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Drawing Conclusions

Updated: Jan 12


As the year comes to a conclusion, I am one of many who starts to reflect on the year that has been: the highlights and lowlights, the things that made it special and the parts of it I'd prefer to forget. If I had to sum up 2023 in one word, though, I'd have to use a word like "gruelling". For me, it hasn't featured any particularly devastating events, but then it also hasn't featured too many high points and has been a whole lot of hard work which seems to have resulted in little other than being tired and a bit sad.


Don't get me wrong - I know I have a lot to be thankful for. I still have a roof over my head, have family and friends around me, enough to eat and generally have good health. I know that for many others the year has delivered much worse disasters to their front door - homelessness, the loss of a loved one or a confronting diagnosis. For some in the world, 2023 has meant war or violence, having to up sticks and relocate or starting from scratch with nothing. And the state of the world has compounded my own series of unfortunate events to result in a malaise that makes it difficult to think well of 2023.



So what to do? There are lots of things that help me feel better after such a year. Of course we need to look after ourselves - perhaps through mindfulness and meditation, taking a bubble bath and ensuring you are getting enough rest. But there is one other thing that I do and that neuroscientists agree is beneficial in terms of your sense of well being. I teach a course called Drawing 101 and lately there has been a particular demand for it. Most participants cite wanting to learn to draw properly as the reason they are doing the course. But I like to think that there is another reason - one they perhaps are not even aware of, or only aware of on a subconscious or unconscious level. That is, drawing is good for you.


One study reports that drawing "reduced people’s heart rate and increased their respiratory sinus arrhythmia (a marker of good cardiovascular health) while making them feel less anxious" (Suttie, 2023). Other benefits are that (Gharib, 2020):


  1. It activates the reward centre of the brain, producing positive brain chemicals like Serotonin, Endorphines, Dopamine and Norepinephrine.

  2. It lowers stress.

  3. I helps you to focus deeply.

  4. It improves memory.





Ultimately, drawing helps you to observe and often from perspectives or viewpoints other than what you are used to. And the better your ability to observe, I believe, the more tolerant, empathetic and intuitive you become.


So drawing is much more than something that's a bit of fun. It helps you draw conclusions that are more positive, equitable and flexible, and much less judgemental, punitive or uncompromising.


Try this: engage in automatic drawing every day for a better state of mind. Set aside a few minutes of quiet alone time and draw. It doesn't matter if you draw things or just make marks on the paper. It doesn't matter if your drawing is good, bad or indifferent. Don't overthink it or plan to create anything in particular. What matters is that you draw. It'll change your mind!


References:

Gharib, M, (2020) Feeling Artsy? Here's How Making Art Helps Your Brain, NPR, Retrieved from: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/01/11/795010044/feeling-artsy-heres-how-making-art-helps-your-brain




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