In this blog, we will answer the question, “What to draw when you’re depressed?”, and also cover topics like what art therapy is, how art therapy works, techniques of art therapy, and tips and tricks to use while drawing.
What to Draw When You’re Depressed? Art against Depression
Art has always been a medium of expression even before words or writing. Since the prehistoric ages, our human ancestors used art to communicate and express themselves.
It can be used as a tool to balance your emotions through self-expression and creativity irrespective of the emotional state you carry in the present.
You can draw the following things when you are depressed:
- Draw people you love
- Draw animals you love
- You can draw how you feel
- You can draw in a free form which can be abstract in nature, all you need to do is to just let it all out on the paper
- Draw mandalas and color them or decorate them the way you like
- Draw your goals and dreams
What is Art Therapy?
Sometimes, you are sitting doing your work, or just studying and from nowhere you begin doodling, that is the most beginner’s use of art therapy.
Art therapy means using art for therapeutic reasons and as a tool to gather relief from stress or anxiety.
You can draw inspiration from artists whom you like or writers whom you read or any creative person you follow, the goal is to express what you are feeling, the aim is to show your suffering on a piece of paper.
How does art therapy work in depression?
- Putting pencil to paper gives you a space to get inquisitive with yourself and indulge in an activity which you can control and replace all those unwanted and unseemly thoughts and keep them at bay.
In a 2007 study, ten participants noted their significant troubles and worries. And they spent twenty minutes sorting through artworks. those participants who spent most of their time indulging with art prints stated they felt improvement in their negative downtrodden mood than those who just looked at the artworks
In a 2016 study, the adults who participated in 45 minutes of art therapy were more relaxed and in control of themselves with lower levels of cortisol – the stress-inducing hormone, after the art therapy. Research in 2018 stated colouring activities helped in reducing anxiety during examinations in students.
- Drawing can also boost mindfulness. What does mindfulness mean anyways? It refers to a person’s ability to stay in complete touch with their surroundings through all their senses, to stay present and in tune with their emotions.
- It can sound scary thought if you have anxiety you wouldn’t want to sit spending time with it and experience them. But no matter how contrary or counterproductive it seems, spending time with your anxious thoughts can create an outlet for a release.
- Mindfulness can be an important aid in accepting the things you can not change and letting them go.
- As you paint, sculpt, draw or colour unhappy thoughts will pop in your brain but you will continue to focus on your artwork and on the shades you’re bringing out on the paper, the texture of the paper and in no time, these distracting thoughts will fade away. There is a chance of self-reflection in art therapy and let you dissolve your triggers too perhaps.
- When we are anxious we ruminate a lot. We constantly think about one thing – it is a fixation. These repetitive looping worries can really cause an overload in your brain and art can be an escape from this constant rumination.
- Art can help in developing a flow state, in which your mental state is at the optimum pace with optimum concentration and engagement. You will be completely absorbed in what you are doing, so much so, that you won’t notice any disturbing thoughts or worries.
It doesn’t require specific artistic abilities but mental involvement. You can try coloring a mandala or making it, or just engaging with artwork with details.
Techniques for Art Therapy
If you haven’t indulged in art since your school days you may feel a bit vexed on where to begin. But art therapy isn’t about drawing something right or wrong but the way you see it, it is about your perception.
- Doodling can be a great way, to begin with. For that you don’t need fancy colours or pencils or sketchbooks, just a pen/pencil and notepad would work. As soon as you feel that stress may mount up from this moment, just take out your notepad and pencil/pen and start doodling whatever comes into your mind.
The activity can really be quite calming, it seems such a simple and small activity but can be a big outlet for emotional release even if you don’t notice it.
You can start with simple shapes, patterns, waves, or design a flower or animal or trees, houses, roads whatever you prefer.
- Drawing or sketching can be another option for you if you have more space and time to incorporate this as a regular coping mechanism. As you start with simple lines and shapes your mind will itself start taking a shape on the paper reflecting your anxious thoughts.
- If drawing sketches or doodling is a hard nut to crack then you can also try colouring. Colouring a mandala or any printed design can be as helpful as drawing. You can find colouring books with mandala designs or other designs in a stationery shop with ease.
Although research shows that colouring a mandala may be better than other designs to get relief from anxious thoughts.
- You can draw the things you like the most. They can make you feel happy and enhance your mood. You might even feel a sense of belonging with these non-animated things you like. Everything which we like, has a relation to us, why not investigate it on paper?
- So as to form an outlet for a release, you can also draw the things (or people) who make you angry or annoyed. It is a means to not let them control you and instead, you get to take control over them. You give them life according to you, you put your perspective to work!
- You can also draw the people who are your beloved and the animals close to your heart. You will feel a sense of connection with them and a bubble of love around you.
- Everyone has memories that they cherish and the times which were carefree and full of joys, so you can revisit them. You can keep those memories always alive and forever in front of your eyes.
- You can draw everything which scares you off. You can face your fears and tackle them head-on while they come into life as you draw.
- Draw what inspires you, draw your dreams and whatever it is that you want to achieve. Even if your present dreams seem to be crushed under the weight of suffering that you are going through
- You can also draw self-portraits, in order to express the way you think and feel about yourself. You see yourself in a light in which nobody else does but only you.
Through your self-portraits you can paint your depression, your depression is not the only deciding factor in your life. It can prove to be quite cathartic. You don’t need to tell people about it, you can keep it to yourself.
But just painting it and bringing it to reality is a beautiful feeling. If you wish you can burn those depression drawings as a motif of destroying your depression.
- While we are pondering over what to draw to make ourselves feel better or at least look for a release, we must not evaluate ourselves with the art we are making. No matter how it turns out, it is not a measure of your self-worth. A lot of people struggle with this, so do not try to mark your art as a way of marking yourself either.
Drawing ideas if you are depressed
- Draw whatever is going on in your life. Look around yourself, observe the objects which surround you, watch and slowly take in the details of the object. You will gain clarity and vision which will help you in making sense of your own mental illness. You will understand how perspective, light, and shadow work as you go on to paint an object to new life.
- You can pursue any art form – colouring, drawing, sculpting, painting to put your troubled feelings into a melange of colours – an expression of yourself. You don’t need to be an artist to give art therapy a chance!
According to Kelly Lynch, a licensed art therapist based in Seattle says that art therapy can get you to understand yourself through the creative process of your artwork.
You gain newer perspectives that the syntax of language can not incorporate. Like language art can include symbolism, metaphors to represent the human thought process, perhaps at times, even better than language does.
Tips and Tricks to remember while drawing
- Remember to stay in the moment.
- Find a place where there is the least disturbance.
- Mute your tv and keep your phone away, pay attention to how your crayon or pencil moves, how does the paper feel, let yourself immerse in your art.
- There is no good or bad artwork. Don’t try to perfect your artform. Do not wonder if you should alter your way of coloring or drawing something.
- Don’t focus too much on the accuracy or realism of your artwork. Rather than setting expectations, focus on the process. The purpose of your artwork is to calm yourself and not win an award or become a professional artist!
We discussed various aspects of art therapy, how it works, what you can draw if you are depressed, tips and tricks, and also covered various pieces of research evidence.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs): What to Draw When You’re Depressed? Art against Depression
Is drawing good for depression?
Studies state that art therapies can prove to be a valuable tool for relaxing your brain suffering from anxiety, PTSD, depression or phobias. It lets you express yourself and find a release outlet.
What objects represent depression?
Rainstorm images, ravens, barren landscapes and troubled faces, dark cliffs are some of the symbolisms which are associated with depression. They capture the essence of desperation, despair, and suffering which are common experiences of depression.
Which colour represents depression?
Usually darker colours are used to represent depression. Green is the colour used to portray an awareness of mental health. It is to be associated with mental illnesses like depression and bipolar disorder. The colour also represents the will to fight the stigma of mental health disorders.
Why do I draw better when I am sad?
You must feel that you draw better when you are sad because a state of sadness can make one more attentive to details and fill up their work with emotions and create a piece of work that seems to be better than others which were made in other emotional states.
Does being sad make you more creative?
There have been various studies done to analyze if there is a connection between sadness and creativity but there is no conclusive evidence that suggests a connection between being sad and being more creative. However, some studies have pointed out that feelings of sadness and depressed mood can make one creative.
Did popular artists have mental illnesses?
Yes, there have been popular artists like Van Gogh, Plath, Kahlo, Dickens, Munch, etc. who have struggled with mental health issues and illnesses.