Art therapy is a great way to use one’s creativity to explore self-expression and provides a safe outlet to relieve emotions, giving a sense of control over life.

These are the comments of Fiji National University (FNU) Counsellor Kantha Mani, who said research showed that techniques used in art therapy have a positive impact on mental health. Some of the techniques used in art therapy include drawing, painting, colouring, sculpting, or collage making. 

“Anyone who feels overwhelmed or pressured should try art therapy. Creating art will give you a chance to slow down and explore any issues you may be facing,” said Mani. 

“We have introduced art therapy activities, including mural painting, henna, nail, paper and food art and rangoli designs. Rangoli is an art form from India, whereby patterns are created on the floor using materials such as coloured rice, sand or flower petals.”

 “Art therapy activities aim to increase self-esteem, manage behaviours and process feelings while reducing stress and anxiety.” Regardless of whether one chooses to create art or observe it, Mani said, art is an inspiring and relaxing activity to many people. 

“Mural and other art activities that students participated in intends to create awareness that art, any type, can be useful to release negative emotions and feelings such as stress, anxiety and depression. 

It is a great way to express your feelings and process complex feelings for relief,” she said. Five students undertaking the Bachelor of Education (Secondary) (Physical Education and Art and Craft) programme have created a mural on the concept Ask, Listen, Motivate, Ask again’ (ALMA) initiative. 

Mani emphasised to trainee teachers that they could use art therapy in managing students’ behaviour during their teaching career. “You embark on a journey of self-discovery when you are creating art.

This therapeutic process assists you to eliminate emotional roadblocks while enabling you to communicate better with yourself and others,” said Counsellor Mani. According to Mani, one does not have to be an artist to explore a creative self. 

“You have to be motivated enough to explore your creative flair. Anything from a henna tube to a rangoli powder can be as creative as a paintbrush. Expressing yourself through art can be self-revealing,” she said. Bachelor of Education (Home Economics) students Shinal Sharma and Ashmita Kushal, through their rangoli design, tried to unleash their creativity and make them feel happy. “For Ashmita and I, designing rangoli has a calming effect on us, making us more comfortable and happier. It is a form of release from the buildup of daily hassles. A feeling of joy, generosity and strength begins to flow through when we are creating our designs,” said Sharma. Colleague, Iva Tabuakerei said she was thrilled to witness the various art forms, and she especially enjoyed the henna design. (a form of body art and temporary skin decoration which originated from India). “As an i-Taukei, I had always admired henna designs shown in Bollywood movies, Indian weddings and cultural events. It relaxes me, gives me a sense of joy and a good relationship with myself and others. I am so thankful to my friend Shayal for doing my henna,” she said. Second-year Bachelor of Education (Home Economics) student, Shayal Shristi Kumar said although she was not a nail art expert, she enjoys playing with nail colours as it gave her a soothing feeling. “Colours can affect our mood and how one feels. While having a fresh manicure can instantly make one feel better, the specific colour and design of your nail art can impact your emotional state too,” she said. World Mental Health Day is marked annually on 10 October.

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