Sunday, August 12, 2018

Notes for Caregivers #3 - Create Courage and Resilience with Compassion and Altruism

"Most Magical" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
One of the most interesting and most difficult aspect of being a caregiver is that at some point you realize life has changed your identity whether you are ready for it or not. Stories for Caregivers has a wonderful short video on this particular challenge and why we may be reluctant to let go of our old identity.  If we aren't mindful about this change, we can find ourselves in difficulty, feeling a bit lost.

Kelly McGonigal has a hope filled, wonderful talk given at Stanford University, “How Compassion and Altruism Create Resilience.” She explores new research into how cultivating compassion and practicing altruism can increase our well-being during times of stress, as in suddenly finding yourself in a new, perhaps uncomfortable identity. She talks about how we were able to survive and thrive as a species because during times of stress our "tend and befriend" response kicks in (Shelly Taylor's concept), that by reaching out to others and forming human connection, brain chemistry (oxytocin) comes to our assistance.

According to Taylor (2000), affiliative behaviors reduce stress responses, thereby reducing stress-related health threats. "Befriending" is shown to lead to mental and physical health benefits in times of stress, whereas social isolation is associated with significantly enhanced risk of mortality.  So social support is tied to positive health outcomes. (This is pretty key for caregivers to understand! And implement.) Kelly believes that we can encourage our positive brain chemistry and health benefits when we choose to have a social response to stress.

This talk may be the perfect answer for caregivers who is feeling overwhelmed, and stressed.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Notes For Caregivers #2 - Developing A Habit Of Caring

"Love" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.

Here is an interesting short video from Stories For Caregivers on the importance of caring and connection. Very sweet.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Notes For Caregivers #1

"Care For Ourselves" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
I'd like to add something new to the blog, posts that are specifically for caregivers.  Whether we are art therapists, caring for our patients/clients/artists, or if we are caring for someone at home, my observation is that self care is extremely important. So I will be posting some really helpful ideas, web sites, or videos that have come my way. There is a Canadian web site, Stories For Caregivers, that feels like a life line. I started with Dr. Yvette Lu who has some great ideas to help caregivers find practical solutions to improve their lives.  Ever wondered about flotation therapy? Dr. Lu has an answer.

The website also has a list of resources for caregivers in Canada which led me to a list of resources for caregivers in Ontario. Very helpful.

For those in the US, AARP has a helpful website.

Friday, July 27, 2018

#192 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life; Creating Art With Joy

"Joyous" collage with Pandia by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.

This one comes from a delightful 13 minute TedTalk by Ingrid Fetell Lee on Where Joy Hides and How to Find It.  She describes an experience from her Design class where she became curious about the connection between joy and tangible objects. She began to ask people what brings them joy, the Nancy Drew of Joy. She discovered bubbles, tree houses, balloons, ice cream cones, and rainbows are pretty universal in their ability to bring us joy. She discovered pops of color and circular shapes are very pleasing.  It's only 13 minutes but a very well spent 13 minutes.

"...if the aesthetics of joy can be used to help us find more joy in the world around us, then couldn't they also be used to create more joy?"

Try this. Listen to this short talk and try incorporating some of her ideas into your creative efforts.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

#191 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life; Make a Happiness Box (to stash for a bad day)!

"Happiness Box" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
This exercise came out of the Stampington magazine Bella Grace article "45 Happiness Boxes to Stash for a Bad Day." They asked their readers "What five physical items would they pack up in their Happiness Boxes." A Happiness Box is a box filled with items that make us happy. The box is then stashed away and reserved for those hard-to-get through days, when we can pull it out and find instant comfort. The article is full to the brim with endorphins and other good brain chemistry!

Just the thought of what I would put in such a box is delightful.

My contents:
1. Art Journaling materials
2. Favorite morning pages image with at least one favorite Bergamasco featured prominantly
3. Dark chocolate and dried cherries
4. Candles
5. Incense

What would you put in your Happiness Box?

Friday, March 30, 2018

#190 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life; Mistakes are GOOD!

"I Love You" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.

This one was SUPER fun. I was listening to a YouTube video lecture by Professor Ellen Langer, Department of Psychology, Harvard University, on Mindfulness. She's considered the "mother of mindfulness" and has been studying mindfulness as well as mindlessness since the '70's. In this particular talk she described the benefits to creative efforts of making mistakes. Yes, making mistakes are GOOD! Wow, how freeing is that thought!

Her premise is that we mindlessly follow rules and routines because we are afraid of making mistakes. She set up a research design with three groups of creative people working on essays or art. One group was just working away on their essays or art. The other two groups were deliberately misled about a directive so that they all created mistakes. One of these groups were told that's alright, we all make mistakes, just move on. The other group was told to find a way to incorporate their mistake in their final work.

As you might imagine, when all the creative efforts were finished, the drawings and essays with the mistake incorporated into them were much better actually, than even those that had no "mistake" AND the group had a lot more fun. They were kind of forced to be mindful. A mistake is a cue to wake up and be present, to take advantage of opportunities which you might not notice if you were mindlessly following rules and routines. Also, mistakes can make your final product more interesting.

So yes, mistakes are GOOD! They wake us up and when we are awake we can be happy!

Friday, March 02, 2018

#183 - 189 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life; Creating Connections

"Your Gift to the World" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.

Do you ever find a book that grabs your attention, opens your mind, and shows you a larger perspective?

I am enjoying just these qualities in Johann Hari's "Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression - And the Unexpected Solutions. I'm pretty sure Edith Kramer would have enjoyed his thinking, as well. He takes into account our biology, our environment, and our evolution. He teases out the differences between extrinsic and intrinsic values, motivations, and rewards. These topics were all part of the discussion at Edith's table if you were lucky to be there when she was taking a tea break from her art making.  As an artist she always enjoyed the bigger picture. Johann Hari's book definitely steps back to take in the bigger picture at modern western culture, looking at much of what makes us uncomfortable, depressed and anxious, today.

As you can gather from the title, the book is about connections, not just our connections with each other but connections to groups, to meaningful work, meaningful values, sympathetic joy, our past, and our sense of a possible future.

So how this might work for the Happy Artist's Life? Here are my versions of Hari's connection building ideas.

1. Develop connections with other artists, more creative fun with others. Create art making workshops in your community, opportunities to be with your "tribe."

2. Look for places where art can useful in the service of the greater good, where it can be a part of social justice or community building.

3. Find ways to bring art and creativity into your work life. This will ensure that you are attending to your intrinsic rewards while earning a living.

4. Do some art journaling around the topic of values. What does our culture teach us is most valuable? Spend some time on exploration of intrinsic values, what do we really hold dear? Can it be expressed in art?

5. Learn to take more and more pleasure in the pleasure people get from their own creative efforts. This is huge. A constant source of joy is all around us when we feel the joy of others.

6. Use your art journal to explore and resolve old stories from the past. Often we hang on to these stories as a way to keep ourselves safe, but in actuality we are hurting ourselves by hanging on to resentments. It is possible to release old stories, especially if you use metaphor and art.

7. Create art about a possible future. Step back from your current view of life and look at the bigger picture. Again, this is something that artists can play with fairly easily in their art journals.

Who knows, as we play in our art journals we may find new ways to build connections.