Self-medicating with art: A guide

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Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Most of us self-medicate to some degree to manage our emotional needs.

Self-medicating can be defined as a behavior in which an individual uses a substance or any exogenous influence to self-administer treatment for physical or psychological ailments

Self-medicating can be done through the use of drugs, alcohol, and other substances to deal with a plethora of negative emotions, including stress, anxiety, and depression. Some people also self-medicate with excessive food, videogames, or watching TV. 

In other words, we can self-medicate with almost anything as a way to escape from the emotional discomfort or anguish we feel. 

Self-medicating is often harmful because we gravitate towards negative influences to deal with our emotional needs and discomforts. We eat junk food. We light a cigarette. We grab a drink to unwind after work, every single day. We stuff ourselves with cookies and ice-cream to help us forget our sadness.

But, what if, instead, we self-medicated with art to banish our boredom and anxiety? 

.  .  .

Currently, I’m reading Alice Randall’s novel, Ada’s Rules: A Sexy Skinny Novel. It is quite a wonderful read that takes us through Ada’s journey to change her body to reflect the life that she wants to live. It is a sharp, poignant book about the emotionally fraught war that Ada fights with herself and her body to take control of her life. 

Ada’s 53 Rules for an Imperfect but Excellent Health and Beauty Rituals takes the best wisdom from every source to create a guide for genuinely making changes in our lives.

I was hooked instantly. 

Rule 13: Self-medicate with art: banish boredom and anxiety instantly caught my attention. I perked up at the idea and adored it.

What if you start rewarding yourself with reading a great poem, or listening to a great song, rather than eating ice cream? What if you start treating yourself to a foray into foreign culture by downloading a zouk song in French, watching a steamy Telemundo melodrama, rewatching Tampopo, or taking in a Bollywood extravaganza instead of chowing down on fajitas, or saag aloo, or pancake house crepes, or California roll and tempura and miso and lettuce salad with sweet and fat, orange, never-seen-in-Japan dressing?”

Not to make your mouth water, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to get lost in the world of creativity and art whenever the need to self-destruct arises?

.  .  .  

So, I did the only thing I know how to do when an idea captures my attention and I can’t stop obsessing over it: I made a list of ideas for self-medicating with art. Some are things I already do, some are things I really want to get into, and some are ideas I’m not that interested in but thought would be useful to share.

Art heals: Ideas for self-medicating with art

READ.
This is a no-brainer. Books are a poor person’s travel guide that can take us on a journey of our heart’s wildest desires. You can fall in love, travel to an exotic place, feel overwhelmed with adoration for a person, find inspiration to be the best you can be, and so on simply by reading books. Novels, non-fiction books, peer-reviewed journals, blog articles, you name it. 

Reading is the easiest, and perhaps the simplest way, to treat our boredom, anxiousness or restlessness by getting lost in a story. Of course, do your soul justice and abandon books you don’t enjoy, it’s a waste of life. 

Why you should quit as many books as you finish

WATCH. (No, not another cat video!)
Similar to reading, watching documentaries and films that resonate with you can be a great way to experience the wonders of life. My current obsession is the off-the-grid lifestyle movement, which has led me to live vicariously through documentaries and short videos online, such as Expedition Happiness and Pedal the World on Netflix, and the van life movement on YouTube, as my soul continues to yearn.

Another favorite documentary I love watching when I need a little pick-me-up is Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, an absolutely marvelous series and a wonderful way to experiences all types of cultures and cuisines around the world from the comfort of your couch. Or bed. Dooooooope!

Also, an episode of The Office a day keeps the psychiatrist away. This is science. 

WRITE.
I recently wrote in detail about why keeping a journal is an amazing tool for self-exploration and emotional wellness. Any form of writing can serve as a form of self-therapy, and as a way of making sense of our emotions and feelings.

I also recently attended a creative writing class that absolutely changed my life. The instructor was phenomenal and it was amazing to explore my talent for creative writing, which I usually shy from. In particular, writing stories that served as a way to unpack real-life problems I was facing was very therapeutic.

Change the details to something fictional, and rant to your heart’s desire about whatever is giving you grievance in your life.  

PAINT.
Sooooooo. I am so terrible at drawing and painting that my brain can never comprehend that if you mix different paint colors, you will have more color range to work with. Still, I find it a fun and relaxing endeavor.

A few weeks back, my dearest friend asked me to join her in painting her plant pots. It was a lot of fun and very therapeutic to just chat and paint. Although I completely sucked at it, it was wonderful getting my hands dirty, literally. I want to do more of it.

I assume this would be especially rewarding for those that are talented, passionate or invested in this specific artistic expression.

EMBROIDERY.
Although I have been dabbling in embroidery for a bit, I’m not really good at it. I want to give myself another chance to get good at it so I will be getting lessons from a friend in exchange for wine or love. I want to get better than just stitching a crooked line. However, the feeling of making something for someone you love is the best self-medicating drug. 

Although I have completely abandoned embroidery after writing this post, I still believe it can be an enjoyable and relaxing activity. 

You can buy a beginners embroidery kit on Amazon for less than $20 and experiment.

Embroidery 101: How to Embroider

Go to Galleries/Museums/Concert/etc.
Seriously.
It is the most fulfilling experiences to get lost in the beauty of other individuals’ creative energy and appreciate their works’ beauty and emotional power. 

.  .  .  

There are a million other ways one can self-medicate with art. Art therapy, a creative method of expression used as a therapeutic technique, is also gaining momentum. Art is a diverse range of activities that help us express our imaginations and ideas. Listening to music is another way we can use art to self-medicate. 

I love the concept of self-medicating with art because it is a radical idea. I believe that changing the way we view our negative habits and replacing them with self-compassionate and artistic endeavors can be a very powerful method to maintain our emotional well-being.

Of course, everything in moderation.

Although… it is better to overindulge in writing than it is to overindulge in alcohol or cookies ‘n cream. And, this is precisely why self-medicating with art is the dopest concept we should all integrate into our mental wellness toolkit.

 

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