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Addiction to alcohol and drugs affects one’s body, mind and soul. But the damage doesn’t end there. Families and friends also suffer as their loved one’s dependency progresses, stress builds, and communication starts to break down. Families need to recovery from addiction, too.
Family members and loved ones find ways to cope and adapt to the evolving lifestyle that addiction is shaping. It’s not uncommon for family members to feel imprisoned by this disease. As destructive, self-defeating behaviors increase, family members and addicts alike shift into survival mode, just trying to make it through another day of ever-worsening problems.
As this process occurs, it becomes more difficult to have honest communication and maintain a sense of self. Intimacy and closeness are replaced by fear and loneliness. Family members focus on what they can do to control the situation and begin to accept their loved ones responsibilities in an attempt to help. Dreams fade, resentment builds, trust disappears and hope dims.
Sound familiar? If you’re a family member struggling with a loved one suffering from addiction, here are 8 steps you can take now to begin your own recovery:
- Learn about the disease, including the effect it has had on family members.
- Take responsibility for your choices.
- Develop and set healthy boundaries.
- Allow, and respect, your loved one’s need to take responsibility for their choices and actions.
- Accept your situation in an honest, realistic, and loving way.
- Reach out for help and learn from others’ experiences through community support networks like Al-Anon and other groups.
- Give yourself credit for slow, steady progress.
- Understand there are no quick fixes!
Many people have broken free from the isolation and oppression that addiction can bring. Treatment centers, therapy, and community self-help groups offer opportunities to learn more about the disease, yourself, and how to live a more fulfilling life instead of just surviving.
Alcoholism and drug addiction is a disease, not a lack of willpower, not a moral weakness, not a sign of a weak character, not a result of life’s pressures, and not a symptom of another disease or disorder. Alcoholics and addicts drink/use because they have a disease. The bio-chemical changes in their brains create a physical craving for the chemical. This makes it very difficult for them to abstain from (to choose not to use) alcohol or drugs, especially if they don’t realize that they are addicted. You may have noticed the alcoholic or addict in your life trying to “control” their alcohol/drug use in a number of ways, not realizing that the disease is deciding for them, and indirectly, you. You cannot control the alcoholic/addict, their alcohol/drug use, or their disease.
Alcoholism/drug addiction is primary; it is not a symptom or a result of another condition or disease. For example, depression does not cause addiction but addiction often causes depressive symptoms. The addictive process can be arrested and managed, though never cured, just like many other chronic diseases such as diabetes. The alcoholic/addict, family and friends may not readily notice the changes caused by the disease until they reach crisis proportions and the problems become “unmanageable.” It is also a progressive disease that goes through stages, and if unchecked only gets worse, and is eventually fatal. The causes of fatalities because of addiction include organ damage/failure, overdose, suicide, and addictions.
What can I do as a concerned friend or family member? Learn about the disease, including the effects it has on you. Take the responsibility for your choices and learn to develop and set healthy boundaries. Allow and respect the addictive persons need to take responsibility for his or her choices and behaviors. Except your situation honestly, realistically, and lovingly. Reach out for help and learn from others’ experiences through community support networks. Give yourself credit for slow steady progress. There are no quick fixes.
People in recovery must be especially careful when taking any
kind of over-the-counter (otc) or prescription medications.
Many otc meds contain alcohol or other ingredients that
could endanger their sobriety by triggering a relapse. Even
physicians not familiar with addiction may prescribe meds
that are not safe for the addict/alcoholic. People in recovery
must be vigilant in protecting their sobriety. They must read
ingredients, ask questions, and use much caution in using any
kind of medication. If in doubt about a specific medication,
contact your psychiatrist/addictionologist or another knowledgeable person for guidance.
• Never take a medication given to you by someone else
without knowing what it is. For example, a friend trying to
be helpful can inadvertently cause a setback for a person in
recovery by giving them a narcotic for a headache.
• Avoid otc meds that contain alcohol. Read the label.
These meds are typically liquid cough medicines or liquid
cold medications, such as Nyquil. There are several cough
syrups available that are alcohol-free, such as Tussin dm.
• Most otc meds for minor problems are safe. These include
topical analgesic, anti-itch, and antibiotic creams, hemorrhoid preparations, antacids, meds for diarrhea and nausea,
and throat lozenges.
• Use caution with laxatives and nasal sprays. Overuse of
either of these products can cause physical dependence on
them. They should be for occasional use only.
• Mouthwashes contain alcohol and are frequently abused
by alcoholics. Look for alcohol-free alternatives. There are
alcohol-free mouthwashes available.
• Cold/allergy meds are a danger to many. When absolutely
necessary, choose non-drowsy type meds. Take the med as
directed for the minimum time needed.
• Medications for sleep should only be prescribed by a
psychiatrist/addictionologist. Do not use otc sleep meds,
including Benadryl, without approval.
Attention Deficit Disorder meds
• Attention Deficit Disorder is being diagnosed more
frequently in adults. At this time, the add meds approved
by the Ridgeview treatment team are Clonidine, Intuniv,
Strattera, Tenex and Wellbutrin. Only your psychiatrist/
addictionologist should prescribe an add med for you.
• Pain meds are tricky for people in recovery. Most otc pain
relievers are fine—ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxyn
(Aleve), Tylenol. These meds are very effective for many
aches and pains. There are times when the addict/alcoholic
must have stronger pain meds, such as narcotics, after
surgery or for a severe injury. If the narcotics are necessary
and taken only as directed, this is not considered a relapse.
It is normal for this to cause anxiety in recovering people,
so it is recommended that the recovering person prepare
themselves before surgery when possible with extra
recovery support and pre-planning regarding pain relief. In
any case, the recovering person should not handle the pain
meds themselves. Someone close to the person should keep
the med and give it only as directed during the recuperation time. Any leftover pain meds should be discarded as soon as possible. Your psychiatrist/addictionologist should
be aware of the situation and be available to offer guidance in the use of these meds. Addicts/alcoholics are not expected to suffer with severe pain, but they must be very
cautious with the use of pain medications.
• Recovering people need to make sure all of their physicians
are aware of their addiction. They should ensure their
charts at their physicians’ offices are marked accordingly
so no one can make a mistake in prescribing meds. When
in doubt about a medication, consult your psychiatrist/
• In general, most antidepressants and mood stabilizers are
fine and it is encouraged that recovering people take them
if they are recommended by their physician. They can actually aid in your recovery by keeping moods stable.
Vitamins and herbal supplements
• Vitamins are safe for use and are encouraged as part of a
• Many herbal supplements are safe, but caution should
be used. Weight loss products and appetite suppressants
should be avoided. Many cause a stimulant-type effect.
Supplements for sleep or mood (such as Kava Kava and
Valerian) should also be avoided unless approved.
• Some supplements are recommended. One is milk thistle,
which has been shown to help with liver repair.
• Avoid energy drinks, such as Red Bull. These are full of
caffeine and cause a stimulant-type effect. Some of the
drinks contain small amounts of alcohol.
Communicating with someone you love is not always easy. Too often, conversations end with disagreements, misunderstandings and even broken relationships. If you are struggling to communicate with a loved one suffering from addiction, here are some helpful guidelines that may get your relationship back on track.
Always start with “I love you”
It’s true that “I love you” is one of the most powerful phrases one can say to another. Although it is not enough to cure a loved one of addiction, letting your loved one know that you are coming from a place of love is the best way to start any tough conversation. It assures them that what you are saying is not meant to cause hurt feelings but must be said because you care deeply about them and their well-being. Make your communication direct, honest and most importantly loving.
Acknowledge that you understand their difficulty
Empathy goes a long way when supporting someone struggling with addiction. They may want to quit, but find it’s not that simple. Many factors are at play when it comes to addiction. They may be on an emotional rollercoaster, working through feelings that range from happiness, anger, loneliness to shame and embarrassment. Your loved one may also be facing old friendships that are not conducive to their recovery, challenging their decision to remain clean and sober. Your loved one wants to know that you understand they are having a difficult time.
It is healthy for your loved one to know your limits: how far they can go with you and how far you will go with them. Setting boundaries establishes that you are willing to support them in recovery but unwilling to engage in enabling behaviors. Participating in a treatment program for family recovery is a great way to discover your enabling behaviors and learn how to set boundaries for yourself and your loved one.
Make yourself available to listen without judgment
This step has two parts. The first is making yourself available to listen, not just to talk. When relationships are strained due to the erratic behaviors of addiction, it easy for both the family members and the addict to become dismissive of one another while telling their side of things. However, it is important to know that your loved one needs you to listen and pay attention to their thoughts and feelings. Part two of this step may be the hardest: listening without judgment. Judgement is when you impose your beliefs and values on someone else. It is an act that can shut-down communications immediately with you. Remember, criticizing and judging only make someone hurt more and is counterproductive to helping your loved one.
Understand that addiction is a disease
Educating yourself on the disease of addiction will help you keep the emotional or moral perspective out the conversation. Saying things to your loved one like, “Why don’t you just stop,” or having thoughts such as, “I need to fix this for them,” are removed once you understand that addiction is not a behavior problem, but a medical diagnosis just like heart disease or diabetes. It’s a chronic brain condition that causes compulsive drug and alcohol usage despite the harmful consequences it may cause to the user or others around them. Also, understand addiction needs proper treatment for recovery, just like any chronic disease
Using these few steps can help you hone your communication skills and build a stronger relationship with your loved one in a constructive and supportive way.
Gary Keller, Founder of Keller-Williams Realty, wrote the best-selling book The One Thing: The Surprising Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. In it, he shares with readers his secret to success: Think big but focus on one specific thing at a time. He suggests that you ask yourself, “What is the one thing I can do that will make everything else easier or unnecessary?” By answering that question you will discover the most important thing on which to focus your time and undivided attention.
Keller explains, “You can do two things at once, but you can’t focus effectively on two things at once. Even my dog Max knows this. When I get caught up with a basketball game on TV, he gives me a good nudge. Apparently, background scratches can be pretty unsatisfying. Many think that because their body is functioning without their conscious direction, they’re multitasking. This is true, but not the way they mean it. A lot of our physical actions, like breathing, are being directed from a different part of our brain than where focus comes from. As a result, there’s no channel conflict. We’re right when we say something is ‘front and center’ or ‘top of mind,’ because that’s where focus occurs–in the prefrontal cortex. When you focus, it’s like shining a spotlight on what matters. You can actually give attention to two things, but that is what’s called ‘divided attention.’ And make no mistake. Take on two things and your attention gets divided. Take on a third and something gets dropped.”
That ONE thing is the key to your success. Once you have figured it out, the next thing is to determine how many dominoes you need to line-up and then knock-down to achieve it? The dominoes represent your goals. Set goals that you can achieve now, goals for the near future and also what Keller calls “Someday Goals.” These are goals that may be as far as five years in the future.
What is your ONE Thing? Taking the time to discover it and then giving it your undivided attention will help you to be successful in 2019 and beyond!
Starting a new life in recovery takes hard work and a long-term commitment. Developing good everyday habits can help you stay on track. Here are a few habits for success:
- Be Grateful.
Each and every day, take a mental inventory of the things in your life that bring you joy or makes your life easier. No matter how big or small, finding something each and every day to be grateful for will help you find the good in even the worst of days and help you keep a positive outlook on life.
Mindfulness meditation has been proven to improve the chances of long-term sobriety for those in addiction recovery by giving you the tools to take life one moment at a time. Living life in the moment, allows you to experience less stress and anxiety, ridding yourself of worry and negative thought processes. Just 10-15 minutes of mindfulness meditation can make a marked difference.
- Stay Connected.
Hang out with people you love and who support you in recovery. Call your sponsor. Have dinner with a fellow peer in recovery. Whatever you do, reach out and connect to someone who is important to you each and every day. Sharing how your day went and how you are generally feeling will help you keep from bottling feelings inside, causing unwanted stress and anxiety. It feels great to be the one who can cheer up someone who may be having a bad day too.
- Do something you enjoy.
Reserve at least 20 minutes of each day to do something that relaxes you. Take a walk, read a book, play a game or take a nice long bath. It’s important to take time each and every day to just let yourself go.
- Make meetings a priority.
Meetings are important. Whether you are feeling down, recovering from a cold or simply do not feel like going to your recovery meeting – just go. Especially in early recovery, it is important to keep up with meetings.
These are just a few ideas of good habits that will aid your recovery. You may discover some of your own. The important thing is to do what works best for you and make them habits to help you stay on track.
The countdown to the holidays is on! For many, holidays mean delightful aromas, twinkling lights and celebrations with friends and family. For some, along with the anticipation of sharing joyous times together comes the realization that the holidays can be challenging when you’re in recovery. But, there is good news! It doesn’t have to be a struggle if you make a plan for your holiday self-care. Planning holiday self-care promotes your responsibility for recovery. It requires you to spend time and energy focusing on you and becoming comfortable with being clean and sober. The best part is you don’t have to do it alone. Here are five tips to help you develop an effective self-care plan for the upcoming holiday season:
Make time to attend extra meetings
Look for opportunities to attend extra AA or NA meetings in conjunction with your normal meeting days. Keep in mind that the more meetings you attend during the holidays, the more likely you are to remain clean and sober, preventing a relapse. A special tip: attend a meeting on the holiday before beginning the festivities.
Stay in contact with your support network
Connecting with those who support your recovery is crucial. After all, that’s what they’re there for, to help you through the tough times when you need them the most. So, don’t try to do it alone. Reach out to your therapist, recovery friends and family, and to your sponsor.
Come early, leave early
Arriving a bit early to the party and leaving early will enable you to have the best of both worlds. You can stay long enough to enjoy time with your friends and family but, leave early to avoid any behaviors that may trigger your desire to use. Special tip: take a friend who is also in recovery with you and serve as one another’s accountability partners.
As much as possible, maintain a normal schedule
During the holidays there may be some deviation from your daily routine but, as much as possible, try to maintain your regular schedule. This means continuing your work schedule, getting plenty of rest and finding time to do productive things that you enjoy. Your holiday self-care plan should create a balance between activities and rest. This will help you to avoid triggering dangerous emotions like stress or boredom.
Opt out when you need to
Understand that it is OK to say no to an invitation. Do an evaluation of who is attending and what type of activities are planned. Then, determine if going will threaten your recovery in any way. If so, don’t feel bad. Just politely thank the host and decline the invitation. People who are in your corner for recovery will understand.
Investing time to prepare for self–care allows you to think of the holiday season in a different way and marks the start of a new tradition in your life of recovery.
Special thanks to the Fellowship Hall Counselors who contributed to this article.
Fellowship Hall has received certification from LegitScript, an organization that works to make the internet safe and more transparent for consumers. LegitScript strives to be the most trusted source informing the public about which online businesses are legitimate, legal, and trustworthy — and which are not.
This national certification process is designed to protect the public and stop the unethical marketing practices of profiteers who have entered the field of addiction. It is endorsed by the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, (NAATP), and Google, and implemented by the company LegitScript (an agency with a proven track record for healthcare merchant certification) to help the consumer make informed decisions based on honest claims and legitimate content in their advertising and on their websites.
The LegitScript seal of approval on our website signifies that Fellowship Hall is a treatment provider that adheres to a strict code of ethics to provide quality addiction treatment and complies with laws and regulations within the treatment field. For more information on our ethical standards and practices, see our webpage Why Choose Fellowship Hall.
By Anna Gorman, Kaiser Health News
The number of people hospitalized because of amphetamine use is skyrocketing in the United States, but the resurgence of the drug largely has been overshadowed by the nation’s intense focus on opioids.
Amphetamine-related hospitalizations jumped by about 245 percent from 2008 to 2015, according to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. That dwarfs the rise in hospitalizations from other drugs, such as opioids, which were up by about 46 percent. The most significant increases were in Western states.
The surge in hospitalizations and deaths due to amphetamines “is just totally off the radar,” said Jane Maxwell, an addiction researcher. “Nobody is paying attention.”
Doctors see evidence of the drug’s comeback in emergency departments, where patients arrive agitated, paranoid and aggressive. Paramedics and police officers see it on the streets, where suspects’ heart rates are so high that they need to be taken to the hospital for medical clearance before being booked into jail. And medical examiners see it in the morgue, where in a few states, such as Texas and Colorado, overdoses from meth have surpassed those from the opioid heroin.
Amphetamines are stimulant drugs, which are both legally prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and produced illegally into methamphetamine. Most of the hospitalizations in the study are believed to be due to methamphetamine use.
Commonly known as crystal meth, methamphetamine was popular in the 1990s before laws made it more difficult to access the pseudoephedrine, a common cold medicine, needed to produce it. In recent years, law enforcement officials said, there are fewer domestic meth labs and more meth is smuggled in from south of the border.
As opioids become harder to get, police said, more people have turned to meth, which is inexpensive and readily available.
Lupita Ruiz, 25, started using methamphetamine in her late teens but said she has been clean for about two years. When she was using, she said, her heart beat fast, she would stay up all night and she would forget to eat.
Ruiz, who lives in Spokane, Wash., said she was taken to the hospital twice after having mental breakdowns related to methamphetamine use, including a month long stay in the psychiatric ward in 2016. One time, Ruiz said, she yelled at and kicked police officers after they responded to a call to her apartment. Another time, she started walking on the freeway but doesn’t remember why.
“It just made me go crazy,” she said. “I was all messed up in my head.”
The federal government estimates that more than 10,000 people died of meth-related drug overdoses last year. Deaths from meth overdose generally result from multiple organ failure or heart attacks and strokes, caused by extraordinary pulse rates and skyrocketing blood pressure.
In California, the number of amphetamine-related overdose deaths rose by 127 percent from 456 in 2008 to 1,036 in 2013. At the same time, the number of opioid-related overdose deaths rose by 8.4 percent from 1,784 to 1,934, according to the most recent data from the state Department of Public Health.
“It taxes your first responders, your emergency rooms, your coroners,” said Robert Pennal, a retired supervisor with the California Department of Justice. “It’s an incredible burden on the health system.”
Costs also are rising. The JAMA study, based on hospital discharge data, found that the cost of amphetamine-related hospitalizations had jumped from $436 million in 2003 to nearly $2.2 billion by 2015. Medicaid was the primary payer.
“There is not a day that goes by that I don’t see someone acutely intoxicated on methamphetamine,” said Dr. Tarak Trivedi, an emergency room physician in Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties. “It’s a huge problem, and it is 100 percent spilling over into the emergency room.”
Trivedi said many psychiatric patients are also meth users. Some act so dangerously that they require sedation or restraints. He also sees people who have been using the drug for a long time and are dealing with the downstream consequences.
In the short term, the drug can cause a rapid heart rate and dangerously high blood pressure. In the long term, it can cause anxiety, dental problems and weight loss.
“You see people as young as their 30s with congestive heart failure as if they were in their 70s,” he said.
Jon Lopey, the sheriff-coroner of Siskiyou County in rural Northern California, said his officers frequently encounter meth users who are prone to violence and in the midst of what appear to be psychotic episodes. Many are emaciated and have missing teeth, dilated pupils and a tendency to pick at their skin because of a sensation of something beneath it.
“Meth is very, very destructive,” said Lopey, who also sits on the executive board of the California Peace Officers Association. “It is just so debilitating the way it ruins lives and health.”
Nationwide, amphetamine-related hospitalizations were primarily due to mental health or cardiovascular complications of the drug use, the JAMA study found. About half of the amphetamine hospitalizations also involved at least one other drug.
Because there has been so much attention on opioids, “we have not been properly keeping tabs on other substance use trends as robustly as we should,” said study author Dr. Tyler Winkelman, a physician at Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis.
Sometimes doctors have trouble distinguishing symptoms of methamphetamine intoxication and underlying mental health conditions, said Dr. Erik Anderson, an emergency room physician at Highland Hospital in Oakland, Calif. Patients also may be homeless and using other drugs alongside the methamphetamine.
Unlike opioid addiction, meth addiction cannot be treated with medication. Rather, people addicted to the drug rely on counseling through outpatient and residential treatment centers.
The opioid epidemic, which resulted in about 49,000 overdose deaths last year, recently prompted bipartisan federal legislation to improve access to recovery, expand coverage to treatment and combat drugs coming across the border.
There hasn’t been a similar recent legislative focus on methamphetamine or other drugs. And there simply aren’t enough resources devoted to amphetamine addiction to reduce the hospitalizations and deaths, said Maxwell, a researcher at the Addiction Research Institute at the University of Texas at Austin. The number of residential treatment facilities, for example, has continued to decline, she said.
“We have really undercut treatment for methamphetamine,” Maxwell said. “Meth has been completely overshadowed by opioids.”
KHN’s coverage in California is supported in part by Blue Shield of California Foundation.
Kaiser Health News is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.
Pablo Picasso once said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” It’s no surprise, then, that many people around the world use art as a means to deal with stress, trauma and unhappiness – or to just find greater peace and meaning in their lives. If you’re curious about what art therapy has to offer, you can try out some of these great solo exercises at home to help nurse your mind, body and soul back to health. If you like the experience, you can also seek out professional art therapy treatment in your area.
Hello amazing creative people!
find more resources and blog articles at stuartcline.com and pass it forward.
Deal with emotions like anger and sadness through these helpful exercises.
- Draw or paint your emotions. In this exercise, you’ll focus entirely on painting what you’re feeling.
- Create an emotion wheel. Using color, this activity will have you thinking critically about your emotions.
- Make a stress painting. Choose colors that represent your stress and jab, scribble and paint your problems away.
- Put together a journal. Journals don’t have to just be based around words. You can make an art journal as well, that lets you visually express your emotions.
- Make sock puppets. Sock puppets aren’t just for kids. Make your own and have them act out scenes that make you upset.
- Use line art. Line is one of the simplest and most basic aspects of art, but it can also contain a lot of emotion. Use simple line art to demonstrate visually how you’re feeling.
- Design a postcard you will never send. Are you still angry or upset with someone in your life? Create a postcard that expresses this, though you don’t have to ever send it.
- Create a sculpture of your anger. For this activity, you’ll make a physical manifestation of the anger in your life.
- Paint a mountain and a valley. The mountain can represent a time where you were happy, the valley, when you were sad. Add elements that reflect specific events as well.
- Attach a drawing or message to a balloon. Send away negative emotions or spread positive ones by attaching a note or drawing to a balloon and setting it free.
- Paint inside a heart. Using a heart as a pattern, fill in different parts of the heart with the emotions you’re feeling right now.
Art therapy can be a great way to relax. Consider these exercises if you’re looking to feel a little more laid back. I have also created free audio’s and visualizations you can use for yourself and for clients. I recommend my clients go to mindaudio1.com. these audio’s are for people who want healing whither it is for addiction, chronic pain, sleep problems, health problems, racing thoughts, managing critical self and more. For free audio’s to help heal the mind, body and spirit go to mindaudio1.com I use the healing visualization regularly as well.
- Paint to music. Letting your creativity flow in response to music is a great way to let out feelings and just relax.
- Make a scribble drawing. With this activity, you’ll turn a simple scribble into something beautiful, using line, color and your creativity.
- Finger paint. Finger painting isn’t just fun for kids– adults can enjoy it as well. Get your hands messy and really have fun spreading paint around.
- Make a mandala. Whether you use the traditional sand or draw one on your own, this meditative symbol can easily help you to loosen up.
- Draw in the dark. Not being able to judge what you’re drawing or having to worry about whether or not it’s “right” can be very liberating.
- Draw something HUGE. Then something very small. Getting your body involved and moving around can help release stress as you’re drawing.
- Use color blocks. Colors often come with a lot of emotions attached. Choose several paint chips to work with and collage, paint and glue until you’ve created a colorful masterpiece.
- Let yourself be free. Don’t allow yourself to judge your work. After all, there’s no way to fail and no right way to make art. Just draw, paint or sculpt until your heart’s content.
- Only use colors that calm you. Create a drawing or a painting using only colors that you find calming.
- Draw in sand. Like a Zen garden, this activity will have you drawing shapes and scenes in the sand, which can be immensely relaxing and a great way to clear your mind.
- Make a zentangle. These fun little drawings are a great tool for letting go and helping reduce stress.
- Color in a design. Sometimes, the simple act of coloring can be a great way to relax. Find a coloring book or use this mandala for coloring.
- Draw outside. Working en plein air can be a fun way to relax and get in touch with nature while you’re working on art.
Art can not only help you deal with the bad stuff, but also help you appreciate and focus on the good. Check out these activities all about reflecting on your personal happiness.
- Draw your vision of a perfect day. Think about what constitutes a perfect day to you and draw or paint it. What about this drawing can you make happen today?
- Take photographs of things you think are beautiful. No one else has to like them but you. Print and frame them to have constant reminders of the beautiful things in life.
- Make a drawing related to a quote you like. Take the words of wisdom from someone else and turn them into something visually inspiring.
- Create a drawing that represents freedom. This activity has you think about the concept of freedom and what it means to you, creating a work of art that showcases just what it means to you as an individual.
- Document a spiritual experience. Have you ever had a spiritual experience in your life? Draw or paint what it felt like.
- Make a stuffed animal. Soft, cuddly objects can be very comforting. Use this project to create an animal that means something to you.
- Work on a softness project. Using only soft or comforting objects, create a work of art.
- Build a “home.” What does home mean to you? This activity will have you create a safe, warm place– it doesn’t have to be practical– that feels like home to you.
- Document an experience where you did something you didn’t think you could do. We all have to do things that we’re scared or unsure of sometimes. Use this activity as a chance to commemorate one instance in your life.
- Think up a wild invention. This invention should do something that can help make you happier– no matter what that is.
- Make a prayer flag. Send your prayers for yourself or those around you out into the universe with this project. find more helpful blog articles at
Often, a great way to get to know yourself and your relationships with others is through portraits.
- Create a future self-portrait. This drawing or painting should reflect where you see yourself in the future.
- Draw a bag self-portrait. On the outside of a paper bag, you’ll create a self-portrait. On the inside, you’ll fill it with things that represent who you are.
- Choose the people who matter most to you in life and create unique art for each. This is a great way to acknowledge what really matters to you and express your gratitude.
- Draw a portrait of someone who changed your life. If someone has ever helped change your path, for better or worse, draw this person.
- Create an image that represents how you think others see you. Then, have someone in the class draw a portrait of you. Compare the results.
- Draw yourself as a warrior. Start thinking about yourself as a strong, capable person by drawing yourself as a warrior in this activity.
- Create a transformational portrait series. This project will help you to see how you’ve changed over time and represent those changes visually.
- Imitate Giuseppe Arcimboldo. Using objects that have meaning to you, create a portrait of yourself.
- Create a body image sketch. If you have issues with your self-esteem and body image, this can be an interesting way to see how your perceptions match up with reality.
- Draw a mirror. This activity is based around a Piet Mondrian quote: “The purer the artist’s mirror is, the more true reality reflects in it.” You’ll need to figure out what is still cloudy in your own reflection of yourself, drawing a mirror and depicting those elements on paper.
- Draw yourself as a superhero. If you could have a superpower what would it be? This project asks you to depict your own image as a superhero with these powers.
Trauma and Unhappiness
These activities will ask you to face some unpleasant aspects of life, but with the goal of overcoming them.
- Draw a place where you feel safe. The world can be a scary place but in this project you’ll create a place, draw, painted or sculpted, that makes you feel safe.
- Create a mini-diorama. This diorama can showcase an important moment in your life or some trauma that you’ve experienced.
- Create a collage of your worries. What worries you in your life? Cut out pictures from magazines to represent these worries.
- Draw something that scares you. Everyone is frightened of something and in this project you’ll get a chance to bring that fear to light and hopefully work towards facing it.
- Turn your illness into art. Facing a potentially terminal illness? Turn your illness into something beautiful by creating art about it.
- Paint a loss in your life. If you’ve lost someone you love or something, paint it. This will help you to remember but also to recover.
- Make art that is ephemeral. Sometimes we have a hard time letting go, but this project will teach you that it’s ok if something doesn’t last. Use materials like sand, chalk, paper or water to create art that you will destroy when it’s done.
If you prefer to cut and paste rather than draw or paint, these projects are for you.
- Create a motivational collage. You can hang this collage somewhere you’ll see it everyday. Filled with images you find motivating, it’ll help you keep pushing on.
- Create a face collage on a mask. We all wear masks of some sort. This project lets you showcase what’s in your mask and the face you put on for the world.
- Create a clutter collage. Are there things cluttering up your life? In this project, use words and pictures to show the clutter in your way.
- Create a calming collage. Choose images that you find soothing, calming or even meditative and combine them to create an attractive collage that can help you to relax.
- Collage a painting. To complete this exercise, you’ll first need to create a simple, abstract painting on paper. Then, tear this painting up and create another. Think about how you felt when you had to tear up the first painting and which you like more.
Examine aspects if who you are and how you see the world through these amazing art projects.
- Draw images of your good traits. Creating drawings of your good traits will help you to become more positive and build a better self-image.
- Draw yourself as an animal. Is there an animal that you have a special interest in or feel like is a kindred spirit? Draw yourself as that animal.
- Create a timeline and draw the most significant moments in your life. This timeline will be the story of your life, with the most important moments highlighted visually.
- Put together a jungle animal collage. Choose jungle animals that you find the most interesting, draw them, and then reflect on why you’ve chosen these specific animals.
- Sculpt your ideal self. If you could make yourself into the perfect person, what would you look like?
- Paint the different sides of yourself. In this project, you’ll paint the different aspects of your personality, giving each a visual representation. You might only have one or two, or maybe even twelve.
- Make art around your fingerprints. Your fingerprints are as unique as you are. Use ink and paint to make art that uses your fingerprints.
- Draw yourself as a tree. Your roots will be loaded with descriptions of things that give you strength and your good qualities, while your leaves can be the things that you’re trying to change.
- Design a fragments box. In this project, you’ll put fragments of yourself into a box, helping construct a whole and happier you.
- Paint an important childhood memory. What was a pivotal memory in your childhood? This activity asks you to document it and try to understand why it was so important to you.
- Write and illustrate a fairy tale about yourself. If you could put yourself into a happily ever after situation, what role would you play and how would the story go? Create a book that tells the tale.
- Design a visual autobiography. This creative journaling project asks you to look back at your life and make a visual representation of it.
- Create your own coat of arms. Choose symbols that represent your strengths to build your own special coat of arms.
- Draw a comic strip about a funny moment in your life. Enjoy a moment of levity with this exercise that will focus in on a comical even that happened to you.
- Build your own website. Websites are very versatile ways to express yourself. Build your own to express what’s most important about you.
- Create a box of values. First, collage or paint a box the represents you. Then, place items inside the box that represent the things you value the most. has a blog to help you find your top ten values.
Here you’ll find a collection of projects that will help you be happy about what you have and express your gratitude for it.
- Document your gratitude visually. What things are you grateful for in your life? Paint or collage a work that represents these things.
- Create a family tree of strength. This exercise honors those around you who support you. Paint those close to you who offer you the strength you need.
- Make something for someone else. Making something for someone else can be a great way to feel good and help someone else do so as well.
- Make anchor art. Who are the anchors in your life? In this project, you’ll make an anchor and decorate it with the people and things that provide you stability and strength.
- Draw all the positive things in your life. Everyone has at least one good thing in life, so sit down and figure out what makes you happy– then draw it.
- Sculpt your hand in plaster. Once it’s dry, write all the good things you can do with it right onto the hand.
- Paint a rock. This project is meant to offer you strength. You can approach it in two ways. One option is to paint the rock with things that empower you. The other is to paint it with struggles you overcome.
- Write on leaves to create a gratitude tree. What are you grateful for? This project asks you to write those things on leaves to construct a tree or banner of gratitude.
- Map out the connections in your life. Draw yourself at the center of this project, then map out how you’re connected to everyone else in your life. It will help make you feel much less alone.
- Create a snowflake out of paper. Write ideas about how you are unique on the snowflake.
- Build a personal altar. This is a highly personal project that will help connect you with your spiritual side and honor your resilience.
Inside the Mind
Take a look inside your mind to see what’s going on with these projects.
- Create a blot art. Like a classic Rorschach test, fold paper in half with paint or ink in the middle and describe what you see.
- Map your brain. Make a visual representation of your thoughts to figure out how your mind works.
- Make a dreamcatcher. Having bad dreams? Create this age-old tool for catching your dreams with a few simple tools.
- Draw your dreams. You can learn a lot from what goes on in your dreams, so keep a dream journal and use it for inspiration to draw or paint.
If you’re still looking for something to empower, help or soothe you, these projects may fit the bill.
- Use natural materials. Leaves, sticks, dirt, clay and other natural materials can help you get in touch with the natural world and the more primal side of yourself.
- Build an archetype. Check out this series of projects to build a set of archetypes, or ideal examples, that can help you explore how you see the world.
- Use your body as a canvas. You don’t need paper when you have you body. Paint on your hands and feet or anywhere else to feel more in touch with yourself.
- Sculpt spirit figures. Connect with those that have passed on or your own spiritual essence using these sculpted figures.
- Make art out of recycled items. You can reuse old items that have meaning to you or just re-purpose something you have laying around. Either way, you’ll get insights into how you can reshape and reevaluate your own life.
- Collage or draw on top of old photographs. If you’re uncomfortable using old photos you can make copies, but with this project you’ll draw out one characteristic you see in the person in the photos.
- Create your own interpretation of a famous work of art. How would you have painted the Mona Lisa? Using a famous work as your inspiration, create your own work. It could help reveal more about your lens on the world.
- Work collaboratively. Art can be better when two work at it together, so find a partner and collaborate on just about anything.
- Use a found or made object as a paintbrush. Whether it’s something sharp or something soft, make your own artistic tool and use it to express what you’re feeling.
- Make crayon stained glass. Reflect upon your spiritual side with this project that lets you create your own stained glass window.
- Paint a window. Windows let you see in and see out. Paint yours with things you want to hide or show to the world. Enjoy more blog articles at
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