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Making with your hands to soothe your mind

Working with our hands betters our psychological health. Many manual activities, such as moulding, weaving, sculpting, sewing, painting, are known to stimulate the brain. They can help reduce stress, and better the neuronal plasticity. Our fine motricity and concentration are also getting better thanks to this crafts. It soothes the mind.

Dre Kelly G. Lambert

Behavioural scientist and author
She wrote the book Lifting Depression: A neuroscientist's hands-on approach to activating your brain's healing power

She works on neuroplasticity, that is the fact that our brain is always changing, and not carved in stone.
Basically, there are connections between neurons. These connections are influenced by our experience. We can produce new cells during our lifetime, and neurons have extensions to grab other neurons : these are synapses.
Our brain is plastic: it is malleable, it changes in respond to the demands of our interaction with our environment, and our thoughts also.

Also this article by Kelly G. Lambert , untiltled Depressing Easy, written in 2008, is very interesting in the understanding of this ability of the brain, and of the importance of the hands'use in our everyday life.
According to this article "the motor structures that control our movements are intimately connected to the reward center - where we register pleasure - and to the cortical area of our brain that controls higher thought processes. Because of the interconnectivity of the brain areas that control movement, emotion and thinking, doing activities that involve a number of these components fully engaged the effort-driven-rewards circuit."

Also : " The decreased brain activation associated with increasingly effortless-driven rewards may, over time, diminish your perception of control over your environment and increase your vulnerability to mental illnesses such as depression."

" What can we do to protect ourselves against the onset or tenacious persistence of depression ?
Poring over a scrapbook project or knitting a sweater may distract you from the stress in your life and engage your brain in intense ways that are beneficial to our mental health. [...] when you are faced with a challenge and embark on the dynamic process of deciding on an effective strategy, implementing the plan and observing the final desirable outcome, you brain take note of these situations so that it can access similar response strategies in the future."


What is art-therapy?

According to the CAIRN, art-therapy is "the support of people in need (psychological, physical, social or existencial) through their artistic productions : plastic, sonorous, theatrical, literary, corporal or danced pieces of art. This subtil work, which takes our vulnerabilities as a material, is less for the purpose of unveiling the inconscious significances of the productions and more for allowing the subject to recreate himself, to create again in a symbolistic path, from creation to creation. Art-therapy is then the art of projecting oneself into a piece of art as an enigmatic moving message, and to work on this piece of art to work on oneself. Art-therapy is a deflection to approch our self."

Interview with Nathalie Andry, Lyonnaise art-therapist

In the first place, the project was really oriented on approaching the topic of ecoanxiety with the participants of the workshop.
I changed little the angle of the workshop, enhancing the transmission on upcycling and recycling of waste fibers.

Nonetheless, I I am not trained in art-therapy at all, but I thought it could be interesting to have the feedback of an art-therapist to make my workshop safe.
I am not an art-therapist, there are training lessons to obtain this qualification.

I had the oppportunity and the pleasure to discuss the topic of art-therapy with Nathalie Andry.
Nathalie Andry is an art-therapist who works in the Clinique Lyon Lumière in Meyzieu, near Lyon. She accepted to answer my questions about the organization and management of the participants during the workshops. Here are some of the questions I asked her, and what she answered me.

Questions to ask:

Q: "I want to address the issue of eco-anxiety throughout my workshop. With this idea, I would like to start the workshop by telling that it comes from my own experience. I thought it could be a way to open a more free exchange, since people can identify and see that it is safe to talk about. Do you think it could be a good idea?"

Nathalie Andry answered me that starting from a personal point of view is okay, but only if we overcame this issue in our experience. Otherwise, it can generate some more anxiety in people's mind, other than sooting them. Since I am still feeling some anxiety due to the current environmental situation, it would be better to introduce the topic of eco-anxiety through a general perspective, having a speech directed towards already existing studies on the subject.
Also, highlighting the fact that it is normal as a citizen and as a human being to feel anxiety when facing such issues. Art-therapy is conveying the idea that everyone has room to express oneself. The individuality is very important.

Q: "I would like to let people write down some words about what they feel, and place them into the pebble. It would be a suggestion, not an obligation. It is linked to the wishing stones legend, saying that if you find a pebble with a specific natural drawing of lines in it, it can come true. Here, the idea is to express feelings and to let them into the cairn. It is like getting rid of a burden through writing. But also, I wanted people to be able to express what they hope for the future. Do you think it could be too touchy, or reactivating some feelings that would be too difficult to handle for a non-trained person? Or do you think that it is too personal?"

Nathalie Andry answered me that working with words is also something that is used in art-therapy. Putting feelings and sensations into words can bring some relief.

: "Also, I will talk about eco-anxiety, and what I want to display in this workshop is the fact that sometimes, being isolated with these feelings of guilt, anger, sadness, is part of the anxiety, because we can feel powerless. But together, we can build something. It is the main idea that I want to convey, added to the idea that sometimes actions are close to us and they can be simple and helping whatsoever. Also, eco-anxiety is the fact of seeing the urgency of change, and it can bring some issues in mind."

Q: "I would like to have some feedback after the workshop, in order to know if people were interested by it, and if is soothed their mind a little. Do you think it would be too difficult to ask such a thing when refering to a deep subject like eco-anxiety?"

Nathalie Andry gave me an idea: since my project is refering to textile, it would be coherent to give people a sample of materials with different textures. In the beginning of the workshop, they could choose the sample that they consider being the closer to their inner sensation. The same

Q: "Any way not to rush anyone if they are fragile on this topic?"

Nathalie Andry's answer was about the fact that it is important to frame the workshop's context for the participants, for them to be able to express themselves. I shall explain very clearly that this workshop isn't a therapical one, that it isn't a psychological care workshop.
Organizing the workshop could take the following shape:

- Introducing myself   
- Explaining how the workshop works and the purpose of it.   
- Let a talk time in the beginning and the ending of the workshop if people want it.

Results of my thinking after these researches

After doing two workshops, I realized that talking about eco-anxiety in an objective and reassuring way was too complicated for me. I have to acknowledge that I am still too vulnerable to be able to deep dive into the subject without playing too much a role of teacher or therapist, and I am neither trained in this process, nor I want to play this part.

I decided to reorient my main subject of the workshop, by lessing the importance of the theorical approach on eco-anxiety, and by enhancing the practice of a handicraft using waste becoming ressources with the workshop. Afterall, practicing the felting technique and process, and feeling the positive feelings and sensations that it brings in oneself is what I aim with these workshop ; it is the core of it.
By highlighting the practical and concrete concept of up-cycling fibers of the everyday life, my goal is to grab the attention of people who would like to dive into this topic.

Last update: 2023-03-26