Meditation is a natural way for the body to surrender to a state of peace and relaxation. While you can get so much out of sitting on a cushion and meditating, there’s also something to be said about incorporating more active forms of meditation—such as painting landscapes—for healing.
“Interests in hobbies, like landscape painting, can help people relax, feel less stressed, or have something to do when they have spare time,” says Dr. Jeff Ditzell, D.O., a licensed psychiatrist and performance mindset coach. “Some hobbies are so personally beneficial that they can be considered a form of self-care,” he adds. Beyond its hobby benefits, landscape painting can promote a sense of healing through its connection to nature and the meditative-like flow required to paint a picture.
Landscape Painting as Meditation
“Landscape paintings are depictions of our natural world and the scenery interpreted through the lens of the artist and their paintbrush,” says Jessica Hughes, a fine artist who specializes in abstract nature scenes. In landscape painting, subjects often include trees, rolling fields, flowers, mountain ranges, large bodies of water, and expanses of sky. “Regardless of how the artist conveys [these subjects], most strong landscape paintings connect deeply to their audience by eliciting a strong feeling of positivity, hope, calm, or a sense of expansion,” Hughes explains.
Just as spending time in nature can feel restorative and grounding, painting landscapes can have a similar meditative effect. “Being outside and enjoying nature reduces stress levels and promotes better well-being,” Amanda Levison, a licensed professional counselor from Neurofeedback & Counseling Center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, confirms. “Research shows that being in nature or viewing nature paintings increases our attention span, promotes better physical health, and can cause us to see the world as more significant than ourselves,” she adds. “Whether in actual form or through a painting, specific brain circuits release the hormone dopamine, increasing our joy, sense of purpose, and energy levels.”
The Practice of Landscape Painting
Similar to other art forms, creating a landscape painting starts with a little inspiration. And, just like meditation, Hughes says it's best to come from a judgment-free place where you have the space to explore your creative self. “Create a safe space where time and reality can safely fall away and you can immerse yourself in trusting your own inner process to unfold,” Hughes explains. “Painting can be a safe haven where the whole gamut of your emotional experience can have a place to get out of your body and be captured in visual form,” she adds. With this mindset, you’ll be better equipped to get into a flow state with your art, letting go of expectations and everything else that comes with the ego mind and allowing yourself to create a therapeutic nature scene.
Before picking up your paintbrush, Hughes says to choose a subject to work from. “Choosing a subject can be as simple as working from your own landscape photos, doing a quick image search, or choosing to set up outdoors in the backyard or a local park to work from real-life,” she notes. “There is something truly magical about painting outdoors, immersed in translating what you see, even as the lighting shifts above you and the wind creates movement.” After you decide on a subject, it’s time to grab your paints and brushes and get into the zone.
“Sit and observe the landscape and breathe it in,” says Hughs. Whether working from photos or setting up in nature, allowing oneself to really imagine the feeling and energy of the setting is so helpful to allowing the visual translation to come through the paintbrush,” she adds.
With the benefits of nature intertwined in landscape painting, allowing yourself to surrender to the creative process and flow of gliding a brush across a canvas can have profound meditative benefits.
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