10 Creative Ways to Cope With Mental Illness


Being creative is an outlet for my mental illness and without it, I would suffer a dark and colorless life. I need to be able to express myself. Creativity is essential for my healing. I often hear people say, “I’m just not creative,” or “I’m not good at art.” That’s OK! There are plenty of ways to express yourself, and here are some examples.

1. Sing

If you’re a singer/songwriter, then go for it! If you’re like the rest of us, pick out your favorite song and sing at the top of your lungs. It doesn’t matter how you sound. I regularly practice “finger dancing” when my body isn’t up for full-body dancing. It gets my heart pumping when I sing to a song I truly love. I smile and enjoy myself.

2. Color

If you’re like me, you hate coloring in the lines. Some people like to color in the lines, and that’s OK too! I draw my own coloring pages, but you can find plenty of coloring books in your local craft store or even online. There’s something special about a finished masterpiece, and it’s “zen-ful” to complete in the meantime.

3. Journal

Journaling is an excellent way to process thoughts and emotions. Whether I plan on sharing it with another human being or not, it is cathartic to write out how I’m feeling. I keep a running journal, but intermittently stop and write blog posts. I highly recommend blogging because it gets me outside of myself while still keeping me grounded.

4. Paint-by-Number

Painting is fun, there’s no doubt about it. It can be as messy or as organized as you want. Painting-by-number is an easy way to get your foot in the door with acrylics without feeling the pressure to create it entirely on your own. There are some incredibly detailed paint-by-number canvases out there, but sometimes I like to pull out my kid’s book and use that.

5. Crochet or Knit

Yarn arts are a classic way to keep my hands busy and mind occupied on the present moment. Both crocheting and knitting can be difficult to pick up at first, but once I got the hang of them, I was off and running. There are some really great patterns out there, but sometimes I enjoy keeping it simple and working on my giant granny square blanket or making a scarf.

6. Modeling Clay

If you enjoy working with your hands, try using modeling clay! It’s a fun and easy way to make beautiful pieces. I make a gifts for others or make sculptures that represent me and how I’m feeling. They come in a variety of colors and are great to explore with kids.

7. Stenciling

Stenciling is an exciting way to create texture on any surface. I use anything from paper, to antique books, to furniture as a canvas. There’s no pressure to design something new because the stencil does the work, but every piece manages to turn out unique. Sometimes I even finger paint on the stencils, which is a tactile way to stay grounded.

8. Friendship Bracelets

I love to make friendship bracelets for my closest people. I like the feeling of the embroidery floss between my fingers, I enjoy the bright colors and I love to see the finished pattern. There are many simple bracelets to make, so don’t be scared away by the very detailed ones. I have a very short attention span so I like to make bracelets that take less than 10 minutes apiece.

9. Cooking

They don’t call it “culinary arts” for nothing. While cooking takes a level of skill, there are plenty of recipes for people who have less experience than the chefs on Food Network. Decorating cakes is my favorite way to make edible art. I try not to compare my final pieces with anybody, and can always eat whatever I mess up.

10. Origami

Origami takes patience and precision, but making paper cranes for hours can actually be quite relaxing. The colorful paper adds to the excitement of finishing a new pattern, and chaining together the finished products will make decorating the house easy. Not only does origami hold a lot of cultural significance, but it is incredibly calming to create.

Even if you’re not the “creative” type, there are plenty of ways to practice making art. I find that art has many types of healing incorporated into it, depending on what I choose to make. Sometimes my heart is racing and I’m dancing my heart out, while other times I’m creating in an effort to slow my breath. By practicing these crafts, I’m able to express my emotions while also doing something in the present moment. It allows me to feel grounded in my life, but I also simultaneously know that I’m creating something beautiful that I can share with whomever I choose.

Getty Images photo via max-kegfire


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