Home / Blog / Uncovering the therapeutic benefits of mindfulness and clay

Uncovering the therapeutic benefits of mindfulness and clay

Hands holding a ball of clay
2 years ago

What are you thinking about right now? 47% of the time, our minds are on something other than what we’re doing in the moment, and according to a 2010 Harvard study, this mind-wandering often triggers unhappiness. Add near-constant, addictive alerts from our technological devices to the mix, and we often end up maxing out our brains, which aren’t actually wired for multi-tasking. Retailers have been quick to offer material solutions to soothe our distracted minds, but despite a growing $11 billion dollar self-care industry built on modern discontent, there’s a far simpler way to reset our busy brains: mindfulness.

“Mindfulness is about learning to pay attention to the present moment with openness, curiosity, and compassion,” says Suzanne Thomson, a registered art therapist and mindfulness practitioner. “The simplest way is to connect to your breath, which can be aided by a physical practice like kneading clay to the rhythm of your breath.”

Indeed, focusing on the present moment through mindfulness is an effective way to achieve stillness of the mind, as well as improve overall wellbeing. A review of empirical literature on the effects of mindfulness on psychological health found that the practice of mindfulness increased subjective wellbeing, reduced psychological symptoms and emotional reactivity, and improved behavioural regulation. Another analysis of almost fifty clinical studies demonstrated that partaking in mindfulness programs resulted in an improvement in anxiety, depression, and pain.

Mindfulness is an integral exercise for Suzanne, who has been practicing art therapy for almost three decades. “It’s important to work with the body as well as the mind,” she says. “When we engage in mindful breathing, it can help us take a step back and think about the bigger picture. It takes us out of our patterns and gives us room to think and act in a way that’s not shaped by any habituated reactions.”

To enhance this body-based approach to meditation, Suzanne often integrates a material that’s complementary to the practice of mindfulness: clay.

“We can get stuck in our thoughts, and when we work directly with clay, our habits are revealed in the material, which makes it very liberating to work with,” she says. “You’re working with a material that’s alive—as soon as you touch it, it moves, bringing the focus to the present.”

Incorporating a simple physical practice like shaping clay is not only a way to enhance mindfulness, but also to discover the patterns of your mind. Clay facilitates a tactile sensory experience that invites a mind-body interconnectedness—it’s a fluid process that allows you to physically communicate thoughts through clay and discover stories revealed through the material.

There’s a science behind the therapeutic benefits of clay making too. In her book Lifting Depression: A Neuroscientist’s Hands-On Approach to Activating Your Brain’s Healing Power (2008), Kelly Lambert writes about the link between physical activity and the activation of a network of brain regions that appear to strongly influence wellbeing. Since a large area of the brain is devoted to the density and movement of our hands, working with clay is an effective way to trigger those feel-good parts of our brains.

“There’s an instant engagement and dance between body, breath, and clay,” says Suzanne on practicing mindfulness with clay. “You’re awakened to each moment, which is a great way to invite presence. People say they can’t draw, but they don’t say they can’t work with clay.”

Led by Suzanne Thomson, our upcoming clay and mindfulness classes are the perfect way to find calm through clay. You’ll leave equipped with mindfulness strategies that you can integrate into your daily life, as well as clay to continue your practice at home.

January 6, 6:30 – 8:30 pm
March 30, 6:30 – 8:30 pm
CLAYming Love – Every Body, Every Breath, Every Moment
How do we love and care for ourselves, one another, and our world? Join us for a two-hour workshop where we will be exploring our shared humanity through breath work and clay.

January 13, 6:30 – 8:30 pm
March 23, 6:30 – 8:30 pm
CLAYm Your Centre: Breath, Movement, Presence
In this two-hour workshop, we will explore clay as a medium for deepening our experience of the present moment.

January 27 – March 16
Interconnectedness: Dust to Stardust, Stardust to Dust
In this six-week workshop, registered art therapist Suzanne Thomson invites participants to look fully into the nature of our experience.


Similar Articles