The Why and How of Creative Wellness

For many tribes, the circle or Medicine Wheel is a powerful symbol. It has representations of the four directions (or more/less quadrants depending on the tribe) and is a powerful traditional tool for healing.  These quadrants can also symbolize the four seasons, four (or more) directions, stages of our lifespan (baby, child, adult, elder), and the make-up of fluid and natural healthy life-ways (the balance of emotional, mental, physical and spiritual).

While in advocacy and activism of the anti-violence and social justice movements, we can feel it is emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually engaging.  Creative Wellness is another way to process this Sacred work we do for our families, our communities, tribes and nations. Creative Wellness is not meant to be intimidating for those who may not feel ‘artistically inclined”.  Creative Wellness can come in forms we already engage in. These can be tactile arts (painting, drawing, beading, quilling, looming, sketching, etc.), visual arts (digital, film, photography, writing), audio arts (singing, drumming, music, spoken word, flutes, instruments), and culinary arts (cooking for your family, community, sharing of traditional foods, or…. for the cook shack!). All of the Creative Wellness activities simply caress our hearts and spirits in different and very personal ways such as: a calming moment of introspection, a boost of bravery, or compassion or healing when we are hurting (or those are hurting around us). Your Creative Wellness can take care of you, your family and community, and is often a way to express love and inspire those around us. ‘Justice Art’ and ‘Cultural Pop Art’ reaches youth in a way that InfoGraphs and FactSheets may not, Music the way stories may not. Creative Wellness links generations together.

These Creative Wellness skills can flex our personal strengths and intra-community resiliency. It can mean different things to different people.

The definition of Art Therapy or in a cultural sense, Creative Wellness, is a form of expressive therapy that uses the creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional well-being.

Our ancestors practiced each of these creative ways and each way can be healing by directly connected to our past.  Technical and medical Western Art Therapy is used in working with youth and adults of all ability or Disability as is a process to heal and reduce the pain of certain experiences, such as PTSD. Native people have been doing this since the beginning (as even found in storytelling and ancient cave drawings).  As we become more engaged with our own ways of  Creative Wellness, we learn that without the pressures of “Being an Artist”, we already express ourselves artistically, work through our behaviors, problem-solve our own feelings, eliminate stress, improve self-esteem, and connect this to our work. In our work, we can raise awareness to issues while practicing Native wellness.

This benefits both the artist and those we share our Creative Wellness with. And most importantly link our daily lives to the value of our own traditional Creative Wellness as it directly links us to our ancestors.

-Rebecca Balog, NIWRC

More Resources for Wellness:

  • EXPLORE: 4 Ways to Take Accountability for Your Life and Actions After Trauma. “We can not control everything that happens in the world. We can only control how we respond to situations like trauma. There is a process of natural human emotions such as denial, anger, and depression after someone has hurt us. However, you will eventually come to a crossroad where you must chose to begin healing, or do further damage to your mind, body, and spirit. Healing will not choose you, you must choose it.”
  • DOWNLOAD: Self compassion pause.