These 12 Childhood Art Techniques Can Help Adults Relieve Stress

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Making art doesn't necessarily sound like a stress reliever. Finding inspiration, keeping concentration, finding your artistic voice -- these things demand extreme attention, time and effort. Yet there is something about expressing your creative side that can help put your mind at ease.

Most forms of art making involve both logic and creativity -- for example, coloring inside the lines and mixing and matching colors to your preference. The combination of vision and precise motor skills also leads to an all-encompassing experience that captivates the brain, pushing other stressors out of the picture, at least temporarily. "The idea that creative expression can make a powerful contribution to the healing process has been embraced in many different cultures," Heather L. Stuckey and Jeremy Nobel wrote in the American Journal of Public Health. Caregivers involved with creative arts intervention methods at cancer treatment centers in particular "reported significantly reduced stress, decreased anxiety, and increased positive emotions after taking part in the intervention."

Since we know life, in all its forms, gets wildly stressful, we've compiled a handy list of art techniques designed to help you self-soothe. Not so coincidentally, you may have dabbled in these unorthodox artistic techniques before -- perhaps in elementary school. Yes, the following forms of arts and craft are often deemed "childhood art techniques" but, as Pablo Picasso once said: "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."

Behold, 12 artistic techniques guaranteed to help you relax... and harken back to the good ole days of stress-free creation.

1. Coloring Books If you're feeling overwhelmed with stress and anxiety, you may want to put down the laptop in favor of some Crayola crayons. Turning those monochromatic shapes into impromptu color fields isn't just a nostalgic good time, it also is proven to reduce stress.


"The action involves both logic, by which we color forms, and creativity, when mixing and matching colors," psychologist Gloria Martínez Ayala told The Huffington Post. "This incorporates the areas of the cerebral cortex involved in vision and fine motor skills [coordination necessary to make small, precise movements]. The relaxation that it provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress."

2. Finger Painting If you're not averse to getting your hands a little dirty, finger painting is a wonderful way to express your creativity without getting bogged down with supplies and technique.

You'll be in good company; modern British painter David Hockney recently explored the art of finger painting -- on an iPad, but still -- for his massive retrospective. "These gestures are as old as humans are," said Long Island University Art Historian Maureen Nappi. "Go back to cave paintings, they're using finger movements to articulate creative expressions."

3. Origami Whether you excelled at the art of paper folding or never quite moved past fortune teller level, it may be time to have another go at the traditional Japanese art form.

Like coloring, origami engages the left and right sides of the brain at once, allowing you to concentrate on the creative task at hand and let your lurking worries fade away. "Origami is an example of 'schematic learning through repeatable actions,'" Taro's Origami Studio in Brooklyn proclaims. "For many, it engenders a patience that leads to pride in one’s work, the ability to focus energy, and increased self-esteem."

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