8 Art Therapy Activities for Your Self-Care Routine

Time to get creative with your self-care routine. Self-care is becoming important for people to make a priority because having a routine can boost self-esteem and improve mental health and your overall well-being. But contrary to what people (and the social media memes) say, self-care is more than just bubble baths, manicures and a 60-minute massage. It’s about making sleep a priority, meditation, moving your body, spending quality time in nature or with family members.

It’s also about art.

In fact, for some, art therapy activities are the foundation of their self-care routine. Art therapy dates all the way back to World War I when artists, Red Cross volunteers and occupational therapists used art therapy exercises to treat soldiers with post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). The practice grew during World War II and by the early 1940s, the term “art therapy” was coined in the book Art Versus Illness by Adrian Hill. Formal training programs began training art therapists in the 1960s, and since that time, art therapy has evolved into a standalone mental health profession that requires Masters-level training and board certification. So, if the practice of art therapy was effective then, what can it do for people now?

Here’s why art therapy is important and how you can incorporate art therapy activities into your self-care routine.

What is Art Therapy?

The American Art Therapy Association defines art therapy as a type of therapy that allows for creative expression that can overcome the limitations of language. In other words, if negative emotions are too difficult or painful to articulate verbally, you could try drawing, painting, sculpting, coloring, sewing, collaging, journaling, a scribble or other methods of expressive arts to overcome the limitations of language. (We love SCRIBEdelivery for super-cute journal supplies!)

Art therapy is about using creativity and art-making to help people understand themselves, find a voice and “communicate things for which there are no words,” says Dr. Christianne Strang, PhD, ATR-BC, CEDCAT-S, president of the American Art Therapy Association and assistant professor in the behavioral neuroscience program at the University of Alabama.


Activity 2: Draw your mood

If stress and anxiety have got you down, try drawing exactly what that mood looks like. Try not to tell yourself whether it’s right or wrong and let your mind go. Express the mood through colors, shapes or any images that come to mind. Notice how it feels in your body and imagine it flying away as soon as it came. Taking a few moments each day to focus on your mood in a creative way can be a great addition to your self-care routine.

Activity 3: Blindfold drawing

Think of something in your environment, whether it’s a loved one or an abstract thing like a tree and draw it without looking at your paper. If you need to blindfold yourself, do so. The drawing can be realistic or abstract. The idea of drawing without looking is to help let go of outcomes and become less attached to them. You may feel uncomfortable at first but continue to cultivate self-compassion for yourself and keep going. Self-care IS self-compassion.


Activity 6: Explore what you’re creating—and letting go

Have something in your life that doesn’t serve you anymore in your everyday life? Let it go through art! For example, you might explore letting go of a relationship or limiting belief like poor body image. Or you can explore cultivating a new habit. To do this art therapy activity, you just need to focus on going with what feels right and not forcing it. The Craft in Style Box can help you let go and focus on self-care by crafting a Pinterest-worthy DIY project. Each box includes easy-to-follow instructions and all the supplies you need to complete a fun and useful craft project like tiny terrariums, candle pouring, gold gilding and clay marbling.


Activity 7: Use art as a release

If you’re suffering with regret, resentment, tension or trauma, try using art as a form of surrender or release. Write down everything you’re feeling whether it’s words or images that represent the negative experiences you want to release. Next, you’ll take the paper and in a safe place, carefully light it on fire. While the paper burns, imagine yourself releasing and surrendering those things you wrote about.

You can also use this activity as a way to set new intentions. Think about how you want to feel instead, craft a new page and post it somewhere visible. Want to make this art therapy activity a monthly goal? To produce your best creative works, you’ve got to have the right goods and gear for the job. Paletteful Packs sends top-level art supplies each month meant to ignite those inspirational sparks.


Activity 8: Host an art party

Another vital part of self-care is connection. To nourish yourself – and your relationships with others – consider hosting an art party. Invite people over to make art and create a space where others feel comfortable nurturing their own creativity. The Adults & Crafts Crate can take your art party to the next level. You’ll get materials, accessories, tools and step-by-steps so you can immediately get to crafting.