Monthly Archives: February 2012


Employee wellbeing – Using images to transform feelings of failure and stress

As a generalizable experience, the positive transformation of failure to build resilience is something that can easily be embraced in art. In our own work we find that art making provides an effective microcosm where individuals can make mistakes and work through them without the ‘big risk’. It sort of piggy backs on Fredrickson’s Broaden and Build theory as successful triumphs are ‘banked’ to be drawn upon at a later time. For example if you can work through the frustration or challenge of a drawing, even the accident of spilling your paint across the page – the ability to accept and move beyond challenges becomes something that your personal experience says ‘you can do’ – not just in art, but in other areas of your life.  The added beauty of using art making to support resilience and wellbeing is that while engaged in a creative challenge we often move into what Csíkszentmihályi, describes as flow, a state where we are mindfully and positively in the present and not stressing about past or future.

The application of art-based techniques to support wellbeing are in fact endless. At work, using directives such as ‘draw your role in relation to the team’ provides a concrete  visual vehicle that can instigate discussion, understanding and awareness. In a group, images provide a means through which everyone can ‘see’ where every one else ‘is’ and because the medium is visual it is more memorable than words alone. Even stress producing issues like role clarification can be swiftly nailed down by using arts-based visuals. Asking employees to render their roles visually can be used to identify which areas of work they find most rewarding and most challenging, where they might need help and how they might be directed to succeed. In fact research has shown that drawing pictures of work-based stressors and transforming them into less stressful images can have a positive impact on our perception of stress, by diffusing it into something we perceive as more manageable.