Art imitating life: exploring art therapy and its benefits on our wellbeing

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Paintings, photography, sculptures, and scrapbooks – how can art be used to support us through difficult times?

Art imitating life: exploring art therapy and its benefits on our wellbeing

In the 20th century, tuberculosis was a big problem in the UK, claiming countless lives, and seeing many others confined to sanatoriums. As you might expect, this would have been a frightening and frustrating time, but among the sickness and sadness, doctors observed that patients who drew and painted were better able to cope with both their illness, and their stay at the hospitals. The practice quickly spread and, in 1964, the British Association of Art Therapists was founded.

From 1948 until he retired in 1981, Edward Adamson became the first artist to be employed by the NHS. When Edward first began his work, people living with mental health problems did not have rights, and were subjected to brutal treatment. But Edward saw another way forward. For him, art therapy was about creative expression – not evidence to pass on to psychiatrists to be analysed – but art for art’s sake, and for healing. In his lifetime, Edward gathered more than 5,000 works of art from his patients, from drawing to ceramics, sculptures to paintings, preserved today by the Adamson Collection Trust.

Painting a picture

These days, the NHS states that there are more than 4,400 registered art therapists in the UK, including art, drama, and music therapists, like Chloe Sparrow.

“I remember so clearly what it was like to experience really big feelings, but not have the vocabulary, or confidence, to talk about it,” Chloe says. “For me, art psychotherapy offered a bridge between those big feelings and the expression of those feelings. Being able to express ourselves, and feel understood by another, feels like such a healing human experience. Combining that with one of my great loves, art, feels like such a privilege and pleasure.

“Art psychotherapy is a form of psychotherapy practised by qualified, registered art psychotherapists,” she explains. “It can provide you with an opportunity to use artmaking to explore issues or themes that are relevant and personal to you, and can be used to explore a wide range of difficulties.

“You don’t need to be ‘good’ at art in order to benefit from art psychotherapy. The purpose of the artmaking is to facilitate personal growth, and a greater understanding of the self, and you may find that particular themes begin to emerge through the colours, shapes, and concepts, in your artwork.”

Chloe explains how, in most sessions, the therapist will provide you with a variety of art materials and options that you can then pick from. With this as your starting point, you might work from a prompt provided by the therapist or, instead, approach your work with pure creativity and spontaneity. From there, there may then be time for discussion and reflection though, of course, the precise structure of a session will be entirely unique from person to person.

Art imitating life: exploring art therapy and its benefits on our wellbeing

The focus point

When it comes to therapy, one size really doesn’t fit all, and art therapy offers a positive alternative.

“Because art psychotherapy combines psychotherapeutic techniques with cre

4 effective ways to stay informed with global events without panicking

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Having a good idea of the things that are happening in the world is a savvy thing to do, so how can you manage that without becoming overwhelmed?

4 effective ways to stay informed with global events without panicking

Between the cost of living crisis, the conflict in Ukraine, political divides in the UK, the US, and across Europe, and a wealth of other pressing issues, simply turning on the news can feel like a mammoth task at the moment.

At the same time, many of these issues simply cannot be ignored. If you don’t stay informed on rising inflation and issues in the economy, for example, you won’t know what costs are coming or what forms of support might be available.

As a journalist, I have to stay on top of the news cycle, but taking care of my mental health is also a top priority for me. As a result, I’ve developed some techniques for staying informed without being overwhelmed by negativity and alarming news.

1. Limit access

The first step is to limit your access to the news. Having push notifications for news apps might be convenient, but it means you could potentially be presented with stressful information at any given moment. Put yourself back in control of how you digest information by choosing when and how you stay up to date.

Identify which news sources aren’t working for you, and take steps to remove them. You can also try unfollowing news sites on social media, or even blocking certain keywords if you find yourself doomscrolling, or getting increasingly stressed while browsing Instagram or Twitter.

2. Find trusted sources

Now that you’ve cut out the media sources that don’t suit you, it’s time to identify which ones do work. It’s always a good idea to read from a number of different sources, rather than one publication, to get a full sense of the media landscape. To ensure that you’re reading a wide range of publications, the Ground News Chrome extension is an excellent bias checker, showing the political leaning of the site you’re reading, and recommending other coverage on similar topics for a more rounded perspective.

In addition, news aggregators like Upday, Google News, and Flipboard will all learn from what you tend to read and show you more of the same, as well as the top stories of the day. This is an excellent way to access a wide range of news efficiently.

3. Develop a mindful routine

As well as how you consume the news, when you browse can also play a large role in how it affects you. Looking at the news first thing in the morning, or the last thing at night, means your brain is likely tired and not ready to deal with stressful information.

The best time to get updated is when your brain works best, no matter when in the day that is for you. Take half an hour while having breakfast or on your commute, or perhaps dedicate some time while on your lunch break – whenever you’re relaxed and ready to learn.

About 30 minutes or so should be enough to take in the top stories and most important updates on an average day. From there, take on board what you’ve learned, and then separate it from the rest of your day. The reason many people feel overwhelmed by the news is that

What is the halo or horn effect and how does it affect workplace culture?

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Is this common mind trap impacting your progress at work?

What is the halo or horn effect and how does it affect workplace culture?

There have been countless studies on first impressions, most likely because we can’t stop agonising over them after we’ve met someone we want to impress for the first time. While some research will tell you that people make their minds up about you within the first 12 seconds, and others will point to your appearance as the source of the impression you give, the general consensus is that, regardless of how they are formed, they do count – but maybe they count too much…

The ‘halo or horn effect’ refers to when a first impression leads someone to have a biased negative or positive opinion of someone – a bias that would then lead them to overlook any actions or characteristics that might prove otherwise. The concept has its origins in the work of 1920s American psychologist Edward Thorndike. In an experiment, Thorndike asked commanding officers to rate the physique, intelligence, leadership, and character traits of soldiers, before having any interactions with them. What he saw was that when the officer gave a soldier a high rating in one category, they tended to also give them high ratings in the others, too. He named this the ‘halo effect’. On the flip side, Thorndike went on to find this pattern was also true when it came to negative characteristics: the ‘horn effect’.

Now, while the theory may be a century old, if we take some time to ruminate on it, many of us may be able to point to examples in our own lives where snap judgements have left a lasting impression, both good and bad – regardless of any countering evidence. And, like the scenario in Thorndike’s original experiments, one place this kind of thinking is rife is in the workplace.

One person might become the star, a regular employee of the month, any slip-ups easily glossed over, while opportunities flow towards them and treatment from higher-ups is favourable, to say the least. It could be said that this person is the recipient of the ‘halo effect’. On the flip side, the other might have made a mistake, such as turning up late one day. Their negative traits have been decided: they’re lazy and unreliable. When it comes to distributing important tasks, or those which would aid career progression, they’re overlooked – perhaps in favour of those in the ‘halo effect’.

And it’s not too difficult to understand how this happens in the first place. When we don’t have all the information about a person or a scenario, our brains automatically try to fill in the gaps using the information that is in front of us. One virtuous act in isolation can lead us to apply the same standards to all parts of a person – it’s easy to make the jump when there’s nothing else trying to catch your attention. But a major problem with making these judgements is that they’re superficial. It’s exactly those countering clues that come together to form the complex people that we are. We don’t live in a black-and-white world where people can be categorised as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

Help! I’m stuck in the ‘horn effect’

If what you’ve been reading here is striking a chord, and you think you might be stuck in the ‘horn effect’, know that you’re not

10 rejuvenating things to try in February to benefit your wellbeing

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From a podcast that will get you stomping outdoors to a photography technique that will light up the sky, try something new with our enriching suggestions

1. Page-turners

10 rejuvenating things to try in February to benefit your wellbeing

Letter To My Younger Self: The Big Issue Presents... 100 Inspiring People on the Moments That Shaped Their Lives by Jane Graham and The Big Issue

What one piece of advice would you give to your younger self? Interviewer Jane Graham conversed with well-known figures, from Paul McCartney to Olivia Colman, to ask them exactly that. The result? Letter To My Younger Self – a collection of reflections and words of wisdom for when you need it most.

(Out now, £9.99)

2. Out and about

Paint a light picture

Try your hand at long-exposure photography, and be mesmerised by the illuminated masterpiece that is captured through light painting. Simply place your camera on a tripod, set your camera to a long shutter speed, and use your torch to paint the sky with light. What are you waiting for? Grab your camera and watch the magic unfold.

10 rejuvenating things to try in February to benefit your wellbeing

(Visit canon-europe.com to find out more)

3. Act of kindness

Volunteer at a Repair Cafe

Are you skilful at sewing, or handy at mending things, and want to put your skills to good use? Volunteer for a local repair cafe to help fix everyday items, such as electricals, bikes, clothes, furniture, and more. You’ll be helping people save money during a time of economic uncertainty and, in turn, contributing towards protecting the planet.

(Visit repaircafe.org to find out more information)

4. Lend us your ears

‘Stompcast with Dr Alex’

Go on a stomping journey with Dr Alex, as he takes you on a wander through the great outdoors and into the lives of each of his podcast guests. In each episode, Dr Alex meets a renowned podcast guest in an outdoor location of their choice and embarks on a walk, all while engaging in thought-provoking conversations about wellbeing and mental health.

(Available on all podcast platforms)

5. Plugged-In

Tamara Michael

Do you ever just feel instantly soothed from a racing mind after doodling? From a scribble to help you to self-regulate, to one designed to provide relief from phone anxiety, artist Tamara Michael has a doodling tutorial for every occasion. There’s a reason art therapy is so popular, so grab your pen and put it to the test.

(Follow @tamaramichael_)


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Disney 3-night Baja cruise recap

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Sharing a full recap of our latest Disney cruise: the 3-night Baja cruise from San Diego. Just a heads up that this post wasn’t sponsored or comped (I wish lol) – just sharing our experience since I know many of you also love a lil Disney magic. 

Hi friends and hello back in the real world after an amazing double vacay: a trip to San Diego followed by an incredible Disney cruise. I’m still slightly swaying from the boat’s motion and walking downstairs, disappointed to find that no full buffet is waiting for me. It’s been a rough transition, let me tell ya.

We were back on the Wonder (we sailed on the Wonder to Alaska a few years ago!) and it felt SO GOOD to be back at one of our favorite vacation spots and surrounded by amazing friends. Our friends from Tucson joined us – they’re professional Disney cruisers (this was #9 for them) and we’ve been friends since Kathryn brought me a baby meal after Liv was born! Our Kleiger fam from San Diego joined in the fun, too, and it was such a blast getting to catch up with everyone and the kids played so well together.

The cruise crew:

Sweater here // skirt here // boots

(It was impossible to get a pic of all of the kids in the same spot at the same time)

We checked into the ship on Friday and headed straight to the pool. A tip for Disney cruise friends: check-in is the BEST time to hit the pool. (Just put your suits and pool gear into a backpack, because your luggage is delivered to your room.) It’s the least amount of people it will be the entire time, and you can grab food to enjoy by the pool. The kids immediately ran to the water slide, we ordered drinks, and watched them on the deck.

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