• Lynn Cukaj

Spring Into Self-Compassion

By Lynn Cukaj, ATR-BC www.CreativeExpressionsConsulting.com

Art Therapy for Children, Teenagers and Adults


Despite winter lingering for another month or so, the sun is setting later in the day and we are continuously awarded with a few more moments of daylight. On some warmer mornings, we can even hear the birds sing; another promise of what is soon to come.


As we emerge from the winter months, we may start to feel the need to make a change in our lives. Perhaps we have been hibernating from our friends and had limited contact with some extended family. Some of us feel that it is just too cold to go outside for a walk. When the temperatures drop, we prefer to spend our evenings wearing pajamas, binging on Netflix, and scraping up the bottom of that Ben & Jerry's pint of ice cream.


This may be exactly what our mind and body needs during the winter, especially after a hectic holiday season. However, when the weather begins to warm, and the crocuses and daffodils start to pop through the soil beneath, we are lured outside to soak in the change in seasons. We begin to get back into our regular social patterns, spending more time with friends and family while enjoying the outdoors.

If this is not you, and you continue to isolate through the Spring, you may be experiencing something more serious than the “winter blues”. Social isolation could negatively impact your relationships and your mental wellbeing. Speaking with a therapist or engaging in Art Therapy and other creative activities may shed some light onto what is at the core of your choice to self-isolate.


As we transition into Spring, certain physical and mental activities can advance our personal growth and prepare us for the upcoming season. Connecting with friends and making plans or initiating new routines can spring us into action. If you feel yourself stuck, perhaps stepping outside your comfort zone may be the answer. This could mean joining a group of likeminded individuals for a hike or going on a solo bike ride. It may mean venturing into the city to explore a new museum. Many local schools or community centers have evening classes that can teach you something new, like cooking a specific cuisine, gardening, or learning how to play an instrument, for example. In the spirit of Art Therapy, you may choose to join an art or pottery class. If you have never experienced Art Therapy or a creative arts exercise, this may be the ideal time to try one out. Just like we discussed in our resolutions blog in the New Year, what is most important is to make a firm decision to do something and follow through with it. What we choose to do may not ultimately be what we are looking for, but it will help us find our direction.


“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” - Lewis Carrol, Alice and Wonderland


As we transition into Spring, it is also a good time to dedicate moments for self-compassion, self-care, mindfulness, and gratitude. As humans, we need to recognize that we are all fallible and each one of us is on our own individual journey. We share common thoughts and feelings but how we interpret, perceive, and process those thoughts and feelings is what makes us unique. We need to find what works for us in order to stay focused on the goal of bettering ourselves.


Self-compassion is when we treat ourselves the way we treat dear friends and family. The respect and love we show for them, we also show to ourselves. We are so quick to put ourselves down; we criticize our hair, skin, and body. We effortlessly compare ourselves with others. But do we criticize our friends and loved ones, especially when they are feeling vulnerable? No - we would never! Self-compassion encourages us to be kind and thoughtful to our feelings, the way we would be to others. It’s about taking the time to care for yourself every day, and especially in difficult times.

Art Therapy Activity: “Dear Me”

A "Dear Me" letter is written to yourself and offers you a moment of reflection by using your own words to offer self-compassion, kindness, love, and support. The goal is to speak to yourself in the same way you would speak to a loved one so we must therefore be mindful of our tone and choice of words. This is a good exercise for the evening before going to sleep. It is also recommended to dedicate a notebook to write your “Dear Me” letters and to keep it by your bedside.


Instructions: Write a “Dear Me” letter to yourself, acknowledging ways you could have treated yourself better during the day. Whether it is an apology for calling yourself “stupid” for forgetting to do something, or a moment of compassion for going through such a challenging time, this daily exercise is a chance to be kind to yourself. Below is just one example of a “Dear Me” letter:


Dear Me,

I have permission to feel my feelings.

I can be overwhelmed and frustrated. I am doing the best I can.

I can do hard things. I am strong.

I need to let go of being perfect.

Love, me


What are your plans for self-care and self-discovery this Spring? Please share your comments below as they may inspire some other people during this transitional time of year.


 

For more therapeutic activities and resources on how to incorporate Art Therapy into your life, read more from Lynn's Creative Expressions Blog.


Learn more about Art Therapy and Lynn Cukaj, Board Certified Art Therapist here: www.CreativeExpressionsConsulting.com