Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Visualizing best possible selves

Hi and welcome to my new blog, Joyful Art Therapy. That’s going to the subject of this blog, how to use art to increase joy and happiness in your life. Or at least in my life, as I’ll share the art project and activities I come up with along the way. I am a registered and certified art therapist, but if you think you might need to see a therapist of any kind, please do so in person and not just on-line, as it’s not the same thing at all, and I want you to be sure and get care if you need it.

I’ve been an art therapist since 1994, and worked with all kinds of interesting people, like folks with mental illness, young people in foster care, and children with autism and ADHD. In the last few years, I’ve been studying art therapy and positive psychology-the science of happiness. I learned about it first by my friend Lani (check out her cool blog here but have since gone on to teach courses in the subject (here and here, start a Yahoo! Group about it

and now I'm even writing a paper about it with my friend Rebecca.

Someday I’d love to write a book about it, too, the fun kind, with juicy pictures of art and lots of how-tos. So I thought I’d practice that here on this blog. (after all, we don’t need no stinkin’ publisher-it’s the internet age!) I’ll post every once in a while, and see how it goes. Let me know what you think-like most us, I thrive on positive feedback.

Well, today I thought I start with living your best possible life. I read a super article on “How to increase and Sustain positive emotions: the effects of expressing gratitude and visualizing best possible selves” by Kennon Sheldon and Sonja Lyobmirsky ( As those of us studying positive psychology now know, practicing gratitude has been scientifically proven to actually make you happier! And in this article, they prove the following 2-minute writing exercise improves mood even more:

Think about your best possible self, imagine that in the future, after everything has gone as well as it possible could…you worked hard and succeeded in accomplishing all of your life goals…realized all your life dreams, and your own best potentials, identifying the best possible way things could have turned out in your life, in order to help guide your decisions now. Outline your ideal life in the future as much detail as you can.

This was researched as a writing exercise, but as you know, I’d rather art-ify it (and the positive psychologists are indeed figuring out that doing activities that are a good “fit,” that people find interesting, challenging and fun work even better,) so this is what I did and you can too:

Find or make a safe and calm spot for yourself.

Maybe it looks like this:

or maybe this:

or maybe just this: then you could do the writing part next, but I always start with the art. Make a little book cover. I used Papersource’s place cards, because when folded they are ATC size (2.5x3.5 inches), and Ph. Martin’s radiant concentrated water colors, but you do it however you want to do it.

Then make the inside…Write about your best possible self, from the perspective of looking back over your life, adding as much detail as you can…however you do it is fine, there is no right or wrong. Have fun with your handwriting, or print your text out with color ink, nestle your pages together and bind with a ribbon or what have you to make it special.

I’m going to tuck mine in my purse to remind me what I’m doing on this planet when I get confused (which happens less often these days, thankfully)…Enjoy the process!

1 comment:

  1. Love your blog spot Gioia! Thanks for letting the universe know all the good work you are doing with PP&AT!


    p.s., Best to you and your future publications!


Ribbon Cutting of the Institute for Continuing Education of the American Art Therapy Association!

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Gioia Chilton is a registered and board certified art therapist.


Gioia Chilton, MA, ATR-BC

Gioia Chilton, MA, ATR-BC