2017

Happy New Year

so far, so good.

resolutions? the same thing I resolve to do every day – try. Try to be consistent; try to go easy on myself when I’m not consistent; try to be a better person; try to make the world a better place (yes, I believe everyone can); try to raise amazing kids (they are definitely amazing); try to be healthy (eating, exercise, meditation); try to be like Yoda, “there is no try, only do”…

 

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I’m still trying to find my word for 2017. Maybe it’s “try”. That doesn’t sound very powerful or impactful. But maybe it is. Maybe it is the most powerful because it can be so difficult to get up each day and try again. It can seem futile to keep trying when things are difficult, but that’s when it’s most important to do so – to keep trying. Each day – each minute, second – is a new opportunity to try to be your best. Hmm, I think I’m approaching this from a very mindful mindset – maybe all the ’trying’ to meditate and ’trying’ to be mindful has actually been way more effective than I realized.

 

I will try. I will continue to try each day – each moment – to be the best version of myself. To be authentically and unapologetically myself.

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Mindfulness in Action

Mindfulness

The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something

 

I’ve been intentionally practicing mindfulness a lot in the past few months because I know how important it is to regulate my own stress levels. The benefits of mindfulness have been researched and include improved overall well-being, reduced pain, and enhanced empathy.

Mindfulness is something I bring to my art therapy practice with the intention of teaching my clients skills they can use on a daily basis. For example – The 5 Senses Mindfulness Exercise to help you focus on the present moment; and Daily Visual Journal techniques for when you have some time at your desk or in the morning before you start your day.

But do these things really work? I like to know something works – to measure it – but it can be difficult to measure whether or not your mindfulness practice is helping. Keeping a daily journal and making a note of how you feel during a stressful moment and what you did to relax can be a helpful way to measure the effects of your mindfulness, but remember it takes time and repetition to create lasting changes.

In The Science of Mindfulness article Dr. Daniel Seigal states:

“Studies show that the ways we intentionally shape our internal focus of attention in mindfulness practice induces a state of brain activation during the practice. With repetition, an intentionally created state can become an enduring trait of the individual as reflected in long-term changes in brain function and structure. This is a fundamental property of neuroplasticity—how the brain changes in response to experience. Here, the experience is the focus of attention in a particular manner.”

I recently gave a presentation on art therapy and mindfulness to a small group. The presentation was being recorded and I was a little nervous. I practiced deep breathing beforehand and the 5 Senses Mindfulness exercise to focus my attention on the present moment. Once I began speaking and showing a few slides I realized I was more relaxed than I’ve been in the past when giving a presentation.

I even remained relaxed and improvised when my short video demonstrations that I thought were embedded in the slide show presentation were not. I had spent a good amount of time creating the videos and choosing soothing music to play along with it and was proud of this part of the presentation. But my disappointment in not being able to share those videos was extremely brief – I just moved right along and did a live demonstration instead.

Then, close to the end of my slides a few maintenance guys came to remove the TV so they could install it in the new office that this group was moving to across the street. Literally, my slide was up on the screen and I was talking to the group and then there was the sound of a drill behind my head while three guys disassembled the large flat screen and took it off the wall. They even asked me to have everyone move while they walked the TV out of the room.

None of this bothered me! We all just went with the flow and joked about how this is out of our control so why worry about it – nothing we can do. It was actually a great way to model mindfulness in action. I kept my presentation going until the end without any problem. This was proof to me that practicing mindfulness on a regular basis is incredibly helpful – a year ago I was have been so flustered and felt uncomfortable about the situation. I wouldn’t have planned for the glitches in my presentation, but I’m glad they happened so I could experience first hand how much I have benefited from my mindfulness practice.

 

When you’re feeling stressed out, try this…

5 senses mindfulness exercise

5 senses mindfulness exercise
5 senses mindfulness exercise

The purpose of this mindfulness exercise is to help center yourself in the present moment. When anxiety strikes: your heart racing, palms sweaty, thoughts spiraling … This is something you can try – you don’t have to close your eyes or be alone or anything – it’s an exercise to do right where you are.

Take a few deep breaths, then notice:

5 things you can see – look around and identify 5 things you may not have noticed at first

4 things you can hear – identify 4 sounds you didn’t notice right away – listen to how they sound together – like a mini symphony

3 things you can feel – this could be a sensation on your skin like a breeze, the texture of your clothes, your shoes…

2 things you can smell – try to identify 2 things you can smell – hopefully they’re pleasant like perfume or food you like

1 thing you can taste – this one can be difficult but give it a try.

The idea of this exercise is to force your mind to focus on the present moment and calm your mind. Next time you find your mind racing, try this exercise or some variation of it and see how it helps.

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Finding Joy Through Art

The Joy Factor Podcast

I’m excited to share that I was interviewed by Julie Hanson for her podcast The Joy Factor – “a podcast for anyone with a desire to create more joy in their lives”. She contacted me after seeing my work as an art therapist and my Daily Visual Journal project.

Please listen to the episode, share it, and write a review if you have the time. With all the bad news we hear I think it’s pretty great that this podcast is focusing on ways to find joy in the midst of it all.

http://thejoyfactorpodcast.com/kelly-darke/

This was a great conversation. We talk about what brings joy, what steals joy, parenting, and making art everyday. Please listen and share your thoughts.

 

Daily Visual Journal online workshop

Daily Visual Journal

The daily act of creating art is meditative, stress reducing, and fun! Daily Visual Journal is a self-care journal that incorporates images, color, texture, and words to uniquely capture your personal expressions. Using various materials such as papers, magazine images, markers, paint, and words – we will create a visual expression of today. On the flip side of your card, you are encouraged to write a response reflecting on the days visual journal image and / or the process. Daily Visual Journal

Self-care consists of intentionally doing something that improves your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. This is different for everyone. Personally, I like making art. Making art helps reduce my anxiety and connects me to myself in a way I can’t completely explain. My Daily Visual Journal online workshop is a way for me to share this experience and encourage others to begin their own self-care routine. Sometimes a routine is better kept with the support of our friends.

The Daily Visual Journal online workshop is more than just technique lessons. It is a safe place to share work and discuss our struggles and successes of the day – it is a way to connect with others that also want to mindfully create art each day for their own self-care.

What you receive with the Daily Visual Journal online workshops:
•    Weekly technique to use in your DVJ
•    A private discussion board to share and discuss personal struggles and triumphs. This is a safe place and will be monitored. Consider this a support group – what is said in the discussion forum, stays in the discussion forum. Use at your discretion. I will have a list of further resources (or help find them) for anyone who is looking for in person individual therapy, group therapy, or support groups.
•    Discount to order supplies through my website
•    Monthly live chats
•    Occasional video demonstrations
•    Bonuses: variations on techniques; giveaways
•    Access to me through the discussion forum for support and guidance

Expectations for using the discussion board:
•    This is not my private server, so share personal information at your discretion
•    Be kind to others or you will lose discussion board privileges
•    This is a place to support and encourage each other and I have a zero tolerance policy towards any hateful comments. Any one posting hateful or deliberately hurtful words will be removed from the workshop and reported.

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Daily Visual Journal
My Daily Visual Journal Story

I started a daily visual journal in 2005 to record my feelings about events happening in my life. I was in graduate school for education, working towards my masters in art therapy as well as a K-12 art teaching certificate. It was a busy schedule. My visual journal was often sporadic, with weeks and months between entries. So, on June 5th, 2009 I decided to start creating a visual journal on individual pieces of paper. This gave me a little more freedom with techniques since the “pages” were not bound together. I now have hundreds of these journal pages and I love to look through them and read my self reflection on the back of each card. It is a beautiful way to look back in time.

I’ve never been good at keeping a journal or diary – it always felt like a boring list of the day: “…today was rainy and I read a book and ate cereal for breakfast…” so the idea of a visual journal gave me hope. I always liked the idea of documenting my life, but never thought it was interesting enough to share. Although, now I am convinced everyone has an interesting life worth sharing  – everyones story is unique and can only be told in their own unique voice. With images the story is visceral – not all of it can be explained – nor does it need to be explained. You may want to create an art journal and this book gives you techniques to experiment with – your journal is your place of discovery – discovery of yourself and your visual voice.

Each technique is followed by a self reflection prompt for you to think about and write about on the backside of your visual journal. Sometimes while creating a visual journal I have a thought in mind and it informs the artwork, other times I’m just playing with technique and process. This written portion does not need to be completed immediately, sometimes the idea occurs to you much later and a self reflection is obvious. Other times, you may feel no need to respond at all.

Remember, this process is for you and you may have your own routine and ideas to make it work. Great! Use these Daily Visual Journal techniques and ideas as an inspiration for your own work. I would love to see what you create your Daily Visual Journal! Please, share your work and ideas – share your self-care routine and keep creating!

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Daily Visual Journal

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