As a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern, one of the most frequent complaints I hear from my clients is that they feel stressed out and hectic. Parents come to my office after dropping their kids off at a class, between practices, or from play groups. They are busy making their homes enriched, wonderful places for their children to be. If their children don’t need them, their significant other does. I have teenagers come to my office feeling like they are under pressure, too – with schoolwork, conflict in their social groups, or the feeling of being pulled in too many directions. Even the little kids I see these days seem more frantic, being shuttled from activity to activity.
I also have a BA in Recreation. I am all for hobbies, classes, and pursuing your interests. But I also see a pattern among my clients where they fill all the gaps in their days, without leaving time to slow down and see what happens naturally. When you don’t leave some gaps of time, you miss out on some of the sweeter things in life. Small miracles start escaping you. You might stop noticing the tomato plant going from blossom to fruit in the backyard. You might move so fast you miss the lizard scuttling out of your way. The tiny and beautiful details of the world around you gets lost in the rush to get out the door and into the car, to move on to the next thing, the next group, activity, or event.
Even in the midst of a busy life, you can schedule in some time to slow down and learn how to hone your awareness again. Art can be really helpful in this process. Here are several art projects that you can do that will help you slow down and take notice.
1. Cut a small rectangle out of the center of a piece of cardstock. Hold that piece of paper up about 8-10” from your face. Using colored pencils, draw only what you can see through that cut-out rectangle. Use this frame to help narrow your focus, eliminate distractions, and take the time to notice all that goes on in that small, compact space.
2. Go to a favorite place in nature, such as a park, field, or garden. Draw the outline of your hand on a piece of paper. Then place your hand on the ground. Lifting it up, look at what fit underneath that space, and draw it on your paper in as much detail as possible. Focus on how amazing it is that so much detail can fit in the palm of your hand.
3. Close your eyes and think about your favorite place to visit. Try to imagine you are there, using all of your senses. Use markers and paper to try to recreate it on paper, trying to get in as many details as you can. If someone you know has been there also, enlist their help in coming up with an even richer description, or see if they can recognize the location based on your drawing.
4. With a partner: choose an object, such as a favorite mug, stuffed animal, or book. Do not tell your partner what you have chosen. Give them crayons and paper, and carefully describe the details of the object while they draw only what you tell them. Make sure you cannot see their paper, and they cannot see your object. When you think you are done describing it, you get to look at what they’ve created and see if your powers of observation and description are finely honed or could use more practice.