Using art therapy for chronic pain


About a year ago, someone suggested that I use art as a way of coping with the frustrations of fibromyalgia and my anxiety disorder. I thought it was a great idea and decided I would convert our spare bedroom into an art studio; I imagined big canvases and easels in the room with lots of brightly coloured paints and an array of brushes. That’s when I realised, I’m an idiot. Firstly because I can’t draw or paint to save my life, but secondly because instead of contemplating using art for this reason, I imagined myself as a professional artist. I’m useless at taking those necessary baby steps… instead of learning to walk I dream of becoming an Olympic athlete and, predictably, I end up sitting motionless.

Recently, I started from scratch. I took the logical step of searching for a colouring book for adults and soon discovered ‘art therapy’ is a thing. Art – usually painting or colouring with bright colours – is often used as a distraction technique for people suffering from illness. It allows us to escape the emotional effect of our health issues, without getting caught up in deep thoughts about something equally destructive. Sometimes we need to keep busy without actually being busy.

I bought this book from Amazon but it’s one of hundreds available and I was spoilt for choice. I wanted to start off with something quite detailed because, well, I had to put a challenge in there somewhere. I also bought the Ryan Gosling colouring book for a friend of mine; she has MS and could do with some emotional distraction at the moment too. Kinda wish I’d got that one for myself as well! Still, the rabbit has its charm.

This particular book gives you the opportunity to colour in the detail or doodle in broad open spaces. I bought brightly coloured felt tip pens to ensure things remained positive and upbeat, not drab and distant. Apparently the bright colours have an impact on our emotions as well, so says my life coach from a year ago.

This was the first page I coloured in. It was such an amazing – and slightly weird – experience. I thought I’d get bored easily (I often get bored easily) but I didn’t. It was just calming and relaxing, and gave me a sense of satisfaction that I don’t get from meditation. Now, instead of reaching for Facebook or Pinterest, I am reaching for my colouring book. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my social media but now I love this too.

For those who aren’t particularly artistic, or haven’t tried something like this before, I really recommend it. I see this hobby lasting a long time. And I was so proud of this page when I finished, I put a picture of it on Instagram! Something about it reminds me a bit of Dr Seuss. What do you reckon?