The term, “Arts and Wellness” may become more familiar as the two begin to be connected. While the link has been made between arts and our emotional health , it is now thought that art is also a helpful tool in changing us physically . When people are engaged in what they love to do their blood pressure can go down, neurotransmitters activated, the immune system improved, and heart rates returned to normal limits. Focused concentration will lead to calmness reflected in mind, body, spirit.
As peers, we will see the pairing of arts and wellness at the third annual arts event at Alternatives, this year in Portland, Oregon (October 10-14, 2012). Last year, a carnival-like atmosphere was organized, complete with balloons and crepe paper that beckoned people to different tables where a variety of arts activities were offered. At one table, people did collage while, at another, painting pillowcases was underway. “Hoops for Hope” was a fun activity; while, in another corner of the room, people were on the floor moving and sounding like animals at a zoo. The carnival produced laughter as a dressed up clown entertained ; the fortune teller reading palms was also popular.
While the carnival was happening, there was a physical wellness check-up made available in another room of the building. After the carnival was over, I found myself following the signs and wandering over to the room. Begging to be the last person seen, my blood pressure was taken and my glucose checked (all okay), and my weight was checked (not saying). I think there was a way to check my muscle strength and bone health, but right now I can’t be sure. Suffice it to say that I thought the services were a wonderful addition to the conference and so needed, as many people do not get a check-up each year due to lack of health insurance.
This year’s Alternatives conference will feature both on the first day of the conference. My vision is to have a “tent” in the main room for the physical wellness check, while surrounding it will be the same variety of creative activities. Maybe this year, we’ll have a bit more emphasis on the physical and spiritual. Yoga would be nice, as well Tai Chi; but then Zumba would get people dancing to Latin music and sweating a bit, as it can be very active while having fun. And of course, the more quiet arts activities would be present for visual artists and writers. The carnival is dependent on people volunteering to do an activity, so we will see what this year’s carnival will bring.
Recently, on June 6th in Edison, New Jersey, Peggy Swarbrick presented her annual Wellness Conference. Many of the workshops featured the ways that we can take care of ourselves. I offered an arts workshop with a peer colleague from Delaware Psychiatric Center. My part of the workshop showed an informative PowerPoint® presentation on healing and the arts followed by an activity featuring our Hands. All of the participants were asked to draw their hands on white poster type paper. They were then asked to think about their hands, what messages their hands convey, what types of things their hands do, and words of wisdom that our hands teach us. Hands, participants were told, are the most important parts of our bodies. Their function is to touch, but nerve endings on our hands connect us to other parts of our bodies.
I am truly excited about this activity, as our hands are the parts of our bodies that take good care of us. As expected, we got all types of artistic responses when people are asked to fill in their hands with colorful designs and words. Having done this before, I have seen people fill their hands with inspirational words; while some people have decorated their hands with colorful images. Participants were asked to talk about their hand portrayals after enough time is given to complete the activity. This is the most fun part.
The Hands Project has a direct link to our thinking about our health, but any arts activity or creative engagement will help us to be healthy individuals.
Of course, another aspect of wellness is what we eat, quite naturally. After the carnival or after the workshop when minds and hands have been at work, there is the art of eating. I am hoping that people will have gotten a message that eating is an art-form as well. Color, taste, caloric values. At that thought, I think I will go make myself a stir-fry with rice and vegetables, a glass of milk instead of a coke. Then I will have some tapioca pudding I bought at the Farmers’ Market. Hmmm... Happy Ending; Happy Health!
To contact Bluebird, go to http://www.bluebirdconsultants.com/