How Drawing Helps Me Manage My Mental Health

Matt Piga

As a kid I liked to draw. Actually, I think most kids enjoy drawing and then something happens as we grow up and all of a sudden we stop drawing. 

Maybe it’s because we start to worry about what other people will think of our drawings, or that we start comparing our drawings to other peoples drawings, or maybe we just stop doing the little things that we used to think were fun because we are too busy thinking and worrying about things that are out of our control. 

That’s the beauty of drawing. You are in complete control, you get to draw anything you want, you get to decide how hard to push the pencil against the paper, how thick to make the lines, what colour pencil you want to use. You can take the pencil as far as your imagination will let you. 

As kids, we tend to let our imagination take us to places that are fun, magical or mystical and as we start to grow up and life throws a few surprises at us. Our imagination starts to take us to places that we don’t enjoy as much, places that often don’t serve us. I find that my brain often takes me in one of two directions – The first direction is the past, where I start to relive negative experiences, embarrassing moments or trauma. Small trips into the past aren’t so bad, but when it starts to become a pattern, it usually leads to bouts of depression, where life starts to lose its charm and everything starts to feel harder than it used to be. 

The second direction my brain likes to take me, is into the future, but not the fun future with flying cars and hoverboards, but the future where everything goes wrong, where I am crippled with fear about things not going as I had planned. Sound familiar? If it does, you are not alone. A Lot of people experience anxiety. 

What I’ve found with both depression and anxiety is that they want to pull you away from the now and into either the past or the future, because we can’t control the past or the future and Anxiety and Depression can run wild with things that we can’t control. 

That’s where drawing comes in…. Drawing keeps you in the now, it is very tactile. You can feel the pencil in your hand, you can feel the pressure of the pencil against the paper, you can hear the sound the pencil makes as it slides across the paper. You have to think about where you want the pencil to go, do you want it to loop in a circle or do you want it to draw a straight line. 

Drawing also allows you to take a feeling and move it from inside your head and onto the paper, which also creates space from the feeling in the process. As an example, if I am feeling depressed or sad, I can draw a sad monster, I can give him really big sharp teeth and evil eyes and make him big and scary, or I can give him a warm smile, a cool little beanie and big warm eyes and all of a sudden he isn’t so scary. I could make him really small or I could even give him a little beanie. The possibilities are endless. 

I can make the monster look however I want. And that is the beauty of drawing. It really doesn’t matter how the monster looks, or how good or bad I am at drawing. What matters is, that while I was drawing, at some point in the process, I stopped thinking about the sad thoughts I was feeling earlier and I started thinking about the pencil in my hand, the pressure on the paper, the size of the monsters eyes, how long the monsters legs were or what colour I was going to make the beanie. I wasn’t think about the past or the future, I was thinking about the now. That’s the magic of drawing, ‘The Now’ is a place where I am free from Anxiety and Depression. 

Another bonus of drawing is that you can do it anywhere. Got a pen and a piece of paper? You can draw. At the beach? Use your finger and draw in the sand. In the park? Grab a stick and draw in the dirt. You really can draw anywhere when you think about it. And each time you draw, you get a little more confident with it, you get more creative and your imagination starts to take you to fun places instead of scary or sad ones. 

Give it a try, I did and i’ve never looked back!

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