The One Thing That Stops Anxiety in Its Tracks (That's Not Diet or Exercise)

Updated 05/06/19
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Julie Adams for The Grace Tales

If you've been watching the new Netflix series Abstract in binge mode like us, then you'll be more than familiar with the mesmerizing effect of watching artists in full creative mode. It's compelling to view from the sidelines, witnessing a painter or designer channel an external force to manifest something new and original right before your eyes. There's a mysterious allure that's instantly calming, and it reels us in every time. But this relaxing pastime isn't something set aside for the select few, you too can harness this visual language and feel the remedying effects on your body, mind, and soul.

According to Barrie Sueskind, a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in anxiety, you can quash the effects instantly just by picking up painting or journaling as a hobby. With a whopping 18% of the U.S. population affected by an anxiety disorder, this simple yet effective technique is a much-welcomed therapy that can lower your stress hormones. (This 90-second hack will kill your anxiety, too!)

Similar to the powerful effects of meditation, painting allows you to log off and give your mind a mental escape from day-to-day life. Ready to start practicing this surprisingly simple way to turn your anxiety into success, not stress? You don't even have to be good at it to feel the effects. Ahead, we outline all the tools you need to get started with oil painting today (or this weekend), because isn't it time you took a moment for yourself?

The Paint

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Winsor & Newton Artist’s Oil Colour Introductory Set $60
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If you're just getting started, then you probably don't know which paint colors to buy or what kind of oils are the best quality either. For the novice artist, we recommend starting with an introductory set that includes all the basic colors to kick things off. Then you can bring in the other hues one at a time as you need them and as you being to feel more comfortable with experimenting. The key is to play around with the oil texture as it's very different from watercolor or acrylic. Familiarize yourself with it, have fun, and above all, play. It's all part of the process.

The Brushes

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Blick Masterstroke Interlocking Bristle Brush Set of 6 $61 $35
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Once you've sorted your paint colors out, it's time to move on to the brushes. There are some really expensive brands out there, but you don't have to spend a lot in the beginning. You can start creating new strokes on any canvas, paper, or medium with this simple brush set first, and then as you develop your technique, you can move onto other brushes and start experimenting further. 

The Paintbrush Cleaner

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Maimeri Turpentine Essence $14
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Since the base of these paints is oil, it means water won't clean them, so you will need to invest in some paint-thinning solution. Some simple turpentine will clean them off quickly too. If you're worried about the smell, you can find odorless mineral spirits that will do the same thing. 

The Paint-Cleaning Jar

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Jarden Mason Jar With Lid $6
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Now that you have your turpentine, you'll need a jar to pour it into for ease of cleaning as you paint. We love these mason jars that look as cool as they are useful. You can opt to put a metal coil inside to rub the brushes against when you have excess paint too, but it's not essential. You can also just use a rag. Which brings us to our next ingredient…

The Washcloths

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Workwipes White Cotton Rags in Box $33
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Once you've dipped your brushes in the paint-thinning solution, you'll need a rag to wipe them clean. You can buy a box of rags, or simply repurpose some old T-shirts or dishcloths instead; they're great for removing excess paint. And when you're finished, give them a wash and reuse them for another round.

The Paint Oil

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Winsor & Newton Drying Mediums for Oils $5
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While it might seem strange to add more oil to an oil-based paint, bear with us. This simple ingredient can alter the consistency of your paint and allow for different levels of thickness. Depending on how much you mix in, you can create a softer and thinner consistency without losing the paint's texture.

Nikole Ramsay for The Grace Tales

The Paint Palette

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RIcheson Wooden Palettes $4
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While you can technically use a plate or piece of material big enough, nothing beats the creative stimulation of seeing paint mixed on a wooden palette. It also helps to see all the colors next to each other in a circular formation and makes for easier mixing too.

The Sketch Pencils

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Faber Castell Graphite Pencils Set of 12 $13
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While it's certainly not crucial to the end result, some artists like to sketch out their painting before they get started. By using a pencil to create an outline of your desired end result, it can remove the writer's block that happens upon seeing a blank page. Having a few shapes, even if they're just arbitrary, can help remove the fear and give you something to start with. 

The Canvas

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Art Alternatives White Canvas $24
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Now that you have the tools, it's time to wipe the slate clean and create your base. You can spend much more on a canvas that you stretch yourself, but these primed boards are just as good for clean strokes and helpful in the early, experimental phases. Of course, you can just opt for paper while you're learning and then move on to canvas when you feel more confident. 

The Easel

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Traveling Monet French Easel With Wheels $84
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Now that you're all set with your tools, the next step is to assemble it all on an easel. The beauty of buying a vintage easel or this French-inspired style is that it doubles as décor when you're not using it. There are more affordable options out there too, but we just love this old-school style and feel it really adds to the magic of the moment. 

The Drop Cloth

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Uline Canvas Drop Cloth $27
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The beauty of being creative is the art of getting messy. You don't want to hold back here or think about where the paint is going as you move through the artistic motions. Just let it go and see where you end up. But while we're all for letting your inner child run loose, we don't think your house will be happy about the oil paint stains. Invest in a canvas drop cloth that you can put underneath your feet as you work. The beauty of these is that they make a beautiful abstract fabric when you're done that can be turned into a piece of art sewn into some cool clothing. It's a win-win. 

How do you relieve anxiety? Seek out some mental escape with one of these hobby ideas.

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