I’ve never served in the Armed Forces and would never compare my measly life to theirs. That said, I’ve known several good folks who have served and seen how they use painting as therapy.
For instance, I met a UDT once who would paint islands from a plane’s view. At first, I didn’t know what they were. He actually had to tell me what they were before I knew what I was looking at.
Keep in mind, this was long before the internet. Now, we have images of everything everywhere.
All that said, I do run a ridiculously high stress level. I’m not a doctor (my disclaimer) but I’m pretty sure that stress kills.
I believe that stress is a physical thing. Your body processes stress physically. When your liver can’t take all the stress, it sends it somewhere else.
Stress will lead to everything from ulcers to bad skin conditions. Before I got heavily into watercolors, I had a skin condition that was so bad that I was literally bleeding randomly, and wasn’t safe to leave the house for several days.
Yes, I’ve healed since then, but that’s an example of what stress can do to you.
Watercolors as therapy
All painting is good. Watercolors may not necessarily be your cup of tea.
They are for me though.
And they’re a lot easier than people realize! The problem people have is they start off with hard techniques, then say to themselves “watercolors are too hard!” and throw in the towel. That’s why my Introduction to Watercolors course specifically starts off with more simple techniques that still look really good.
Watercolors have a meditative quality to them. I happen to paint pinups. When I paint my ladies, I use layer after layer of paint. That has a calming, meditative effect on me.
No other painting method uses layering as much as watercolors do. And layering is calming. It has a very strong calming quality to it.
Painting helps reduce my stress. Significantly.
I’m currently waiting for the third layer to try. I got the timer set.
My wife and I just got back from a vacation in Central America and I took a lot of photographs. You’ll be seeing Costa Rica and Panama in my paintings.
I photographed everything from flowers to monkeys to sunsets to jungles. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my DSLR camera. We saw wild macaws, parrots, and other gorgeous birds but with a cell phone camera, the pictures turned out horribly. I deleted those bird shots as they were unusable.
Regardless though, we took so many lovely pictures that I have a lot of reference photos. Now, the above painting (on a watercolor board), will feature a lot of what we photographed there.
The whole painting process reduced my stress levels big time. Painting is general is calming. And there’s nothing for me like painting layer after layer that you have to do from everything to painting skin color to skies and seas.
If you run a high stress level or if you have PTSD, I highly recommend watercolors.
Depression and Anxiety
Another point I really wanted to bring up. I’m updating this article as I wrote it back early in 2020.
I’ve noticed that the past few years have really taken a toll on people. So many people nowadays suffer from either depression or anxiety. Or even both.
And it’s often not their fault.
Life is harder today than it was a few years ago. We all know this. It’s more stressful and there are less outlets.
This is yet another reason I highly recommend watercolors. They do have a calming, meditative effect on people. They really can significantly help for both depression and anxiety.