On Doing Art and The Pursuit of Happiness

June 6, 2009
Happy Life / Altered Book Page

Happy Life / Altered Book Page

The round robin altered book project that I have been participating in over the last few months is coming to an end soon.  This week I finished pages for the last two books and I look forward to receiving my orginial book back soon.  I have really enjoyed working on the five different books received from Lani, Gioia, Rachel, Emery, and Melanie who are all in the Art Therapy & Positive Psychology E-Group on Yahoo where this project was organized by Gioia.  It has been a pleasure to contribute to everyone’s book and create images and art connected to themes related to gratitude, happiness, and inspiring messages of hope, joy, and peace.  I will miss receiving a new book every two weeks to work on! 

As written in my previous blog postings, there seemed to be a theme throughout many of my pages related to growing and nurturing happiness.  What I learned the most during this process was the consistent reminder that happiness is truly in my hands: through the choices that I make, the relationships I nurture, and having an attitude and awareness of gratitude and thoughtfulness for the simple things.  Through this awareness comes growth, inspiration, and clarity about what is really important.  It is a reminder that I need daily to help keep things in perspective…and of course, making art about this is the best reminder of all that I can give myself!

Below is a short film featuring the pages that I did for everyone’s books as a way to bring each of the experiences I had together… Thanks to my fellow art therapists who were in this project with me for their inspiring words, images, and energy, as well as for Gioia for bringing us all together.  I am very excited to see what my completed book has in store for me!  

On a related note, in the e-group this week Gioia posted an interesting article featured in the June 2009 issue of The Atlantic titled, “What Makes Us Happy?”.  The article and video reports about research from Harvard University directed by George Vaillent over several decades on the lives of men they followed beginning in their college days at Harvard in the 1930’s to present day where many are now in their 70s and 80s.  The study investigates if there are important components to having a fullfilled, healthy, happy life and what factors contributed to this for those who were followed.  I found the study an interesting perspective on the pursuit of happiness.

Vaillent identifies that there are particular healthy responses that helped these men deal with the stresses and happenings of life, as well as protected them from psychological harm. These include “altruism, humor, anticipation (looking ahead and planning for future discomfort), suppression (a conscious decision to postpone attention to an impulse or conflict, to be addressed in good time), and sublimation (finding outlets for feelings)”.  

For me and my happiness formula, I translate this to: compassion, laughter, intention/growth, detachment, and creativity/making art!  What’s yours?


8 Responses to “On Doing Art and The Pursuit of Happiness”

  1. Lani Says:

    Beautiful, Gretchen!!! I’m working on yours today! AND what an inspiring book it is!!!

  2. I can’t wait to see what the book looks like now and all the inspiration, good vibes– I wait in exciting anticipation! 🙂

  3. Gioia Says:

    Wow-I love your film–how do you do that? I want to learn how! Gioia

  4. I use Windows Movie Maker….. not too hard- I thought myself how to do it— import images, pick different slide transitions and effects, and add music– I like to use http://www.freeplaymusic.com – It’s fun! Let me know if you need any help!

  5. Nicole Says:

    awesome video…inspiring.

  6. Thanks for your wonderful art and I too am inspired by the way you have integrated the music with it.

    I am a former art therapist. I trained at NYU at the same time as Lani and have recently reconnected with her through her blog which is how I found yours.

    She has been such an inspiration and between looking at her art and yours, I am very inspired to get to my studio soon!


  7. […] On Doing Art and The Pursuit of Happiness […]

  8. It made me HAPPY to watch!

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