boost mental health with self compassion and painting
Drawing of Hank by my very talented husband Phil!

“How are you?”

There’s a line in Finding Dory (my toddlers’ favourite film right now) where the grumpy octopus, Hank, complains:

I hate chatter. “How are you?” “Oh I’m fine. How are you?” “Oh I’m fine too.”
NEWSFLASH: Nobody’s fine!

This makes me giggle every time we watch it, because I can really relate to this sentiment – especially at the moment with the pandemic unfolding. 

We all need a little help right now.  

The focus of this post was going to be about how painting can boost mental health.

But for lots of us, there’s a step that needs to come first around admitting we’re not actually FINE and allowing ourselves to prioritise activities such as painting that can really help us to feel better.

Self compassion is key

I’ve noticed this happen a lot recently: I’ll be talking to friends who are experiencing real challenges relating to the pandemic that are seriously testing their emotional reserves. But, because they are not dealing with a loved one dying from Covid, and they haven’t lost their job to it, or any of the many other ways people are suffering right now, they don’t feel they have a right to complain, to others, or even to themselves. 

I get it, it’s very important to keep a sense of perspective. And it’s wonderful if we can access gratitude for the ways things are going well, however small.

But if we’re not careful, thinking this way serves to shut our emotions down and invalidate them, when what we need is empathy and compassion, from ourselves and others, to feel better.

As Brené Brown writes in Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead:

“Empathy is not finite, and compassion is not a pizza with eight slices. When you practice empathy and compassion with someone, there is not less of these qualities to go around. There’s more. Love is the last thing we need to ration in this world. The refugee in Syria doesn’t benefit more if you conserve your kindness only for her and withhold it from your neighbor who’s going through a divorce. Yes, perspective is critical. But I’m a firm believer that complaining is okay as long as we piss and moan with a little perspective. Hurt is hurt, and every time we honor our own struggle and the struggles of others by responding with empathy and compassion, the healing that results affects all of us.”

I love this way of looking at things. 

But many of us struggle with giving ourselves empathy and compassion. In fact some of us even experience a harsh inner critic who tells us to “Buck up, get on with it, other people have it far worse!”. Coming from that place, looking after ourselves becomes tricky.

But self compassion can be worked on. As Hilary Jacobs Hendel writes in her groundbreaking and sanity saving book, It’s Not Always Depression:

“Self compassion does not come easy for most of us. However, people who relate to themselves with compassion and acceptance feel better. Just think: When you are upset, do you generally feel better when you are treated with understanding, acceptance, and compassion or harshness and judgement? Our brains calm down when we feel safe, seen and accepted.”

An experiment with self compassion

Hilary Jacobs Hendel urges us to try this experiment (which she’s kindly allowed me to reproduce here):

Think of a recent event or memory that brought up hard feelings. 
Write it down.

 

Ask yourself what you would say or do to comfort a beloved friend who experienced the same thing and felt the same way as you. 

Write it down.

 

Once you access the compassion that you imagined giving to someone else, experiment with turning that compassion inward toward that part of you that was suffering recently. Actually try directing the comforting words or directing the comforting actions you wrote down to that part of you that was hurting. Give yourself unconditional permission to take in that compassion.

 

Breathe deeply. Use your imagination to breathe in the compassion and breathe out any distress. Notice your body and mind’s response to this. If you find the exercise challenging, that’s fine. It just means you are really doing it. Self compassion can be very difficult!

 

Write down two words that describe your response to this experiment (your thoughts, feelings or any bodily sensations you notice). Many people feel warm or more relaxed when they let in self-compassion. 

Look after yourself by making time to paint

Ok so now we’ve acknowledged that we have been having a tough time, and that there’s more of it to come (hello winter!), it’s time to act like that beloved friend to ourselves and encourage ourselves to take pre-emptive actions to really take care of our mental health.

Giving ourselves permission to do this might feel difficult. But if you take care of yourself, you’ll be in a better position to support others when they need it too. Remember: you can’t pour from an empty cup. 

For us arty types, painting can be a key part of the equation. And thank goodness, it’s a Covid-friendly activity. 

I know from my own life that when I lived through cancer, divorce and IVF, painting really helped me. But don’t just take my word that painting can boost mental health; the science backs this up, as does the experience of many members of my online school, who’ve kindly allowed me to share their experiences with you below.

3 ways painting can boost mental health

1) Painting helps us to switch off from our worries

The top way that members of my online School said painting helps with their mental health is that it offers them a refuge to switch off and forget about whatever is troubling them for a while.

Painting is a form of meditation or mindfulness. By bringing our attention to just one thing – the subject we’re painting – we close the door to thoughts of worry or anxiety. We become more present in the moment. 

Meditation has been shown to have numerous positive effects which boost mental health, very similar to the ones reported by my online School members: 

“Painting puts me into a meditative state where I can forget about the world. I forget about everything this life has handed me and I go into zen mode and the heaviness in my brain disappears. When I am finished with me-time, I feel refreshed and full of energy.”

 

“I have PTSD and so forth. Your tutorials help stop my brain from working overtime. It offers me a welcomed break. There is something about creating a painting and seeing the colours come together that is very therapeutic. I think it is essential to find something that fills your cup. That gives us joy and a sense of accomplishment.”

 

“Painting has been an absorbing activity that distracts the mind from these troubling times in a positive way.”

 

“When I am occupied in a productive way, I am less likely to be troubled by the idea of being home-bound and missing my former activities and interactions”

 

“I signed up to your classes during lockdown as I was getting down about not seeing my family, friends and especially Grandchildren. My husband has also been diagnosed with cancer which is an anxious time for us. Painting has kept me sane for the last 6 months. I love how you forget everything else whilst painting. It gives you a sense of achievement and I’ve always got something to do to distract me from any worries.”

As my School members have described, painting helps us to find our ‘flow state’, where time disappears and our worries seem to melt away.

This is because painting engages our spontaneous, imaginative ‘right brain’, which has the effect of disengaging our overthinking, anxiety-prone left brain. If you find that painting isn’t having this effect for you, try this technique to quieten your left brain.

2) Painting can reduce stress and improve our mood

The ability to switch off from our worries and anxious thoughts can have a powerful impact on lowering our stress levels. 

The way that painting reduces stress is to elicit the ‘relaxation response’. 

You have most likely heard of the stress response, also known as ‘fight or flight’. But it’s lesser known that the stress response is one of two competing physiological responses that counterbalance each other on an ongoing basis.

The relaxation response is the arch-nemesis of stress. 

When we’re stressed, our heart rate and blood pressure increase. But carrying out activities which bring on the relaxation response has been scientifically shown to decrease our heart rate and blood pressure, and also to reduce our levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.

If that’s not enough, there’s also scientific evidence that making space in our day for creativity can put us into a more positive mood.  

I certainly notice these responses in myself when I find time to paint. Here’s what my members say about their own experiences:

“I believe with all my heart that painting provides me with an active way to fight feelings of anxiety and depression, remembering that I am more than the problems around me. Painting offers precious hours of peace and rest. This is where I disengage from usual obligations to indulge in something that brings great joy and ignites my passions.”

 

“Painting is the best way for me to unwind from my daily routine and step away from the stress. [It allows] me to engage my talents and fully engage myself in something I love. It provides hours of quality time where I can focus on something other than depressing and concerning circumstances. I come away feeling more relaxed and better equipped to handle life’s many stressors.”

 

“I am a special education teacher to the most severe and profound children with special needs. Painting has kept me sane! At the end of the day, no matter what stress and challenges I have endured, I come home and paint. Painting gives my soul a refuge. One that is always there for me.”

3) Developing our painting skills builds self esteem in the longer term

Seeing our skills develop in something makes us feel good and builds our internal sense of self-worth. 

But we don’t need to wait for our skills to grow to feel good about ourselves.  It’s been shown that just the act of engaging in the creative arts can improve our self-esteem and boost mental health, even when we start in the later years of our lives.

I love seeing the self-esteem of my School members grow as their painting skills develop. Here’s what some of them say about it:

“My counsellor suggested an art class and that’s where my journey started. I joined a 6 week class, getting out and meeting new people was the first positive step. I watched tutorials on YouTube, bought some books on watercolour painting and eventually stumbled upon Anna’s School. The positive feedback I got from family and friends about my paintings really boosted my confidence and gave me a feeling of self worth.”

 

“Observing my progress or achieving a good result is especially satisfying and provides encouragement. If we keep trying and don’t give up, things will get better!”

 

“When we do finally come out of this thing, I will have used the time to develop a new skill. I am determined to make the best use possible of this forced sabbatical!”

If your self-esteem could do with a bit of a boost, choose something such as painting to focus on, and work to build your skills in one specific area. 

And the bonus: lowering stress may boost our immune systems

The mind-body connection is very real, and stress is listed as a contributory factor of most of the major illnesses.

It’s been found that cortisol (that pesky stress hormone) has immunosuppressive properties that cause a delayed immune response. 

Taking proactive steps to make painting part of your daily life could help you to manage stressful events when they happen. This in turn should help to regulate your cortisol levels, and keep your immune system in better shape.

Some of my members even reported that painting helps them to have a better quality of sleep:

“I find that painting helps to lower my blood pressure. Am able to relax and sleep better and it is helping me to “focus”. Surprised when I first started, how hard it was to sit and focus but that is getting better.”

 

“I notice that when I engage my right brain in painting/drawing during the day, which gives my overactive and anxiety prone left brain a rest, my overall sleep habits improve. But when stress overcomes everything and I find myself staring at the ceiling at 2 AM, grabbing my sketch book or working on a painting for 30-40 minutes allows me to sleep again… Painting along with regular walks outside have saved me from the isolation we are living through. ”

Sleep has been found to have a very close connection with mental health, and studies have shown that improved sleep can boost mental health.

I hope that this post has given you pause to think about how you can be kind to yourself right now, and how you might want to prioritise painting in your daily life to help boost your mental health, now, and into the future.

Have you turned to painting and creativity during times of stress, overwhelming emotions, or poor mental health? How have you found that it has helped you? 

Please share your own experiences in the comments below. It’s so important that we speak openly about how we’re feeling, for our own sake and to let others know that they are not alone in the world because 

NEWSFLASH: Nobody’s fine!

60 Comments
  1. Barbara Kulas 3 weeks ago

    During a call with my sister, she asked if I was going to paint a christmas card this year.. I’ve enjoyed sending original watercolor cards for almost 7yrs. This year my husband’s cancer, along with the pandemic and my own arthritis have kept me from painting, BUT, thanks to my sister I thought “why not?” Why waste these days? Why not continue to send joy to others? Painting takes me to a special place full of color and life!

    • Adriane 3 weeks ago

      So happy you made that decision Barbara. I don’t want to start a project sometimes because I feel overwhelmed in life and think how can I take on this project and do it well and give it my all? I then find out that it was just what I needed to take my mind off other things and I enjoyed that time I gave myself to create!

  2. Deb 3 weeks ago

    Very insightful!! Thank you!

  3. Anne Maree 3 weeks ago

    Painting has changed my life in so many ways. Even though art has been my life’s work, it was never me doing the painting. When I pushed my self-doubt aside and tried my first painting, it’s like I have found new eyes. Looking has become a joy. Simple subjects take on drama and complicated scenes seem to break apart into manageable shapes and colors. Anna, your turtorial classes are a great way to learn to look. Your blog and the community you afford us students are invaluable tools to preserve sanity. Thank you, Thank you and thank your family for sharing you with us.

    • Author
      Anna Mason 3 weeks ago

      Thanks for sharing this Anne. You’re right, looking is a huge part of painting and a real joy.

  4. Laurie Kopp 3 weeks ago

    This article came at a great time for me. It is Election Day and I’m frightened for what may happen in this country in the days ahead. My daughters, who live in cities with extremely high Covid rates, and I are trying to decide what to do about Thanksgivingband Christmas this year. We worry about the pandemic, yet we feel, for our mental health, that we need to be together as it has been months. We also have a 5 month old grandson we want to see. All of this brings mental stress and anxiety.

    Painting is my escape from thinking about this. I’ve even tried a few paint by number kits. I’ll be buying them as gifts for those who are really stressed as they are so easy and stress free. Plus it’s ok if you paint outside of the lines.

    Laurie

    • Cinny 3 weeks ago

      So totally true Laurie…..Election Day here has become quite the stress event, in fact the whole election has. I’ll be spending most of today in my studio with nothing on but an audio book and painting the day away. It’s in the hands of God now

      We too are worried about the coming months. We have been blessed that the family has. been safe and very proactive. Luckily all 4 of my kids and 2 and a half grandchildren live here and have been very careful as well so we all plan on spending Thanksgiving and Christmas together. We know how lucky we are.

      BTW the “half” grandchild refers to one being born in April 2021. Having a daughter who’s pregnant during this time is another stresser. I’ve been painting pictures for her nursery and we’ve both enjoyed that.

      Hang in there and keep painting!!

  5. Anne Galloway 3 weeks ago

    Thank you Anna. This came along at the right time. I was about to give up on watercolour painting as I struggled and failed with the Autumn Leaf tutorial. Just thought this wasn’t for me. However your kind words have felt like a cosy wrap around.

  6. Jo Ann Rom 3 weeks ago

    Thanks Anna for your compassion. Yes, this has been a very difficult year for the world. But I have faith that the scientists will have a vacine. We have to be very patient when it comes to virus that affect humans. I have been praying everyday that things will get better, but it take time and lots of research. But in the mean time, I have been getting ready to paint a horse that belongs to a friend and then I will continue going through the list of pieces that you provide students. I just love the challenges. Our weather here in Arizona is just gorgeous this time of year with the sun out everyday and the temps in the 80’s, which is perfect.

    So as my Mom would say, this to shall pass and give yourself the strength you need from your prayers.

  7. Marion de Leeuw 3 weeks ago

    Thanks Anna,
    You lifted me up. I am going to clear my desk and start painting.
    Happy painting for all of you..

  8. Cheryl 3 weeks ago

    I have had alot going on in my life lately, but now things are calming down a little. (My daughter, son in law and 2 grandsons just moved away today). So now is the time I think I’m going to get my paints out and create some Christmas cards for my friends and family. Last year I didn’t sent out any cards because my husband died unexpectedly the day before Thanksgiving. This year I want to do that. I hope everyone makes time for themselves during these really uneasy times. Hugs to you all!

    • Author
      Anna Mason 3 weeks ago

      I’m sorry to hear of your loss last year Cheryl. I’m pleased though that you are now feeling like creating some Christmas cards – that’s a lovely idea.

  9. Paula 3 weeks ago

    The last six months have been hard on me. My husband left me on my daughter’s doorstep and it has been a major adjustment. Between that, the pandemic and the uncertain political situation, I’ve had serious anxiety and moderate depression. At 70, with major health issues, I am unable to work. Signing up for these classes, was an attempt to give me a focus and get me back into painting. Sadly, I haven’t even started yet. Today, I will be working on setting up a project for my Daisy troop and once that is done, I’m going to start my first class. No matter how badly my arthritic fingers impact my painting I’m going to persevere. I wish you all good health. Thank you Anne, for being such an inspiration. It is greatly appreciated.

    • Author
      Anna Mason 3 weeks ago

      What a time you have had Paula. I like the kindness you are showing yourself with your promise to take the classes. Keep that kindness up as you begin and know it’s always hardest at the beginning!

  10. Frances White 3 weeks ago

    Thank you for your blog which always gives food for thought. Your tips on painting have helped me tremendously.
    Season greetings and be blessed to continue your good works.

  11. Diane Sloan 3 weeks ago

    Love your information! Better yet, your positive outlook on life.
    Thank you,
    Diane

  12. Jan Smith 3 weeks ago

    I recently had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. Going through that & trying to cope with the pandemic could have been very stressful for me. However, during my recovery I was able to take the time to do the things I love, which is paint, create cards & to scrapbook. This was such a relaxing way for me to heal and I am grateful to my family for their love & support.

    • Author
      Anna Mason 3 weeks ago

      I’m so pleased you were able to take a positive from such a difficult thing to go through – I do hope the surgery was totally successful Jan.

  13. Kim Budweg 3 weeks ago

    For the first time in months I picked up a paintbrush. I redid the picture 5 times till I was happy. The best part was being able to hate it and ripping it up.. painting is my Therapy!

  14. Grete Lepperød 3 weeks ago

    Thank you ever so much., Anna. I really needed that. it is getting quite dark here, with winter and all, it actually goes a bit dark inside as well. I have gone through a divorce several years ago, have a cronic blood cancer to live with, and have not been able to keep my job.
    I cannot thank enough for how this painting art class has changed my life just in a few months. Unbelievable!I wake up to a purpose now, to something to look forward to. THANK YOU !

    • Philippa 3 weeks ago

      Sending you lots of hugs Grete. I look forward to seeing your artwork.

    • Author
      Anna Mason 3 weeks ago

      Grete, I’m thrilled to have helped you access your creativity like this and to help keep your spirits up with all you are coping with. Be sure to post your pictures in the School website.

  15. Bea 3 weeks ago

    So insightful! Thanks for sharing.

  16. Giseli R Vargas 3 weeks ago

    I didn’t sleep this night, I doubt I will.sleep this one again. I fear for my.family and friends. We are supposed to live in a democracy, but I fear election day. Strength for all of us.

  17. Kris Mason 3 weeks ago

    I have dealt with anxiety for many years but it really hit hard about four years ago after the last election and when my job became very stressful. My mom was suffering from dementia and my husband started to suffer even more from the effects of Agent Orange from when he was in Vietnam. I couldn’t deal with everything and I had to retire from a job I loved and devote more time to my family. I knew then that I had to isolate myself from the craziness and do something for me and I saw your pear tutorial online. I have always loved art but never ventured into watercolor. I loved it from the first brush stroke and realized it brought calm to my life even though it was for a short time during the day or week. My mom passed before the pandemic and my husband just died in September. I’m now adjusting to living in a big, quiet house and my drawings and watercolors are filling in the lonely times and bringing contentment to my life.
    Thank you, Anna, for the great classes you offer and your commitment to helping us all with our mental health.

    • Anne Galloway 3 weeks ago

      Lots of compassion Kris. So sorry to hear of your losses.

      Big hugs.
      Anne

    • Author
      Anna Mason 3 weeks ago

      Kris, I’m so sorry for your loss. It must be so hard. You’re such an active member of our community – lifting the spirits of others with your paintings and your comments. I hope we can all keep you company through this sad time.

  18. Chris Fraser 3 weeks ago

    Thank you so much for this wonderful post Anna! I am part of your school and have felt that I’ve been ‘missing’ these past few months. Back in March, I was going great guns. Going to get so much done, use this time…that sort of thing. And then things just petered out and I lost my painting mojo. However, just recently I’m back at it. I know the creative spirit is something that I ‘need’ to fulfil. Yes, it is getting dark here and the winters are long in Canada, but after reading your words I feel truly inspired because you’ve just voiced what I do know in my heart. Painting is balm to the soul.

    • Author
      Anna Mason 3 weeks ago

      Our motivation often comes in cycles like this Chris, and that’s OK. Just go with it and get those brushes out now! 🙂

  19. Sandra Torento 3 weeks ago

    Hi Anna, I’m retired and have been painting for a year and a half. I enjoy it and thank you for reminding me of how how much it does help with stress. I haven’t painted for a month due to cataract surgery( which I was nervous to have due to covid) but now I’m ready to start again. One thing about painting is sometimes when I paint I come down on myself because I feel it looks so bad but I keep going and before I know it, it starts to look like it’s all coming together and it makes me feel good and if it doesn’t work out well I am doing better at not stressing about it. I do have posture problems and sometimes I get into painting so much that I stay seated to long which is not good for anyone. So I need to remind myself to stand up and stretch every 15 minutes. I live in New Hampshire U.S. and winter is upon us but I walk out in my yard and try to connect with nature it’s helpful. My daughters don’t live with us and in the warm weather we were able to social distance out side but right now we can’t have them inside and it hurts. I pray just like everyone for this to go away. Also this election in the US is very stressful and crazy so painting helps with that. Thank you so much for caring about all of us and all the kind things you say. Please take care.

  20. Rhett Campbell 3 weeks ago

    Anna, your school, blog, emails are so much more that painting instructions. I am so very thankful that your online work, words, sharing are a part of my life. You are a blessing and I am very grateful. Thank you, Rhett

  21. Ann Henshaw 3 weeks ago

    Thank you Anna very much for your interesting & inspirational email. It couldn’t have come at a better time for me – although, I shall get to read it all properly full soon. My 33yr old grandson rang me earlier today, to say he has been diagnosed with cancer & awaiting surgery.Needless. to say, we are all in shock. After a very difficult year of losing my husband & nephew last October, we were all just coming to terms with a difficult year. However, my
    family will again. gather up our courage to support each other once again. Thankfully, we all have our hobbies to turn to & that will be indeed blessing for us all eventually. . I have one painting already started & several pieces of work already prepped.
    Thank you Anna, for your gift of art you so readily share , your kindness & so many aspects of the school in which we can all participate. It all helps to care for mental health. Ann X

    • Author
      Anna Mason 3 weeks ago

      Oh gosh Ann, I’m so sorry to hear of your losses, and of your Grandson’s news, I wish him the speediest of recoveries. Do keep painting through this and know that the school community is here for you too!

      • Ann 3 weeks ago

        Thank you so much Anna for your kindness, which is very much appreciated. x

  22. Clare Drabble 3 weeks ago

    I agree with you completely Anna, painting is a very beneficial pastime.

    I suffer from severe chronic pain and find working with colour helps a lot. I stitched for many years but can no longer do this due to surgery that didn’t go to plan. Thus painting was my next venture and I love it!

    I have only been a member for about 10 days but have benefited no end from your tutorials and love your pictures. I have hopefully already improved my technique, which is a morale boost in itself and I look forward to getting up in the morning so that I can try another tutorial.

    Thank you for creating such a lovely art school!

  23. Barbara Bradley 3 weeks ago

    Oh Anna, you called it! One of my favorite sayings is, “Love multiplies, it doesn’t divide.” Sometimes we reach our limit and have to pause and re-evaluate what is most important to us, don’t we? Your point is well taken. We MUST take care of ourselves in order to take care of those we love and care for. As women, however, it seems that it’s more in our nature to just give, give, give, without taking the time to do what’s best for ourselves.

    Painting sometimes seems like an indulgence, but it’s really not. It’s calming and soothing for the soul. As a perfectionist, I struggle to relax into it and not be so hard on myself if it isn’t a great result. But by persisting, getting through the “ugly stage”, I’m able to pleasantly surprise myself. This has happened so many times since I joined your group in January 2020, that I’ve begun to expect it now, knowing that I can get beyond it.

    When I was a girl, I learned to sew. I loved making my own clothes because I could pick out the fabric, color, style and design, while making it fit me just right. Painting is just like that! Who knew?!?! You can paint what you want, pick out the colors, size and style, and just create it for yourself. Fun!

    Thank you for sharing your gift with us. It’s such a pleasure to learn from you. You’re a delightful young woman, with a wonderful talent. Here’s wishing you much success and happiness.

  24. Jennifer 3 weeks ago

    It’s been quite awful this year for everyone and for some far worse than others, so I’m feeling that my experience isn’t that bad. My hearing deteriorated badly just as we went into lock down and I couldn’t get an appointment to get new hearing aids, so I’ve been unable to continue with the painting course since March, thankfully normal service has been resumed with newly aquired hearing aids last weekend, all I’ve got to do is now get a new printer ,mine went on the blink the same time as my hearing.

  25. liandre 3 weeks ago

    Thank you for sharing this, Anna. Also thank you for giving us a glimpse into your own journey. You do so much more than teaching people how to paint. You give more than just displaying beautiful art. You are a giver. May God richly bless you and yours.

  26. Kyunghee Johnson 3 weeks ago

    Thank you Anna for the encouragement to paint. Painting is looking after myself and have self compassion on me.

  27. Stephen 3 weeks ago

    Anna, thank you for your comments on mental well being. You are identifying questions that I’m certain many of us have wrestled with, namely, how will we manage the winter blues (plus COVID and all the political strife of the last year). I for one am picking up my brushes and plan to do some simple greeting cards for the holidays. Last year,?i found this very productive to work on a small scale without the pressure of creating a work of art—and my wet on wet technique advanced substantially with that freedom. You are a ray of sunshine, and I wish you and all my fellow artists strength and a place of peace in the coming months.

  28. Denise Kahans 3 weeks ago

    I agree! In the winter I always feel more blue…. and keeping yourself busy is ver important! Art is one of the many pleasures I feel! It keeps me grounded, happy and in peace! Thank you for inspiring us to be our best!

  29. Anna 3 weeks ago

    As a mental health professional, I can confirm the mental health benefits of engaging in a creative craft. Given the circular relationship of emotional health affecting physical healthy, which then impacts emotional health, creativity does boost the immune system. I was really please to read your comments on the importance of self compassion. Too many people say things to themselves that they wouldn’t say to their worst enemy. I’d like to recommend another very helpful talk and book about self compassion. Please search for a YouTube TEDx talk by Dr Kristin Neff. The talk is about 20min. She also has a book, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being kind to Yourself. It’s a very read-able book that won’t bog one down with technical speak. I show the TEDtalk to almost all my clients and I have yet to have a client tell me it wasn’t something that resonated for them and they got nothing from it. Be Well!

    • Author
      Anna Mason 3 weeks ago

      Thanks for that Anna, I will check that TED talk/book out!

  30. Clare Vinay 3 weeks ago

    Thank you Anna for your blog. I joined your classes in October and to date have lost my painting mojo – I guess the lockdown situation has affected me greatly. I feel better now having read everyone’s situation, which is far worse than mine, has given me the urge to pick up and get the brushes moving. Thank you Anna for the encouragement and thank you to everyone for sharing their stories.

  31. Diana 3 weeks ago

    When ever I thing about planning on finding time to paint the feeling of joy arises. Once I sit down to paint I have to let my expectations go and just enjoy the process, have fun!!!

  32. Suzi Beck 3 weeks ago

    I am looking. after my elderly mother( she is 100) it is wonderful to still have her with me but stressful at the same time. Combined with the labour aspect there is covid to consider. That being said painting is my salvation. When I have a bit of time I bury myself into my painting.
    It has assisted me greatly. I am learning so much from Anna . He pleasant way is a joy to work from. He talent is beyond words. Thank you for your time Anna.

  33. Vanda Cummins 3 weeks ago

    Very insightful and I resonate with self compassion, it’s something I’m always aiming for due to illness. I’m in Melbourne and we have just come out of a very long lockdown. This has effected my ability to create and although I was so excited about getting a 6 month subscription, I haven’t been able to absorb the videos. I’ve managed to take part in Inktober creating A6 works but nothing more complex than that. It’s such a ahame as I’ve now wasted 2 months of my subscription, but hoping I’ll be able to get back into it soon.
    The little creating I have been able to do has really helped me cope with the pain and depression, when just thinking about doing something can drive me back to bed.
    Please listen to yourself and your body, love yourself even when you’re at your worst and amd be mindful that the words you say to yourself resonate. Sending much love and hope you are having a lovely creative week x

  34. Julie 3 weeks ago

    The drawing of Hank is wonderful, and reminds me of the remarkable documentary “My Octopus Teacher” on Netflix. It’s a must watch…
    And was filmed off the coast in Cape Town, South Africa.

    • Author
      Anna Mason 3 weeks ago

      Oh I’m glad you mentioned that Julie as I’d meant to as well. With our children’s love of Hank we also found that amazing documentary! Not sure I fancy swimming in those beautiful waters but I’m so glad that someone did and befriended that octopus!

  35. Gail 3 weeks ago

    Thank you for your beautiful blog on what is, an incredibly important topic. My heart goes out to all who are struggling right now and the best thing we can do is Paint, paint and paint. It really works to still the mind. Anna’s community is a blessing to us all.

  36. Joyce love 3 weeks ago

    I just finished the free online pear course and was amazed at how my pear painting turned out. I’ve been an off and on painter for years (depending on what life with children allowed) but never had any formal schooling beyond workshops here and there & you tube after my children left an empty nest a few years ago (and an empty bedroom to turn into my “studio”). Although I agree with almost everything you say, I am living proof of someone who operates artistically out of their left brain. Due to a tumor 30 years ago I had a complete right frontal “lobectomy”. The surgeons were amazed at my functioning level and told me that the left side of my brain had taken over the functions of the right side and that all the right side was doing was causing seizures. So out it came and the seizures stopped and I was extremely lucky to go home a few days later to continue living much as I had done before without the issues that the tumor had been causing. My children were young and all they knew was that I’d come home with a really bad haircut. To this day, besides my husband I’ve never really shared this with anyone. The brain is an amazing thing and I feel blessed to be alive and painting. Finding out about you and your online school which I intend to sign up for has been wonderful

    • Author
      Anna Mason 3 weeks ago

      That is fascinating Joyce and I had read that the brain is capable of incredible adaptations. I’m so pleased you recovered from what must have been a terrifying thing. And I’m delighted you can paint still. It does show the ‘left’ and ‘right’ concepts are not real in terms of their geography in the brain – but more a mode of experiencing our environment. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  37. Jana Basinet 3 weeks ago

    Thanks for your considerate thoughts and perspective Anna. Just thinking about painting has given me hope and calm during this ever so stressful & uncertain times. I am new to the school and new to watercolor painting, but I am appreciative that over the past couple of weeks (even though I didn’t the courage to actually paint something) I did find joy in the process of just practicing a solid wash once I learned from someone’s YouTube instructional video what it really mean to “load a brush”. And building on skills gives me confidence. It was also really apparent to me how much I love color. I spent the time to start with a digital color wheel to see all the watercolors paints and Peerless colors I had purchased in one place. I am truly a visual person and seeing it makes me happy and excited. I look forward to discovering what colors I gravitate towards and eventually creating a painted color of my own personal set of go to colors!!.


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  38. Lynn Strickland 3 weeks ago

    I just joined your school, Anna, and got this blog in my email. I thought, who knows me so thoroughly? You spoke of my life and to my days ahead. I have suffered SAD since a little child. I remember paint-by-number oils in the corner of the dining room on grey rainy days as a 5 year old. I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder brought on by menopause just 10 years ago. Painting has been such a blessing and I did sign up for your school to get me through the next 3 or 4 months of cold grey days in the Pacific Northwest. Our old farmhouse is in the shadow of beautiful cedar and fir trees for 6 months out of the year…starting this month. No sunshine hits the house even if there is a blue sky out there. I look forward to learning and painting in the days ahead!

    • Author
      Anna Mason 3 weeks ago

      Let’s paint together to get you through this Lynn! Thank you for sharing your experience. Try to get out for a walk in the sun when you get it 🙂

  39. bevh 3 weeks ago

    I know I am one of the lucky ones. I live in Australia with very little or no covid now. Even though I am 80 I have been a musician all my life and when things get tough I would go and play some music on my instruments. I have now added painting to the mix and this has been a lovely change for me even though my hands are not really good for fine work. I have had many hand surgeries in the last 4 years but I still manage with the fingers I have working for me. Anna’s school is an amazing place to visit and Anna is such a wonderful person who is always encouraging us all despite the many hardships a lot of us face. Thank you Anna for your care for us all.

  40. Rose Vermeulen 3 weeks ago

    Hello all

    I started Botanical art a couple of years ago and Anna I agree with you that it is a form of meditation. The botanical art is so exacting and you have to get it right. You focus on that and switch out the world. You leave the class with a totally different frustration but it is wonderful to finally get it right.

    Let’s try to stay positive – all our countries are in such a mess right now. Focus on the art instead of the media.

    Take care and stay safe.
    Rose – South Africa

  41. Marsha Close 3 weeks ago

    Every comment I read touched my heart and I was thinking, I feel the same way, I’m sorry to hear your husband died and health issues are scary. I have said to friends and family that the one thing that has kept me from being anxious in this crazy world and times has been Anna’s School. The teaching is wonderful but I have to say the group of students from all over the world are impressive, kind, talented and helpful. It’s fun to share our accomplishment and get feedback. So thank you everyone and especially Anna for such a wonderful gift, art!

  42. Pam Lund 2 weeks ago

    Winter used to be depressing for me, especially in the Pacific Northwest. Looming gray clouds and rain often dim even the brightest days, dragging our spirits down with them. But years ago, when I started jewelry and metalsmithing, I found that winter days meant more time for art and fewer obligations in outdoors. A warm workroom, good lighting, hot tea, music or an audio book to entertain me —and time flies. Now that I’ve begun watercoloring, I’ve learned to be more patient and enjoy seasons along with the journey. My ugly duckling paintings can take days to turn into swans, but now I have faith that they will. If I need more cheer, I paint something summery and bright. 2020 has brought increasing challenges: the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter marches, the wildfires through our town and the increasingly fraught election. We as individuals, along with the country are just trying to take a deep breath and stay calm. With winter coming, our county has been locked down here in Oregon because COVID-19 has been increasing exponentially, and our household has 4 seniors at some risk. We expect another year of social distancing, so I count on painting to reduce my stress and bring me joy. After all, we are the fortunate
    ones.

  43. Ximena Sheldon 2 weeks ago

    I definitely think that painting has helped me a lot during this terrible pandemic. I live most of the year in Thailand but I had started a trip in February to visit my family in Colombia, we stopped in Miami for what we thought it would be a few days, thinking of continuing the trip to Colombia but..,we couldn’t travel. We had to stay in Miami for 5 months! In total lockdown without my family, my children and grandchildren. I decided that I had to do something creative abd meaningful with all the time I had in my hands, so I joined your class, Anna, which was a real inspiration! I have done about 80 watercolors since then and I continue to paint. I have painted during two very good friends’s illnesses who passed away. I painted thinking of them. I did a watercolor of the resting place of one of them, gave it to his wife. It has a lot of feeling. I have been able to remain calm because of painting. I then went to New Jersey to our house and stayed two more months waiting to come back to Thailand, still painting, still in lockdown and finally we came back to Bangkok, to quarantine and finally home. All my friends want me to do an exhibition of the Covid watercolors! I know I am one of the lucky ones, who survived this pandemic, I would like to do the exhibition in honor of the many people who didn’t survive.,

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