Whether you’re a fine artist or a not-very-fine artist, the simple act of creating art can reduce anxiety, relieve stress, and lift your mood.

You’ve heard of stress baking and stress shopping, but have you tried stress drawing? Believe it or not, those colored pencils in the junk drawer might be your answer to anxiety. Art can be extremely therapeutic and boasts bomb benefits for your overall mental health.

So grab some art supplies and feel yourself go from stress to YAS as you paint yourself into a better mood.

Art therapy and stress art are similar, but not exactly the same. Art therapy is a type of psychotherapeutic treatment facilitated by a specialist. A person will produce art as a way to open up to their therapist, or better understand their emotions, thoughts, and feelings.

Meanwhile, stress art is a type of stress reduction that can be done solo or in a group. The stress-relief comes from creating artwork with your own hands without the guidance of an art therapy specialist.

The key is to remember that you do not have to be a great artist, or even a so-so artist. Will your masterpiece end up on your fridge? Maybe… maybe not. It doesn’t matter because the act of creation itself is what matters most.

Making art is a great way to express yourself in a non-verbal way. This can help lower anxiety, improve your mood, and even ease you into that hard-to-find flow state. IMO, that’s a mental health triple crown. According to one study, producing art can also help a person reach an emotional catharsis while revealing unconscious thoughts.

Additionally, studies have shown that art therapy can be a big benefit to those who have:

Even 20 minutes of making some kind of visual art might help. Just remember that it’s not a contest. No panel of judges is waiting to evaluate your use of color, composition, or attention to detail. So just go ahead and make anything that makes you feel good.

What should you create? What’s your artistic lane? Hey, even some really famous artists haven’t figured that out. But here are some ideas to get your stress lowering creative juices flowing.

Color inside (or outside) the lines

Borrow some of those crayons that the waiter gave to the kid at the next table and get coloring! Adult coloring books are hell popular. And by “for adults” we don’t mean erotic coloring pages (although those are out there too if that’s your jam!).

Coloring pages for adults tend to include more intricate or ornate patterns that will take a bit longer to finish. Again, the process is what makes art activities good for lowering stress. So a longer art project means more of a chance of getting into the flow.

Psst. There are thousands of free downloadable coloring pages all over the web.

Create a mandala

Some adult coloring pages resemble geometric symbols known as mandalas. These images have been used by many cultures throughout history as a way to draw abstract representations of inner feelings, personal histories, or past traumas.

If you’re bored with coloring a mandala — or if it doesn’t feel personal enough — you could get more adventurous and try your hand at drawing your own.

PSA: Try not to overthink it. Instead, try to chill your mind out and just focus on drawing the mandala. In some cases, this can get you into a very relaxed, meditative state.

Paint-by-numbers… or without numbers

Whether it’s finger-painting, watercoloring, or splattering paint on a wall, creating a painting provides loads of stress-reducing benefits. You can paint on anything from a canvas to a paper coffee filter to your own face. The sky’s the limit!

Pro tip: If painting with color isn’t your thing, explore the shades of gray with the beautiful art of ink wash.

Doodle-mania to ease your mania.

A pencil or a pen and some paper is all you need to get going with a daily doodle. Turn off your inner art critic and let your imagination run wild. Just draw. Draw what you’re looking at right now. Draw your dream house. Doodle those weird S-shaped things from middle school. Draw whatever comes into your mind.

TBH, there’s not a lot of research that shows how doodling can benefit your mental health. But anything that helps you chill out and keeps you present can be a good thing

P.S. Your phone probably has a drawing app available so you can get your doodle on while you’re on-the-go.

Clay time, play time

You don’t need a kiln in your kitchen to sculpt from home. You can work out tensions with modeling clay, air-dry clay, or modeling beeswax. You could even sculpt the melted wax from a candle. Or, if you’re a wood working type of person, you might try the traditional art of whittling.

You can totally reap the mental health benefits of art by yourself. But you might have an ever better time creating art with others. Doing group art or joining an art class might help boost your confidence and decrease loneliness.

Whether in-person or virtual, there are lots of groups with supportive, non-judgmental and non-competitive environments that are meant to unleash your inner Yayoi Kusama.

To find local art classes, you can do a simple internet search or check out local social media groups. Or, invite a group of friends over and host an art party. You can also hit up your local senior homes or your kiddo’s school to see if they need a volunteer art teacher.

Whether you’re an art novice or a renaissance master, making art has mental health benefits. By focusing your attention and pulling you away from rumination, creating art will help lower your anxiety, bolster your mood and guide you into a flow state.

From drawing to painting to sculpture, any and all visual arts are beneficial. Grab a pencil, your kid’s crayon, some melted candle wax… whatever! If you can’t think of what to create, just don’t think. Observe what’s around you and let your hands start moving.

And if you’re not much of a solo act, think about joining an art group or volunteering at a local art class for seniors or kids.