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The word “introspection” is the act of examining, observing, and becoming aware of your personal, mental, and emotional processing. Introspection is essential both in recovery and in life as it gives people the ability to gain deeper insight into their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. 

In recovery, introspection can help reduce the risks of relapse. Having a good grasp of your behavior patterns can help you realize when you are going off track. 

Introspection and self-awareness are typically encouraged through mindfulness, which is practiced by being fully aware of the present moment. But what other forms of introspection and self-awareness work are out there? 

Creative Expression as Introspection

Creative expression is how a person learns to express themselves outwardly. It is the ability to focus on what is happening in our minds and use our imagination by creating something that perhaps represents who we are. 

Creative expression might also be referred to as artistic expression or creative self-expression. There are several different forms that this concept may surface as, including:

  • Painting
  • Drawing
  • Writing music
  • Playing music
  • Dancing
  • Writing
  • Taking pictures or videos
  • Sculpting
  • Sewing, Knitting, or Crocheting
  • Theatre

The primary purpose of creative expression is to allow individuals to explore the many ways to discover and express their feelings, ideas, cultures, and values. Many people that engage in creative expression work seem to have their preferred form of expression that they turn to when they need to reflect or cope with their own emotions. 

Creative Expression in Recovery

As there are numerous notable benefits of creative expression in day-to-day life, there are also incredible therapeutic benefits that creative expression has on mental health and substance use recovery. 

Utilizing creativity as a therapeutic intervention directly reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression, replacing those symptoms with increased enjoyment and life satisfaction. Mental health centers that use creative expression as a therapeutic approach encourage clients to engage in weekly art groups. These art groups allow clients to increase their ability to be vulnerable with themselves and with others during their recovery experience. 

While traditional therapy methods encourage verbal discussion and emotional processing, creative expression modalities allow clients to engage with themselves without explicitly discussing their distress. This dynamic is beneficial for many people in recovery because emotions can be overwhelming, making it intensely challenging even to process them aloud. 

Mindfulness and other stress-reduction tools are typically encouraged alongside creative expression groups and therapies. Engaging in all of these approaches simultaneously allows clients to see several different perspectives of working through distress and other emotions. 

The benefits of creative expression stretch far and wide, mainly because it allows clients to engage in creative talents while continuing treatment. Creative expression encourages clients to find the positives as they work through mental blockages, trauma, grief, stress, and whatever else is keeping them from experiencing life-long recovery. 

Creative Expression Tips for Beginners

If you are not currently enrolled in creative expression or art therapy, there are still ways that you can experience the benefits of creative expression outside of a treatment setting. You do not need any previous talent or experience with creative expression to enjoy its benefits!

If you are new to creative expression, it can be challenging to find what options of creative expression are available to you. You may lack familiarity with creative hobbies or experience a lack of motivation to sit down and engage in innovative tactics. However, doing so will do wonders for your mental health. 

Here are some examples of creative techniques to help kickstart your creative expression journey:

  • Find free writing prompts. There are endless writing prompts available to you online. If you would prefer to use a book, check out your local bookstore or library to find a writing journal with prompts already in it. 
  • Buy a paint kit. If you like a challenge, try out a paint-by-number and let your creativity blossom. If you are someone that likes to paint outside of the lines, buy a plain canvas and let your creativity run wild. 
  • Dance. Throw on your favorite playlist and let it all go. If you think you have no strengths in dancing, consider finding a dance tutorial or workout video online to help inspire your moves. 
  • Try photography. Take a long hike, a quick nature walk, or go to your favorite places in your city. Experiment with taking photos from different angles, lighting, and filters. 
  • Record yourself making a meal. Especially when you are alone, talking to a camera can enhance your ability to public speak while doing something you are excited about. Act like you are on a cooking show!

No matter what creative expression tactic you decide to try, don’t be too hard on yourself, especially your first few times. It can take practice to feel confident enough to create something that leaves a mark on your mind and heart. Find a way to express your creativity in a way that works for you. 

Creative expression is the ability to understand and express personal emotions outwardly. By combining our imagination and our emotions, creative expression helps individuals find a better outlook on their past experiences, trauma, and other blockages on their recovery journey. Creative expression is a valuable therapeutic approach because it encourages reflection of thoughts and behavior patterns, which is especially important to prevent any chance of relapse occurring. West Coast Recovery Centers value creative expression as an essential therapeutic intervention, alongside mindfulness and stress reduction modalities. Our treatment facility therapy programs are designed to encourage clients to become more vulnerable and expressive with themselves during their recovery journey. Not only does the expressive work matter, but the reflection and feedback from peers in recovery allow clients to form intimate connections with others and receive important validation regarding their works of art. For more information, please call West Coast today at (760) 492-6509