“When we engage in activities, like rock painting, that require our focus in a gentle, mindful way, we benefit on both psychological and physical levels,” says Carla Marie Manly, a California-based clinical psychologist and author of Joy From Fear.
The process of mapping out a pebble design and executing your masterpiece keeps your mind focused on the task at hand, distracting it from outside stressors and temporarily relieving anxiety and worries for the future. “On a neurobiological level, calm-inducing GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) levels increase when engaging in mindfulness-based tasks,” says Manly.
The mind and body also benefit from increased levels of serotonin, a feel-good neurochemical, as well as dopamine, which is often called the brain’s reward neurochemical.
“When a creative activity feels soothing, the parasympathetic nervous system serves to reduce stress hormones, and a sense of calm floods the body,” says Manly.
And the stress-relieving chemicals keep coming even after you’re done painting. Much like the “high” experienced after a refreshing yoga class, a sense of “wow” often happens after completing an artistic task. “Endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, tend to flood the body when we’ve accomplished something important,” says Manly.
The zen-like state that follows up the completion of a creative project can translate into increased positivity and greater self-confidence, she adds. When we feel more positive and confident, we tend to transfer this positive state into other arenas of life, such as how we handle stress and interact with others.
Then there’s the process of hiding of your painted rocks around the community, which activates more reward chemicals. “The creator and giver benefits when dopamine levels rise due to the anticipation of being rewarded — the anticipatory joy that comes with knowing that someone’s day will be brightened when they come across your kindness rock,” says Manly.
The person who finds your surprise gift might experience a surge of mood-boosting neurochemicals, since having a sense of community is foundational for feelings of safety and security. They not only connect with the message you’ve put out into the world, but realize another person created that rock specifically to lift them up.
The result? They feel understood and less alone. “A connection is made with another human being even though you’ve never met,” says Murphy. “It’s a magical process, and all through a simple rock.”
Content Credit: By Krissy Brady Shondaland June 16, 2020