Pic & Pencil Therapy for Depression & Chronic Pain

Pic & Pencil Therapy for Depression & Chronic Pain

Hi everyone. I told my friend who suffers from severe depression & is on several medications about the adult coloring books I wrote about earlier. No joke here. Some of authors of these books are licensed therapists who practice art therapy with folks in hospitals, mental health facilities, senior homes & rehabs. I saw a National Geographic article in Feb 2015, “The Invisible War on the Brain,” on how war veterans are using art to express their PTSD. A vet said, “I thought this was a joke.” “Well, I was ignorant and I was wrong because it’s great.” If art therapy is helping our vets, I am sure they will help on us with depression, illnesses & chronic pain. That include people with cancer, Parkinson's, Fibromyalgia & Lupus. Tests have shown that art releases dopamine in the brain which boosts a person’s feeling of well-being. This helps reduce your anxiety, stress, depression & help manage chronic pain. Hey, I’m in for that.

You don’t have to be an artist. These coloring books have wonderful sketches with some detail. All you have to do is relax and put color pencil to paper. They are not kid books. Now for the books, I found that Dover Publications has a great selection of book themes that could spark an interest in anyone—male & female. Age does not matter. You can be a teen, a middle aged adult looking for a little creative quiet time & to help deal with stress or a senior who is still aspiring to be an artist. I know most of you are across the big pond but I'm sure you can get your hands on them through Amazon as well. You can download & print some pages from Pinterest, Google...

There are many coloring books with wonderful themes: dogs, cats, owls, forest animals, butterflies, nature scenes, country scenes, flowers, coral reefs, wizards & dragons, fairies, angels, sharks, sea monsters, tropical scenes, arctic life, African plains, wild cats, horses, vampires & zombies, unicorns, mythical beasts, castles, pirates, swampland and many others. Come on guys, even you can find something here. It’s best to have them snail mail the catalog to your home because it’s easier than the website. They have coloring books of folk art including Native American, African, Mexican, Arabic, Aztec, Celtic, Chinese, Japanese art and more. They have books from the Renaissances & the Impressionist. Yes, there is a Van Gogh, Cezanne & a Monet book. They have geometric designs, abstracts, snowflakes, mosaics, mandalas, dream catchers, kaleidoscopes, tiffany designs, surreal, fashion designs. You name it they got it.

The school supplies are now out in the big stores. Every year, I stock up on boxes of Crayola coloring pencils, Crayola watercolor pencils & metallic colored pencils. Don’t get the cheap pencils. The color does not go on as well & as smoothly. If you are interested in what the real coloring of an owl is get a kids library book on owls. Even artist use photos. If you have some art background, try working on different color schemes. There are so many or you can go monochromatic.

I know that in the dark abyss is a very difficult place to be. My sleeping bag is still down there. In addition to getting plenty of water, some air, food & sleep, it helps to find something that will take your mind off the dark feelings even for a moment. Pick something that interests you. Work on a pic for 30mins or all evening. Put on some mellow music. YouTube has a lot of good playlists. I like the 70s, 80s, disco & classic rock. I love Keiko Matsui. She is awesome! You will feel much better as you work on your pic. You will start to look forward to your time with your pic & pencils—hey that’s a cool title. Ok, this is Pic & Pencil Therapy! There isn’t much on TV. I don’t care for the violence. I’ve had enough of that in my life. I would rather work on a pic. Just make sure you don’t stay up too late. Sometimes you don't want to stop because you're in a zone. There are times I looked at the clock and it was 0300 hrs. Remember a lack of sleep can make things worse. You can color with a friend or a group. Have some munchies. Relax. When you are feeling your worst, just go through the motions. I know you feel empty. It may seem too much of an effort but once you get started you will feel much better. If you have Arthritis in your hands, try the markers or color pens. Don't worry if you shake. Just relax & enjoy. I have other suggestions for you in the next posting. Take care all.

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  • Hello again everyone. Here are some more suggestions on helping you with your depression & manage chronic pain. As I mentioned before, tests have shown that art releases dopamine in the brain which boosts a person’s feeling of well-being. This helps reduce your anxiety, stress, depression & help manage chronic pain.

    You don’t have to be an artist. These coloring books have wonderful sketches with some detail. All you have to do is relax and put color pencil/pen/marker to paper. Some of authors of these books are licensed therapists who practice art therapy with folks in hospitals, mental health facilities, senior homes & rehabs. Lacy Mucklow has some easy coloring books called, “Color Me Calm,” “Color Me Happy” &,”Color Me Stress Free” that look pretty cool. Check out the Zentangle books: Coloring Book Zen Tangle style art you color; Time to Tangle with Color; Zenspirations coloring book inspirations designs to feed your spirit; create, color & play; Creative Coloring Inspirations: Art Activity Pages to Relax & Enjoy; Tangle Art: A Meditative Drawing Kit; The Calm Coloring Book and others. The large stores now have the school supplies out. This is the time I buy boxes of Crayola colored pencils, colored pens, erasers, sharpeners, paints, etc for the year. Don’t get the cheap stuff. They don’t flow as smoothly.

    Now, you can go to the art/fabric store (Joanna’s or Michaels) and buy the Painting by Numbers kit. Again, they have animals, flowers, landscapes and others. Check Amazon to see a bigger selection. Also, I really like the Scraperfoil Silver/gold engraving/scratchboard kits. They too have a selection of animals, dragons, etc. The scratchfoil has a sketch you follow with a scratch pen. It’s pretty cool.

    Last week, I took a few friends to a “paint & sip” night. They are privately owned businesses where anyone can sign up to paint a picture for a few hours. Check the Internet. They will have a calendar with a pic of the painting they will walk you through step by step. Don’t worry if you never painted before. Both of my friends did wonderful for their first painting. I have been painting for years as a hobby. I had a good time too. I just had more color & detail in my painting. There are a few instructors who will help you as you follow the instructor in the front of the class. You can bring a beverage including wine, tea, etc. Bring munchies too. They provide the canvas, paints, brushes & apron. They played some music and both my friends were dancing & laughing like I never seen before. They loved it and want to go again. I costs about $35 for a 2 hr painting. We went on a 3 hour BOGO night so that was cool and the painting was Van Gogh’s Starry Night. They simplified it so don’t worry.

    If you used to draw or paint years ago, I got back in it by getting a watercolor book from the library. I pick out of few pics, bought some new brushes & paints. If you haven’t painted in awhile see if you have a fine arts studio nearby that has lessons. At first, my pics didn’t turn out so good because my techniques were rusty so I went back to the basics. I checked out basic watercolor books from the library and went page by page doing the studies as I learned the techniques. I learned more about color theory, perspective, light & toning. I did the same with colored pencil pics, pen & ink art and acrylics. I have a few senior neighbors who want to learn how to paint. I just find a colorful pic of a beach scene or something easy. I draw it up for each of them. We sit down at the dining room table and I walk them through it step by step. They enjoy it.

    When you are in pain--mentally, physically, emotionally and/or spiritually make sure to getting plenty of water, some air, food & sleep. Art can help you take your mind off the dark feelings & the pain even if it is for a moment. The nighttime can be hard especially if you have flare-ups. I don’t like the programs on TV & I am tired of watching the same movie over & over again. Pick something that interests you. Work on a pic for 30mins or all evening. Put on some mellow music. YouTube has a lot of good playlists. I love Keiko Matsui. She is awesome! You will find that you will feel much better as you are working on your pic. You will start to look forward to your time with your pic & pencils/paint/scratchfoil. Just make sure you don’t stay up too late. A lack of sleep can make things worse. There were times I painted up to 0200 & 0300 without keeping track of the time. I ended up hurting more the next day so watch the time. You can color with a friend or a group. Have some munchies. Relax. In the beginning, just go through the motions. I know you feel empty. You hurt. You’re tired & you have some stiffness. It may seem too much of an effort but once you get started you will feel much better. I guarantee. If you have Arthritis in your hands & you shake, just be patient and relax. Do have fun. Take care all.

  • I have already got one . I find it quite soothing. Though I won't win any prizes for staying inside the lines Regards Lorna

  • Hi there and thanks for your Post, I already Zentangle and find it

    A great de stressor and very relaxing as you get in the Zone, I also mess

    Around with Watercolourss too.

    The only trouble I have is starting, because lack of motivation. Is

    A best friend of Depression, I find it very hard to get the motivation

    To Paint, I'm not sure if you suffer from Depression yourself Or

    Your talking about your friend, but many people who are Depressed

    Find they lack the get up and go to actually do things like this. It's

    All great in theory, but quite hard really.

    I have all my watercolour paints and brushes and paper and all

    The accoutrements but still find it really hard to start.

    I totally agree that Art is great and very therapeutic, Have you joined

    Flickr on the Internet ? and they have all sort of Art challenges and little

    Groups such as :365 challenge, where you paint or sketch something

    Small everyday and take a photo of it and post it to Flickr, this is a great

    Way of kicking my butt into getting started.

    Hannah

  • I love adult colouring books, I love doing the madelas

  • i also enjoy the adult colouring books, and find them relaxing and rewarding x

  • I like to write its a good way to channel any negative thoughts I have. I agree that creativity is a good way to deal with depression as it helps to focus the mind away from ones problems

  • The trouble I find is with my depression my mind is often turgid and very slow and there is no creativity or spark there. I am in a writers group but rarely write coz I can't get my brain to work properly anymore. Bev x

  • Hi Bev X,

    I too was overwhelmed. I could not think. I could not sleep. I had a hard time thinking & speaking. I later learned that a medication was interfering in my thought process and with speaking. So my doc changed it. My mind was clouded with grief & my body in pain. I remember a country western song that I resonated with at the time. It was "If You' re Going Through Hell" by Rodney Atkins. The song encouraged me to keep on moving forward. Listen to the song on YouTube & check out the words. It's true. I had to keep on moving...forward not backwards. One minister told me to "keep moving one bloody stump at a time.

    The depression wasn't going to leave me on it's own. It was getting worse, darker & more painful. If I didn't do anything I was not going to be around much longer. I had to find ways to work through it as best as I could. Something was going on here. Something bigger than simple depression & simple loss. Everything I worked so hard for was gone. Somebody pulled "the" carpet out from underneath me--for a reason. The pain was different. The depression was deeper. Something was going on deep in my soul. It wasn't a matter of bucking up & moving on to something else in life.

    Somebody obviously wanted my attention and they got it. Now I had to make the effort to figure out what & why. For years I tried this & that. I just kept following the energy & listening to the silent voice (which remains nameless) that guided me here and there. I just kept an opened mind and I kept moving forward in little steps. I didn't know where I was going. I was just flexible & open minded. Judgments had to be dropped. I also had to walk all this alone. I got pass the loneliness and now cherish the aloneness. I also went the religious route for many years but it fell short of what I was looking for. I read books by Caroline Myss and others. Indeed, some type of transformation was going on here. Something that required huge changes in everything I did & what I believed in.

    I met a Buddhist Monk, learned how to meditate, attended weekend meditations & worked on the foundation teachings of the Four Noble Truths. I can now say that of all the teachers/instructors I had, his advice was the best and helped me the most. I learned how to meditate in a group & read books like The Truth of Suffering & the Path of Liberation and others. Meditating in a group is easier than on your own. It helped me regain control of my mind, my thoughts, drop my personal expectations, judgments & find a different perspective. I realized that it was my mind, my thoughts, my attitudes & my expectations that were dragging me down deeper in the abyss. I had to change them & the way I reacted to things that happened. I also had to recognize & drop my attachments. I read books like the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle & Pema Chodron's books including Don't Bite the Hook, When Things Fall Apart & others. I attended other spiritual classes. I just kept an opened mind & tried to absorb all I could. If I couldn't read, I listened to CDs or downloads. I may not agree 100% on everything I heard & read but there was a lot there that could help me.

    I didn't want to sit and veg out all day & evening in front of the TV like my mom. I refused to turn on the TV until evening. I made sure I left the house every day even for a short walk. I volunteered here & there. Eventually, I was offered a part time job until it was again time to more on. I just followed a silent voice inside me. It has lead me to a new simpler way of life & to new interests. I don't have a belief in one faith or reason. There is much to learn from all of them. I still study the Noble Truths. I am learning about the Tao and how it can deepen my Tai Chi & QiGong practice. There is so much depth in it all like an onion. You just keep moving from one level to another. I have regained control of my mind. Awareness is the key. I observe the thoughts as they go by and try not to engage the ones that are negative. I am still learning & watching my mind as it plays its tricks & games. When I see the game starting, I stop myself from playing along, falling in the same old thought patterns & reactions. I say, "No, I'm not going to do that. We are going to do this." I try to stay away from other people's drama & games. It only drains me of my energy and causes me more tension & pain.

    All of this has opened my mind. I now have more awareness of what is going on in the world and what happened in the past. I have much compassion for people & other beings whether it is a lizard, a deer or a tiger. They too suffer. They're beings too. I couldn't imagine the suffering of an animal caught in a steel claw trap & freezing to death. So many people are struggling and have struggled in far worse situations than we are experiencing today. I have read personal accounts of survivors of the gulug, the holocaust, conquests, the trail of tears, slavery, famines, plagues, terrorism, dictators, world wars, torture, abuse, the crusades, and many others. It is incredible what they went through. My problems are so very small in comparison to the horrors they had to go through. There are still people today who don't have a lawful society & the protection we take for granted. There are women who are gang raped as they gather wood to cook and water to drink. There are millions who had to flee their country and now live in makeshift tents in the middle of nowhere. The have very little food and hardly any medical care. There is so much going on that we are blind to.

    When I was at the library, I also cruised by the art books. I looked at the watercolor books and saw colorful paintings & step by step instructions on how to paint each pic. It inspired me to try. I went to an art & craft store and bought paints... which inspired me more. It was a long time since I painted and I was rusty so I checked out books on improving my techniques. I looked online to see what other people were doing & teaching and that inspired me even more. I kept following the wave of energy. I also started to see everything in a different way especially nature. I can sit and look at a cloud or a tree for a long time noting it's shapes, it's lines, it's color, the tones, the shadows & the light, trying to figure out how I would draw it or paint it. Start with a pic that appeals to you on the internet. Pinterest has some great pics on artwork. Look at it's colors. It's shapes. If I was having a difficult time with my watercolors, I worked on pics using colored pencil. The studies in the books also inspire me to keep improving. I may not be a Georgia O'Keefe but if you look & study how each master artist began like Cezanne, Monet, Van Gogh & Kandinsky and what their pics look like, you can see how they progresses as they painted. Who knows what the future holds. I'm just following the wave of energy and I am slowly pulling myself out of the darkness. Also many artist struggled with health & depression. I clearly understand "The Scream."

    I know this is a lot to read but one thing does lead/help the other. It's all connected. Keep working on what interests you or what did interest you. I know that at first I was so empty like a shell. I just made the effort and went through the motions. In a short time, my interests started to perk up. I still have difficult times. The difficult times will not stop. It's just how you react to them. Keeping your mind in check is important. That is the journey.

    "If You're Going Through Hell" by Rodney Atkins

    Well you know those times when you feel like

    There's a sign there on your back

    That says I don't mind if you kick me, seems like everybody has

    Things go from bad to worse

    You think it can't get worse than that

    And then they do

    You step off the straight and narrow

    And you don't know where you are

    Used the needle of your compass, to sew up your broken heart

    Ask directions from a genie in a bottle of jim beam

    And she lies to you

    That's when you learn the truth

    [Chorus]

    If you're goin' through hell keep on going

    Don't slow down if you're scared don't show it

    You might get out before the devil even knows you're there

    I've been deep down in that darkness

    I've been down to my last match

    Felt a hundred different deamons breathin' fire down my back

    And I knew that if I stumbled I'd fall right into the trap

    That they were layin'

    But the good news is there's angels everywhere out on the street

    Holdin' out a hand to pull you back up on your feet

    The one's that you've been draggin' for so long

    You're on your knees might as well be prayin'

    Guess what I'm sayin'

    [Chorus]

    If you're goin' through hell keep on going

    Don't slow down if you're scared don't show it

    You might get out before the devil even knows you're there

    When you're goin' through hell keep on movin'

    Face that fire walk right through it

    You might get out before the devil even knows you're there

    If you're goin' through hell keep on going

    Don't slow down if you're scared don't show it

    You might get out before the devil even knows you're there

    When you're goin' through hell keep on movin'

    Face that fire walk right through it

    You might get out before the devil even knows you're there

    You might get out before the devil even knows you're there

    Take care.

  • Wow Debbie what a wonderful post and very inspiring. It's fantastic how you managed to change your life and use the spiritual path to understand and make a meaningful life for yourself I haven't and won't go down the spiritual path even though it interests me but I do understand about having an open mind and letting your feelings guide you as I went through the same thing in my late 20's/early 30's.

    I suddenly understood that my life had to change otherwise I couldn't have a life at all. It was unbearable how it was. So I too set out to learn but not in the spiritual way - my way was more pragmatic. I started making some small changes in the way I thought and let life wash over me learning all the time. I went to counselling for the first time and began to see patterns and learned how to change my behaviour. Small changes begat (that's a nice old fashioned word!) big ones and I can still remember to this day opening a local newspaper (which I rarely bought), and seeing an advert for mature students to attend university to do a Social Science degree. I had never thought seriously about this before but I always bemoaned my lack of education and thought I was a lot more intelligent than others made out.

    Well the world stopped and I saw this huge bright light and I knew immediately I had to have this. It was fate. So I applied, got accepted, got the grant and it was meant to be coz everything went so smoothly and one by one the problems got resolved. I realised that my personal God of the universe was looking after me and showing me the way. My life changed completely for the better and I found a way to live my life that satisfied me and gave me some of the things I desperately wanted and needed to carry on.

    In those few years I went to Uni, bought my first property. went abroad for the first time, got 2 cats and last but not least made some very good friends. I also worked part time in a pub which I loved and took up darts which is my main hobby to this day.

    If all this hadn't happened I wouldn't be here today so there is a higher power involved I am sure. Bev xx

  • Hi Bev xx,

    Thank you for your response. Like you said there are so many ways to make that connection with the Creator. When I was younger I too was occupied with establishing a career, having a relationship, buying a home... just like everyone else. You assume this is how life is. When everything comes crashing down, it rocks me to the core. No one in my family or in my group of friends went through all this so it had no idea how to respond. I did whatever I could to get through the darkness of the days & the nights. I didn't care if it was religious or spiritual. I'm not even sure I would call it spiritual because there are a lot of crazy ideas out there and I don't want to be lumped in with them. Wherever I was lead, I went with an opened mind & learned what I could. I was completely humbled. The world no longer looked the same nor felt the same. Then what little I had burned up in a wildfire. That is the time when you realize you are no longer in the driver’s seat. “You just hang on for dear life” as someone once told me. I had to drop the wants and worked on the needs.

    What was most valuable to me was learning, becoming more aware about things I could control including my thoughts, my mind, my feelings, my emotions, my habitual habits of reacting probably based on learned behavior, my perceptions & expectations to name a few. Yes, you too know what patterns I am talking about. I didn't want to keep making the same mistakes over & over again. I see it in my family, friends & others I meet. Everyone is still mad at each other because of what happened years ago. My mom & I didn’t get along through the years. I had a lot of sadness & anger. Guess who is taking care of her after my dad died? She has severe Rheumatoid Arthritis and is crippled up. It’s heartbreaking to see. I remember her running me from store to store in the mall until I was ready to drop. Now she can barely get up to walk to the bathroom. I still had to set some boundaries about her drinking but whatever sadness & anger I had & what she had melted away. There has to be a way to break these cycles or at least to step away from them. What I learned has paid off as well.

    I don't think people are really aware of the games they play with each other. I try not to listen to people on their cellphones but people talk so loud and you are forced to hear their conversations if I can’t walk away. I can't believe the things I hear. The things people say about others is unbelievable and it’s so sad. If someone tries to tell me something negative about someone else, I don’t agree with them. Instead, I tried to share with them what I believe is going on, things they don’t know or haven’t considered. I noticed from their reactions that they didn’t want to hear that. They just wanted you to agree with them. Then they walk away to find another person to talk to and the same conversation takes place. A rude person at the store, for example, may be struggling with family problems or they might not be feeling good. I always try to greet them with a smile. I would say, Looks like you are having a tough day?” And they are surprised you noticed and they relax a bit and may say, “Yeah, my son is sick & I have the babysitter watching him until I get home.” One girl said to me, “After my shift here, I have to work at my second job & I am so tired.” They really appreciate that you took the time to notice, to talk to them & to show some compassion towards them instead of huffing & puffing like some people do. When I leave, I feel good that I made a difference even if it was a moment.

    I think people are afraid of changes. Most people are too concerned what others will think. You may no longer be part of the group, sharing the same thoughts they have. So it takes courage to make the change/s and to move on. Sometimes you walk alone and that is OK. Alone time is good for the soul. I think the trick is to realize when you are stuck and to take action to get unstuck. Some people know they are stuck but don't want to make the effort to get unstuck. It is wonderful that you had such a powerful experience. I wish it would happen more often to others who are really struggling. So many people are in very difficult situations. The violence of this world is unbelievable. I don't know who is in charge up there but they need to take better care of things down here.

    Thanks for chatting. I do hope that you continue to write your book or to give art another shot. Take care.

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