The body is a temple. Its exterior might be tended to: muscles sculpted, hair properly coiffed. The sterling appearance invites worship and praise. But a temple is just a structure if the confines do not reflect the warmth of well-being. The mind is a hurly-burly—bombarded with bad news, pinpricked with stress, weighed down by disappointment—the anima can only withstand so much. It won’t be long before the cracks appear in the walls and the fissures give way to collapse.
But you can quiet the mind—a midnight traipse around the park, calming music that earworms its way into you—there are means and ways to quell that storm in your head.
Take a trip to a museum, or an art gallery. There’s a serenity to this practice and it’s not just the silence of the place; it’s through the viewing of a piece of art. Never mind what the artist label says; how does that artwork make you feel?
Professor Semir Zeki, a neurobiologist with the University of London, scanned the brains of volunteers while they looked at works of art. He says that when you look at art, dopamine is released and the part of the brain that deals with pleasure lights up; it feels like falling in love. In his study, the increase in blood flow is proportionate to “how much the painting was liked”. But if you feel better when you look at art, what happens when you make it?
Adult colouring books became the rage ever since social media glommed onto Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book. Commonly associated to a child’s activity, the filling of colours within the lines proved to be therapeutic. According to Patrick Sheehan, a clinical psychologist, colouring books act as a gateway to a feeling of soothing and safety.
“Our lives feel chaotic,” Sheehan says. “At the end of the day, so many of us hope to [relive that sense of ] safety.” The act of colouring aids a person to mentally travel back to his or her childhood, a period where they usually feel at ease. This sort of callback is similar to watching a beloved film or eating a favourite meal that evokes an impression of calm.
It’s this escapism to your childhood that saw the rise in adults engaging in ‘childlike’ activities like reading YA books or carousing in an activity park like SuperPark in Suntec.
Adult colouring books are an avenue to relieve yourself from the hustle and bustle of the rat race, but there are other activities to also partake in.
Megan Tang, a case specialist with Limitless, a non-profit for youth counselling, suggests the simple act of doodling. “Doodling without expecting a certain end product is supposed to be aimless and mundane,” Tang says. “So much so that your brain starts to space out and you’re allowed to move more freely with the medium of choice.
“There’s also journaling which helps draw parallels and spot patterns in your mood and life events. It helps you to see what is reoccurring and facilitate the reflection of why this could be something that is repeatedly happening.”
Dr Shawn Ee, a clinical psychologist, psychoanalytic psychotherapist and director of The Psychology Practice, concurs. “Certainly, putting thoughts and feelings to paper is a useful way of expressing ourselves when we have difficulties finding our voice.”
The act of writing things out allows one to gain clarity on problems. Allowing communication of his or her own thoughts and feelings can be cathartic. Ee adds: “Retelling one’s story in a less threatening and more coherent way can assist the individual make better meaning of their experiences.”
We have put together a sample of activities for you to do. Some quiet time to muffle the mind. From colouring to finding objects to penning down your thoughts, these exercises are meant to be mindless engagements for the betterment of your well-being.
And as with anything pertaining to health, both mental and physical, the following activities are not a guaranteed quick fix but more of a coping technique. Don’t soothe to avoid the arrival of a painful emotion that needs to be experienced. Prolonged avoidance can be detrimental to your well-being. When in doubt, consult a psychologist, get the proper help.
So ready your colouring pencils, print out the images and have at it.
If you need someone to talk to, here are resources and hotlines available:
Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444
Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
Institute of Mental Health’s crisis helpline: 6389-2222
Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800
Silver Ribbon: 6386-1928
Tinkle Friend (for primary school-aged children): 1800-274-4788
Beyond the Label HelpBot: A Facebook messenger bot with resources, helplines and information about mental health.