Painting as a Mindfulness Activity

Painting as a mindfulness activity - image of paint dripping

Disclosure: I received a free paint by numbers kit from Winnie’s Picks, but all opinions are my own.

I probably hadn’t done any kind of painting since elementary school. I’m not visually artistic at all; all of my creativity comes out in words. But when Winnie’s Picks reached out to me, I thought it sounded pretty interesting. I like that they frame it as a mindfulness activity, which matches up well with my own preference to practice mindfulness of sensory input from the external environment rather than an inward focus.

They have a wide selection of different kits, or they can do custom kits from photos. I went with the Abstract and Modern Colorful Cat. It’s one of their beginner kits, and since my brother is cat-obsessed, I thought it would be a nice gift for his baby daughter.

The kit came in the tube shown above. It included the canvas, a paper version for reference, little pots of number-coded paints, and 4 different size brushes.

It arrived at a time when my thinking was really mushy, and I just didn’t have the mental processing power to do much of anything. I normally spend a lot of time each day reading and, to a lesser extent, writing. When those things aren’t so accessible, it can be hard to figure out what to do besides just being dazed and confused.

Anyway, the timing was perfect. Painting was a good way to narrow focus onto something without having to draw on cognitive resources. In that sense, it’s a very low spoon-requirement activity. I did find, though, that my disrupted cognitive processing meant it wasn’t until I had done several days of painting that I was able to see the forest (i.e. the overall picture) rather than just the trees (i.e. the paint by numbers details).

Anyway, I just sat down, put on some music, and painted for an hour or two. I mentioned in a recent post about music and mood that I don’t typically listen to music except when I’m driving, as I find it distracting. Interestingly, though, with painting it was fine. That may be something worth exploring further. I know that reading and writing don’t work well with music for me, but maybe there are some other things that do.

It took me a week of painting every day to be finished. I’m slow in general right now, plus I did a lot of retouching of parts I’d already painted, so I’m not sure what the average length of time would be to complete it.

Ever since I’ve been on lithium, I’ve had an intention tremor, which shows up with deliberate movement rather than at rest. It also throws off my coordination. When I’m tired or when I’m particularly slow, the tremor gets worse.

That means that fine motor control is definitely not my strong point… and yet, I could do this. I can say pretty confidently that if I can do this without making a mess, so can most people. I’m actually surprised how well I managed given the tremor. The finished painting is below. Close up, the effects of my tremor are visible, especially in the whiskers. Overall, though, I’m quite content with how it turned out.

Modern and abstract colourful cat paint by numbers from Winnie's Picks

I happen to have a frame that’s the same size, so I’ll frame it and give it to my brother for my niece’s room. I think he’ll be happy, especially since he knows I’ve been struggling more than usual lately. Even though my emotional response to my niece is blunted by depression, I do still like getting things for her. I’ve already picked out her Christmas gift. At 6 1/2 months now, she’s substantially larger now than the hairless guinea pig she was when she was first born.

Do you have any artistic activities that act as creative outlets or support mindfulness?

Check out Winnie’s Picks paint by numbers for custom and ready-made kit options.

You may also be interested in the post Colouring as a Mindfulness Activity.

Mental health coping toolkit

The Coping Toolkit page has a broad collection of resources to support mental health and well-being.

27 thoughts on “Painting as a Mindfulness Activity”

  1. That’s very Ashley. I love that picture. Makes me want to have one.

    Last time and only time I have painted by numbers was some years ago. I can’t remember how long ago than I had left school. It had horses on it and I did it for my mum.
    Mum still has that, which is at mine currently in a box with her other things.

    I really enjoyed doing it and it was well received.
    Yours will be well received too.

      1. There’s too much to put in mum’s room currently. She has some things there. But yes, anything else, won’t be until she has moved care homes, or the chance if mum was to be better for assisted living, then they can all go back to her that are currently at mine.

        I have a large photo frame to accommodate all her photos she had on display at the bungalow. This frame, I will take in when she’s at new home.

  2. That’s funny, you’re like me. I haven’t read “Music and Mood” yet, but I never listen to music unless I want to focus entirely on that music. I never have it on in the background because it distracts me.

  3. Do you have any artistic activities that act as creative outlets or support mindfulness? I have a bit of enthusiasm for visual art and creating that way. I don’t indulge it near enough (I have an actual painting (acrylics) kit (with easel and the whole works) that I’ve never touched as yet though. I have trouble with the motivation part. I like the idea of using that as a mindfulness exercise though. Thanks for pointing out how it can be used in such a way! The cat turned out AMAZING by the way.

    I’m curious about something too, something that really is none of my business. I’ll just ask and you can decide about how much you’d care to share about it. You said you’re now on lithium? I’m curious about that as I thought your diagnosis was akin to mine: chronic depression with bipolar II aspects mixed in? I was under the impression that lithium was used for people with full blown bipolar diagnosis? As said, it’s none of my business, but it did startle me a little.

    And the tremor? Maybe sometime you could explore that phenomenon in conjunction with mental illness medications? Because I have it too, in my left hand worse than my right. It only shows up when I’m really tired or stressed though (so far). I only take Zoloft for my depression, with Xanax occasionally for anxiety. I’ve wondered if they impact or even cause that tremor. Thanks for cheering me up today with your lovely art in any case! Have a great day!

    1. Thanks!

      My diagnosis is major depressive disorder. Lithium is most often used in bipolar, but it can also be used as an add-on to antidepressants in unipolar depression.

      And I’ll get working on a post on tremors.

  4. I want one … Seems such a pleasant pastime, and such a lovely gift for your baby niece.
    Lately, I’ve turned to cooking, which I always enjoy. Specifically, baking. I tried a couple riffs on Apple Crumble/Crisp. Up next is Biscotti. I’ve pledged to attempt baking bread in my new Dutch Oven. Nice share, Ashley.

  5. Such a beautiful piece of art! I did a giveaway with Winnie’s Picks the other year and this was one of my favourite pieces. I’m glad you were still able to do it and enjoy it even with the tremors. Art and colouring of any kind can be great for a lot of people when it comes to reducing stress, slowing down and focusing on the moment. Great write-up! xx

  6. So, now I seem to be able to comment again! I wanted to say I love this painting. It looks great and I really want to try one myself. I enjoy cross stitch and you have inspired me to pick it up and get going again x

  7. Love it!
    Drawing and painting are an important creative outlet for me, allowing me to connect with emotions before I have words for them.

  8. Great painting Ashley! Haven’t done paint by numbers in a long time but I do enjoy the adult colouring books. I find colouring very therapeutic.

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