When we think of art therapy, we think of creating art – our emotions expressed through harsh brush strokes, the feeling of clay between our stressed palms, being soothed by colouring within the lines. But did you know that simply just viewing art can help us explore our emotions, cope with stress and develop self-awareness? Those who claim not to have a creative bone in their body can now breathe a sigh of relief.

Although art therapy doesn’t require you to be artistic or talented, it is still assuring to know that just the presence of art can contribute to better mental health. Looking at art has been proven to reduce stress levels, and has the brain releasing dopamine – providing the same feeling as falling in love. And like being in the outdoors, exploring an art gallery also helps with relieving mental exhaustion and restoring focus!

As cases continue to rise, we encourage you all to stay at home, but you can easily hop on an online tour with The Art Seni – a virtual experience that allows you to enjoy art, with the artists themselves, without having to leave the house. We asked founder, Aza Iza, how to pick up this hobby.

  1. When did you become interested in art? 

I was exposed to art at a very young age, but didn’t really think it’d be something I’d explore further. I just enjoyed it, that’s it. It was not until after high school where I started doing regular searches of ongoing art exhibitions/ art events for me to explore over the weekend or when I was free. At that time, I felt the need to always explore art. I always made sure I had something art-related to do over the weekend. It sort of became part of my routine!

 

  1. We love what you do with The Art Seni! What pushed you to start it?

The Art Seni started when I realised how difficult it was for me to gather information about art in Malaysia. I started getting frustrated with how sometimes I missed art exhibitions just because I had no information about it at all. The only source of art information at that time was the newspapers, magazines and some websites. All of the art information was so scattered. So, if I missed it, I missed it.

 

  1. As someone who is making art more accessible in Malaysia, what are the most common misconceptions you have come across?

It is an ongoing misconception all around the world that people think art is for the elite. However, in Malaysia where it is not as accessible, people find it even more intimidating to approach. Another common misconception is that many people think that art is only for art people, and that if they’re not part of it, they cannot explore it.

  1. Studies have shown that viewing art can have a positive impact on your health and wellbeing – do you find that to be true? How has it helped you personally?

Yes! Art does contribute to one’s health and wellbeing in so many different ways. For me, I think it definitely helped me cope with whatever I was going through throughout the years without me realising. I often find myself turning to art when there’s too much going on or when I just needed to recenter. Art is like my little hideout!

 

  1. How can one start exploring art – what do they need to know about the current scene here in Malaysia?

The visual art scene here in Malaysia is growing and has so much to offer. One can start by selecting a few galleries to visit from our weekly “On This Week” postings. People often find it difficult to navigate themselves through art galleries in KL and most of the time, are too intimidated to explore on their own. Alternatively, if they wish to explore art with a friend, they can join one of our art tours! 

Something we always tell people since day one is that you don’t need to know art to explore art because it is not only for “art people”. Art is for everyone! Follow us on our  social media platforms to stay art-to-date, or to simply start exploring art. We invite just about anyone of all ages and backgrounds to join us explore art!

 

Therapy is an immensely valuable tool for mental wellbeing that should be made more accessible – it can not only be costly, but Malaysia has suffered from a critical shortage of clinical psychologists. Traditional talk therapy, also known as psychotherapy, is the most widely used mental health service. However, if you’re not ready or able to do so, there are other ways you can process your emotions and feelings. Even if you’ve tried counselling and found it wasn’t for you, don’t feel bad because we all have different needs. Try exploring these mental health treatments instead:

 

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  1. Yoga Therapy
    Yoga therapy helps toimprove mental and physical health by using yoga postures, breathing exercises, meditation and guided visualisation. Its therapeutic focus covers a wide range of clinical methods that combineboth physical therapy and psychotherapy.
  2. Dance / Movement Therapy
    Dance therapy incorporates movement for a better understanding of self-awareness and self-esteem. By offering a space space to express your feelings, the treatment is beneficial for both physical and mental health.
  3. Music Therapy
    Conducted by a professional therapist, music therapy uses music to promote and sustain overall wellbeing. It involves a variety of musical activities, such as listening to music, singing and playing an instrument.

  4. Art Therapy
    You don’t need to be skilled to partake in art therapy – it just uses the creative process to help people build self-awareness, explore feelings, fix unresolved issues, enhance social skills and boost self-esteem.

  5. Writing Therapy
    Journal writing is a popular tool used by psychotherapists. This form of therapy addresses problems through journaling techniques and prompts to increase awareness and improve mental health conditions.

  6. Ecotherapy
    Also known as nature therapy, ecotherapy offers the opportunity to explore your relationship with nature. The positive impacts of interacting with nature has been illustrated by an increasing amount of research.

If you’re interested in trying any of these treatments, look for a practitioner in your area or ask your doctor for a recommendation. Remember – everyone is different, so be patient when figuring out what therapy works best for you. You may have to try a few or create a combination that suits your situation.