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Paintings With Purpose; introducing visual meditation

If traditional meditation doesn’t work for you, you can find peace and presence by learning to harness the power of art.

In the chaos of 21st century society it is more important than ever for us to take care of our mental health. The World Health Organisation reported in March this year that there has been a 25% increase in anxiety disorders world wide and, while this is largely due to the pandemic, it is a growing problem. Cultivating a daily meditation practice is fast becoming the go-to for those wanting to find emotional balance and, with everyone from high-achieving CEOs to celebrities now attributing much of their success to it, the stigma is finally being removed. Meditation has gone mainstream.

There is more and more scientific evidence to back up what ancient Eastern cultures have known for thousands of years: that self-awareness and learning to feel our emotions so we can release them from the body, is the key to living a calmer and, ultimately, better life. Meditation, like yoga, is a practice. It is a lifestyle choice, rather than a skill to mastered, but what if you just can’t get the hang of it?

If you find that your thoughts keep drifting to what you want for dinner or the neighbour’s singing is distracting you, using a visual anchor is a great way to get started.

Have you heard of Visual Meditation?

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Introducing visual meditation

Visual meditation is a form of mindfulness that you can practice using art. It is a term that I coined to describe my work and to demonstrate that art has a purpose that can benefit our mental and physical health in a profoundly positive way.

Viewing art with intention (a mental exercise known as ‘slow-looking’) takes you off auto-pilot and brings your awareness in to the present moment. This specific technique can be used in times of heightened stress or anxiety as it de-excites your nervous system and can alleviate physical symptoms such as a racing heartbeat, headaches and muscle tension. Studies have shown that engaging with art in this way has a huge effect on your brain.

Both the conscious and unconscious parts are stimulated which can increase your analytical and problem-solving skills.

In addition, blood flow to the brain can rise by as much as ten percent when looking at art that we find especially beautiful. Dopamine and serotonin are released which boosts your mood.

Abstract art is excellent for directed mindfulness practice. It is one of few things that engages both sides of the brain simultaneously. Meditation is another and by doing both together you can supercharge the effects. For an extra boost, use original art rather than a print - the texture adds another element to focus on. Intently studying the strokes and colours in detail rather than the painting as a whole helps you not to quiet the mind completely but rather to filter out the noise. If you find your thoughts wandering you can simply return to the now by refocussing on a particular colour or section. I have created a step-by-step guide to take you through the process which you can download here.

Upon entering a relaxed ‘alpha’ state your cognitive function can significantly improve, making it easier to solve problems and work on removing any negative blocks you may be experiencing. Placing pieces of art that you can get lost in around your home can also help to bring calm and create a relaxed atmosphere. Keep a small artwork by your workspace or hang a larger one above it. If you have space above the kitchen sink, or bathroom basin you can engage in visual meditation while doing the dishes or brushing your teeth.

While it may not replace medication for more serious conditions, finding a few minutes to be present throughout the day can make a big difference to your mental (and physical) state meaning art can be a valuable addition to your self-care toolkit.

About Kerry Hussain

Kerry Hussain is an intuitive artist based in London. She creates ‘paintings with purpose’ that help people to improve their wellbeing through the practice of visual meditation. Her unique brand, Art For The Soul was founded in 2020 and was born out of her own healing process from depression and trauma. She has previously written for Natural Health & Women’s Fitness and has featured in Real Homes, Soul & Spirit magazines.

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