Just yesterday I had the absolute pleasure of going to my first SCGO (Soil and Crop Sciences Graduate Organization) event, and it was a workshop/social all about art therapy and how it has changed the lives of graduate students around campus.
The amazing thing about art therapy is-while this is a graduate student blog, and thus I’m writing for grad students- it’s for everyone! And there were all ages at this event, from four- and five-year-olds to graduate students to professors and post-docs! It was a wonderful opportunity to see everyone together and interacting around something other than work.
I’ve said art therapy a few times now, so let’s talk about what that means. Art therapy engages the mind and body in new and fun ways by encouraging people to create and express themselves through visual art. This can mean drawing, painting, sculpting, throwing clay, or anything else you can think of. The idea is to get out of your normal headspace and do something completely alternative to what you’re used to.
Art therapy is also especially helpful to identify problems that you are not aware you are encountering, or to convey or express emotions that words cannot do justice. Often in graduate school (or in general, stressful life situations) we get very wrapped up in what we are doing and thinking, and the amount of focus we put on just one thing just isn’t healthy. Our work may require a great deal of time and thinking and that is fair, but it is extremely important to set aside time to take breaks, and art therapy is a great stress-reliever to fill that break-time with.
Making things is a powerful tool to put your mind at ease because it is such a different activity than thinking critically. During the day and throughout work, you’re constantly questioning, inquiring, and learning. And while these are glorious things to get to do everyday, they are exhausting! Just like going for a walk at the end of a day inside is good for you, taking creative breaks throughout a day of critical thinking is good for you as well.
Another thing to know about art therapy: you do not have to be “good at art” to do it. Anybody can take time for themselves and let their minds wander, this is just an exercise that lets your mind wander visually. Believe me, if you have the ability to go to graduate school or work, you absolutely have the ability to make art.
You can also make art therapy fun by doing it with friends! Make a lunch break of doing some watercolor paintings with your coworkers, or invite your friends over for some quality Bob Ross video-binging and make a night of it!
Whatever you do and whatever you make, as long as you have fun doing it, you’re doing art therapy right.
Serina Taluja is doctoral student in the Genetics program.