Gratitude & Flow Experiment

As we have been focusing on Gratitude recently at Art Therapy + Happiness I paid attention when I came across the “Lasting Benefits Experiment”.  This online research project is being run by Mr Reuben Rusk, a PhD candidate in the Centre for Positive Psychology at the University of Melbourne.  “The aim of the study is to investigate different combinations of exercises to cultivate gratefulness and flow (being fully immersed and engaged in activities you enjoy) to cultivate lasting benefits for participants.” 

The experiment asks participants to fill in an online survey everyday for 21 days. It takes about five minutes and asks questions about how and when you notice gratitude or flow in your daily life. I signed up a week ago and over the first few days I was very surprised at the positive impact it had on the what I paid attention to and how I felt generally. It encouraged me notice and savor moments of gratitude or flow.  The last couple of days I have been very busy and I have not noticed the effect as strong in fact one day the effect was negative.

The questions asked me to anticipate times in my day that I might feel gratitude and what I could focus on when I was undertaking these tasks to prompt a feeling of gratitude. I was planning on cooking a nice healthy dinner with fresh vegetables that I had purchased that day. I was looking forward to the preparing and cooking the dinner and sharing it with my husband. By the time I came to cooking I was tired and gave very little thought to being grateful for anything let alone the abundance of fresh food I had available to me.  I then burnt the dinner! At first I was just angry, angry with my oven (we have moved recently and I am not used to this new oven), angry with myself for not being attentive enough, angry for being so wasteful and angry with my husband for distracting me – it was all his fault of course! Then I felt guilty as I was supposed to practicing gratitude! Eventually I was able to selvage what I could and it was not too bad. I then was able to practice some self compassion, understanding I was tired and we all make mistakes.

I will continue with the survey and here is the link if anyone else would like to join up.  It would be great to here if you felt similar or different benefits if any. You can drop out at any time if you find it is not for you but I think it is interesting and will look forward to finding out the results.

Kindest Janet

Lasting Benefits Experiment

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Memories Take Time

Over the past several weeks I have been partaking in   Susannah Conway‘s e-course Unravel Your Life.  This e-course is described as “a creative journey that takes you back to the heart of who you truly are. Using photography and journalling to access hidden thoughts & feelings, encourage personal realisations…”

As a keen photographer and art therapist I was intrigued and thought that this might be an interesting learning experience.  It was. The eight week course started out quite gently and in a fun way, taking photos of our feet, exploring where we place ourselves in the world. This was particularly interesting for me as I was travelling at the time and took my images in three different cities in two countries.

feetYes, eventually we were taking self portraits and this was interesting but where I came slightly unravelled was in Week Four, “Memories”.  I had been going well keeping up, posting my images in the closed Flickr group but when it came to week four, I stalled. We were asked to choose photos from our past of ourselves at any age – happy or sad, painful or important, good or bad and use our journal to retell our story.  It wasn’t that I had so many troublesome photos, I don’t. I have lots of photos and most of them I love.  It was just that they needed time to be with.  I eventually chose my images but then it took time again before I was ready to journal about them.  They just needed time.

school photos

Eventually I did journal about the happy and sad memories that these photos awakened and it was a positive experience. Among those I chose were some school photos. I was nearly always the tallest in my class so I was usually placed in the middle. I look happy especially as a young child, where as in my early teenage years I look a little guarded.  I enjoyed school and these images spanning some 12 years and 4 schools reminded me of my friends and the teachers I loved and some that I didn’t like so much! I thought about what was happening in my life at this time and how this has impacting on the little girl in the images and how it still has an impact on the woman I have become.  It has been an interesting experience.  Thank you Susannah.

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Life is Puzzling

Life is full of puzzles, is it not?  And although we continue to try we can not solve them all. However, over at Art (Therapy) + Happiness we decided to share the puzzle of what makes our lives meaningful through an art swap using actual puzzles. 

Swap puzzle-sm

I sourced 10 identical blank puzzles of 20 pieces each and opened the swap up to 10 participants.  Each participant was sent a full blank puzzle.  The name of each participant was written on the back of two of the pieces.   As long as I have this right in theory each person will end up with a complete puzzle with there name on the back of all the pieces.  I hope I do have it right!

The participants were then asked to create an image(s) on their blank puzzle, either as a whole or individual pieces, while keeping in mind what brings meaning to their lives. The the puzzles were then broken up and two pieces sent off to each of the participants.

puzzle swap

Over the last week or so I have been delighted when I go to my mail box and there are small packages of two pieces created by someone else.  It is such fun to put them together and watch my puzzle grow. (Three more to arrive.)  As one participant put it: “It is amazing how each additional piece is writing an unfolding story!” thanks Lyn.

It is nice to know that I am connected with all the other participants in this creative way.  Thank you to all the wonderful participants.

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The Creative Healing Power of Puppets – The Puppet Boy of Warsaw

‘Without the coat, nothing would have happened as it did’

“So begins the story of the Puppet Boy of Warsaw , a young Jewish boy called Mika  …”

I was driving home not long ago and I heard a Radio NZ book review.  I didn’t hear it all but the reference to puppets had me hooked. I immediately downloaded the book to my kindle (once I had stopped driving that is).

Puppet Boy of Warsaw cover 2It is a wonderful book that tells with gentle thoughtfulness the horrific story of a young Jewish boy’s experience in the Warsaw Ghetto.  For me it  was the story of the puppets that enabled me to really engage with this book without becoming overwhelmed by sadness.  Eva tells the story beautifully managing to convey the wonderful creative healing power of puppets. Check out Eva’s Puppet Boy of Warsaw Facebook page for more background on the book.  It wasn’t until I finished the book that I realised Eva is an Art Therapist in England.

A few years ago I stumbled across Lani Gerity’s  lanipuppetpmaker blog and I fell in love with her puppets.  I started making puppets myself (Lani has a ezine on her blog that tells you how).  I love the process of creating my puppet friends and alter egos and have since learned first hand of the healing power of these wonderful often playful creatures that now inhabit my home and my therapy spaces. 

Wise woman

My Wise Woman


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Art Therapy at the NZ Pain Society Conference

I have just returned from the New Zealand Pain Society Conference.  The conference was  an enjoyable  learning experience for me.  As well as presenting a paper on art therapy  I was asked to organise an exhibition of art work completed by patients who have chronic pain.  I was a little nervous about how my presentation and the exhibition would be received at this scientific meeting but was pleasantly surprised at the positive interest of both.  I am very grateful to the clients who lent their work for this exhibition.  The art work and the stories they told helped to bring a very personal a real element to the conference reminding us all of the trials of living with chronic pain. exhibtion

What did I learn from the conference?  I learnt a lot about drugs, good and bad, but then I learnt about placebo effects and that perhaps you don’t need to take the drugs to get the same benefits. I learnt that no matter what new exercise genre was flavour of the moment I need to stay active – so I may not need the drugs. I learnt that beliefs matter, that expectations matter, that persistence matters and that language matters.  I learnt that we need to be aware, concerned and ready to listen and I hope that other delegates learnt a little about art therapy and how it can help those with chronic pain through mindfulness attention, by providing another language for expression and a tool and space to process difficult experiences and emotions that come with chronic pain.

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Art Therapy + Happiness – Positivity Signposts

Symbols are the imaginary signposts of life.” ~~ Margot Asquith

I have been busy over at Art Therapy + Happiness and not posted here for a while but yesterday  I made an Auspicious Symbol Card and it moved me to write here.  

Recently I made a bit of an Ass of myself.  Nothing too major but enough to start the old shame thing happening.  When I saw this image of the little donkey it made me smile.  I have always loved donkeys especially when they start braying! So I made this card with my little donkey symbol to remind me that I am human and I will stuff up from time to time but even an ass is lovable.  


In this particular workshop the goal is to make 8 Auspicious Symbol Cards that represent positive symbols in my life.  This is my first and I love it; it brought positive emotion as I made it and now as it has pride of place on my desk it reminds me although I am not perfect I am good enough.  

I am amazed at the flow of positive emotion that is happening over at Art Therapy + Happiness.  It is a wonderful feel good place and as this little image portrays the full range of emotions are recognised and accepted.  The project still has 4 months to go and registrations are open until the end of March.  Follow this link if you are interested in joining us. Art Therapy + Happiness

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From Greece with love!

pay-it-forward gift

This week I received a lovely surprise in my mailbox.  My first creative pay-it-forward gift.

When I was young I and my sisters had penpals around the world and we used to write letters to them and get very excited whenever we received a reply – I felt like this when I went to my mailbox and found my lovely hand painted card waiting for me.  It was sent by Alkistis Kelessisi and has come all the way from Greece!  Thank you Alkistis.

There is a lot of talk about how our social media connections are shallow and lack meaning but there is certainly something wonderful about the connections made through social media that lead to art making and the sharing of that art.

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