Art Journal Exercise For Depression and Stress

life is hard

When I was going through a really difficult time some time ago, my mum suggested that I take up art journaling. I was a bit skeptical at first, mainly because I didn't know what art journaling was. I looked it up on Pinterest and immediately I was hooked. 

I found art journaling to be an incredible way to work through awful feelings that I couldn't talk to anyone about. 

 
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become a child again

During stressful or difficult times I think it's really important to be able to turn to something which allows you to forget about grown up life. 

I spent my childhood in a quiet little town called Selçuk in western Turkey. I often miss it and I have a very complicated relationship with 'home.' Selçuk was one of the happiest places I've ever lived. Out of all my homes, that is the one I feel was the richest and most enjoyable for me. 

I decide to use this part of my life as a starting point to journal my way out of the stress surrounding me. 

step one

I found a sketchbook that I haven't filled yet - one a friend bought me some time ago. It's great because it's an accordion style sketchbook meaning I can use both side of the book once I've finished the first half.

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step two

I discover that I have already painted a light colour base on two blank pages in this sketchbook and forgotten about it. A perfect base for my map! I begin by drawing out a round shape of Selçuk in pencil, copying off Google Maps. I then trace over the sketch with waterproof pen and fill in the areas with watercolour. 

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step three

I like to go over the lines again with pen just to make them darker. This part is super relaxing. I can take as much time as I like, listen to music and I'm focused so my mind isn't able to worry about anything else. Nothing has to look perfect, mistakes are fine so there's no pressure. 

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Using the watercolour I start to paint the areas that matter to me. Red for houses we lived in or buildings that matter to me. My plan is to fill this page with thoughts and memories about the town I lived in, special places I use to go to, roads I used to ride my bike down...

I start drawing little boxes near landmarks so I can write in notes about them when I've finished my map. 

step four

Now I've got my map drawn and painted, I start to write down my memories. I locate areas that have special memories for me, places within the town I used to go to every day or estates I used to walk through and start writing little notes and thoughts about them. It's therapeutic, a silent way to process my own feelings about my past and give a little nod to my teenage years and all the great things that happened, as well as the sad things.  

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try it for yourself

This whole process can take as long or as short a time as you like and I felt completely relaxed the entire time I was working on it. In the midst of constant disasters, upsets and difficulties, I was able to zone out and claim some of my mind and soul back, where no one could get in and ruin it.

Something about covering a page in paint, then doodling and writing all over it is such a release and so much fun! 

If you're having a stressful time or you feel trapped by your circumstances, why not try this exercise for yourself* and let me know in the comments how it went. I'd also love to see your creations so please leave me the link. 

Lots of love

Jay x

*Make sure you pick a place with happy memories, unless you're using this exercise to work through difficult and painful memories, which may leave you feeling upset as opposed to calm.


My name is Jay and I'm a writer and a filmmaker. I'm currently working on a feature film musical which I'm documenting over on The Director's Logbook. Please do check the videos out and subscribe to stay updated!