Taking time out for art, being mindful in nature, and bringing that back to our creativity…
Drawing for Balance & Calm
I started to create my drawing resources when I truly understood that more than just ‘drawing makes me happy’, that how I approached my drawing, (and beyond that, my life as a whole), could affect my emotions… and could also dictate whether I spent my days feeling rushed, overwhelmed, and drained of energy, or whether I felt balanced, calm, fulfilled, and happy.
Before you think that I spend all-day, every-day drawing, or out in nature to feel like this… that’s not true… in fact, although I’m an artist professionally, I actually only spend a few hours a couple of times a week doing my art. Yes – it’s really true!
The rest of the time, I’m working on all the behind-the-scenes part of my art business including admin, accounts, marketing, preparing my resource materials, and running my home.
So it’s being able to set aside this time for my art that allows me to reap the benefits of mindfulness and creativity – and also sets the scene for me to incorporate tiny moments of being present, noticing, and connections with nature into my day.
I haven’t always got this right (and still don't) – and let me tell you that for many, many years, I got it so very wrong – so I can really tell the difference with how I feel, just in my everyday life, when I’m being mindful, when I’m connecting with nature, and when I’m in a creative mindset.
It’s because of all this that I wanted to share what I’ve learned with you, about how mindful creativity and connecting with nature can make such a difference to how we feel every day, in the hope that it can help and inspire you, too, to a happier, calmer, and more balanced life and to make more personal, creative and expressive artwork, too…
Creativity & Nature
Let me back up just a little...
I get a lot of my inspiration for my drawings and artwork from nature, and I believe that we were meant to be in nature, to live out in the green, as part of nature – and we’ve lost this special connection to nature just a little, these days, in our modern, busy lives.
I love that combining together creativity and nature can really allow us that much deeper connection with nature that’s so beneficial to our wellbeing.
New studies are confirming that experiencing nature can make us happier and healthier. A study by the University of Derby and The Wildlife Trusts in 2015 involving more that 18,000 people showed a 30% increase in self-reported ‘excellent’ health after a month of interacting mindfully with nature.
Time in nature has been reported to help symptoms and depression, anxiety, and other physical and mental illnesses, as well as increasing feelings of life satisfaction, meaningfulness, and happiness.
Nature therapy and wilderness retreats are starting to be recognised treatments for mental ill-health. And in other cultures, such as Japan, nature is more highly esteemed and recognised for its health-giving benefits as an aid to wellbeing.
In Japan, a practice called ‘forest bathing’ is increasingly used to healing and maintaining good health. Forest bathing involves spending mindful time in a woodland – and it is reported that after as little as a quarter of an hour forest bathing, the stress hormone cortisol drops, blood pressure lowers, mental clarity improves, and the immune system is boosted.
Of course, this taking time in nature does not need to be a big trip out – in fact, taking just a small amount of time and effort to work a connection with nature into your everyday life takes minutes, costs next to nothing, and makes you feel good.
Just being ‘in the green’ is helpful, but it’s more important that you’re in nature ‘mindfully’ as this is what created the feeling of connection to nature and the greater benefits to health and happiness.
We will be looking more at exactly how to do this, and do it through being creative, in my Expressive Drawing download here- but for now, just know that approaching nature with this creative mindset will help to develop this mindful and meaningful connection with nature that is most beneficial to our wellbeing AND makes for meaningful, personal and expressive art and drawings.
What I want you to know, now, is that it matters how you spend your time… and your mindset matters. The gains that you can achieve by spending time in nature, spending your time creatively, and learning a new skill are huge and may be life-changing.
Getting off the merry-go-round of life - why stopping is good for us
I’m going to give you permission to stop, just let go, just be…
In fact, I’m going to try and persuade you to give yourself permission. We all know you don’t need my permission… you don’t need anyone’s permission… except, perhaps, your own! And yet… I know from personal experience how hard it can be, sometimes, to just stop with the ‘busy’.
For me, in order to feel healthy in mind and body, in order to be creative and to be mindful, I need to spend time off the ‘merry-go-round of life’. This is a quiet time, ‘nothing’ time – just stopping and not being busy… learning just to ‘be’ – quiet, no TV, no music, letting the mind-chatter fade.
This ‘nothing’ time is valuable. It’s unendingly precious. It’s the time we allow our bodies to rest and our minds to process our day. And I believe it’s essential for our own self-care.
This ‘nothing’ time is not the time you use to be creative or connect with nature – but I believe that we need this ‘nothing’ time as down-time – a buffer between the busy and the mindful or the creative – just so that we have this opportunity to decompress and our creative time does not become just another opportunity for ‘busyness’.
Our mind and our soul needs time and space to breathe – so let it.
We can’t be creative when we’re anxious, so we need to practise stillness so that our creative time is mindful, calm, meaningful, and fulfilling – and not just an exercise in getting something done.
Taking time for ourselves is as simple as believing that we are worth taking care of, we are worth a little self-kindness, and that our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing is our own responsibility and must be our priority.
I’ll show you, now, how to expand your ‘nothing’ time into mindful connections with nature which can lead to meaningful, enjoyable drawing and creativity…
How to Start STOPPING - Being Mindful Out in Nature
When we actually get out in nature, we can learn how to start being mindful in nature, rather than just marching through it. Having an emotional feeling of being connected with nature is what gives nature its physical, mental, and emotional healing benefits for us.
It’s not just as simple as physically putting yourself in a green place – you have to be there ‘mindfully’, ‘be present’ with all your senses – and it’s also this connection that takes your nature drawings from good to great…
It makes them meaningful for you and it makes the process of drawing from nature enjoyable and calming.
I’m going to share with you exactly the concrete steps that you can use to get this emotional and creative connection to nature, so that you can enjoy all the benefits of nature and of your creative mind.
It’s not difficult and it doesn’t even involve hugging a tree!
I believe that we have the power within our own minds to choose and change our mindset and our way of being. Nature and creativity is a wonderful and very enjoyable way of doing this…
What we’re learning here is just how to ‘stop’, be present, and practice being mindful out in nature.
This stage is so important to the art we’ll be doing, as most of art is just looking – it’s just noticing – and what you notice is what makes your art.
And being mindful and feeling connected to nature is just noticing too.
We can take this sensation of feeling connected to nature and learn to put it into your art…
Mindfulness in Nature Exercise - Gather Your Artistic Inspiration
Take yourself out on a walk in nature (by yourself or with someone you trust)
Please, don’t wait to do this until your holiday in the country or your weekend day trip to the country. We can find little pockets of nature in our everyday lives: parks, gardens, even window-boxes and house plants.
Please, try to start right now, even with just a little try – we don’t need to get it perfect – anything at all is a perfect first step
STOP in a quiet and safe place where you’re unlikely to be disturbed
Use your senses
What can you see?
What can you feel?
What can you touch?
What are you experiencing?
What can you hear?
Walk on a bit and keep noticing. There’s no right or wrong thing to notice so look at whatever catches your eye or ear. Experience it.
Keep listening as you walk.
And keep feeling the ground beneath your feet.
This can be difficult at first, or it can feel overwhelming. Be kind to yourself and just practise ‘stopping’ for a few moments. You can continue your walk for a bit and stop again somewhere else if you like.
This is such an important practice – being mindful out in nature – that I really want you to get the hang of and enjoy, both for the personal benefits and for the difference it will make for your drawings.
Once you’ve practised a few times, you will find that you can slip into this feeling quickly and easily when you’re out in nature. You can stop and notice while you’re walking and even as you’re going about your daily life.
It’s such a wonderful and therapeutic habit to get into, not just for your art but for your overall wellbeing, so I hope that you will take the time to do this.
I’ll look at how to translate this into your drawings next month - if you can't wait until then, you can find this article plus the follow-on in my free pdf download 'Expressive Drawing' on this page...
If you'd like more help with your drawing, take a look at my Drawing Skills course (self-study PDF) here...
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