful to know the traditional meanings of each colour so you can consider what colours and emotions are particularly present in your life and which ones are missing.
The emotional meanings of the primary colours
Momtaz assigns the following meanings to each primary colour:
Red – strong, powerful, courageous and revitalising
Blue – communicative and grounded
Yellow – uplifting, positive, healthy
An art therapy technique to try at home - the mood tracker
Here’s one art therapy activity Momtaz suggests you try at home:
- Find something to draw on. This can be anything – a canvas, a scrap piece of paper or the back of a cereal box.
- Every day at a specific time, paint one line of colour on your material. Choose the colour based on how you’re feeling.
- Do this for one month in order to track your mood.
- At the end of the month, use this to reflect on your month to consider how your emotions have changed.
Another art therapy activity is simply giving yourself a prompt or a question. It could be as simple as: “How are you feeling today?” You can then respond to that prompt by being creative: drawing or painting something and then reflecting back on it afterwards to consider the ways in which your artwork might be able to help you explore your emotions more deeply.
Momtaz’s advice for getting started with art and colour therapy at home
Art therapy doesn’t have to deal with your issues
You might think of traditional therapy as a way of trying to get to the bottom of the way you’re feeling but Momtaz explains that art therapy doesn’t work in the same way. “Rather than focus on issues or problems as you might do with a therapist, think of it instead as ‘me time’. This is you taking some time out for yourself to just let loose, relax, and be.”
Carve out time for yourself to be creative
To be able to really relax, you need to know you have time to be creative, so you won’t be worried about your to do list or other things in life that might be causing you stress. “Put aside an hour or two when you won’t get distracted and approach it with a sense of play, for example, playing with colour, shapes, or textures,” Momtaz advises.
Choose a form of creating that works for you
“Pick a medium that appeals to you. You don’t need to have tried it before, and there should be no pressure to feel good at it,” says Momtaz. “So, if you’re going for painting, play with colours, mix and blend them together, use different application methods like wide strokes, thin strokes, paint flicking, layering up colours, and even scratching into surfaces.”
“Don’t think too hard,” she continues. “Let your intuition guide you and be spontaneous. The hardest part can be letting go of perfectionism but once you do, it becomes more satisfying.”
Create a soundtrack to get creative to
Momtaz suggests creating a playlist, or putting on songs that will help you to relax and feel creative. “Music and art are commonly combined as a therapy and it will help you relax and get into the flow,” she says.
Prompt yourself if you’re having a creative block
If you’re struggling to get started or find an idea, Momtaz recommends using a prompt to help you feel inspired. Ask yourself, “how are you feeling today?” she says, explaining that you can then paint what you feel.
React to your creation
“At the end of the session take some time to admire your creation. Look at it from different angles and ask yourself how you feel about it, how the process felt, what you enjoyed, and any restrictions you felt,” Momtaz suggets.
You can write your answers down in a notebook, on scrap paper, or even on the back of your artwork to see how your art and feelings have progressed when you make your next pieces.
“The artwork can remain private, or you could name it, display it and share it. It’s completely up to you.”
If you, or someone you know, are worried about their mental health, you can find support and resources on the mental health charity Mind’s website, with NHS Every Mind Matters or access the NHS list of mental health helplines and organisations.
If you are struggling with your mental health, you can also ask your GP for a referral to NHS Talking Therapies, or you can self-refer. For confidential support, you can also call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Momtaz Begum-Hossain, colour therapist
Momtaz is a Colour Therapy Expert and a Modern Colour Theorist. Her third book Hello Rainbow: Brighten your Life and Mind with Colour Therapy will be published October 2021. She’s the Founder of the ‘Hello Hue’ philosophy, a seven-point guide for how to use colour to boost your mood and mental wellbeing. She also runs creative art workshops and provides colour consultation for brands.