An app for expressive art? Sounds like a bit of an odd concept, right? Well, don’t look away just yet. Whether you’re a dancer, a painter, or just want something to help you with Mindfulness, there are a decent amount of apps out there which may be of use to you…
Unless you’ve been living under a stone the past few years, you’ll have encountered the ‘adult coloring’ phenomenon. It’s taken the world by storm - and a lot of people say it’s really helped their mindfulness practice, reduced their stress levels, and given their creativity a boost. However, if you aren’t able to carry coloring books and pencils around with you wherever you go (who is?), there are plenty of adult coloring apps you can download. One of the best is Recolor - a slick, well-presented app which manages to pretty faithfully recreate the act of coloring, despite being on a tablet or cellphone! There are thousands of designs to choose from, and a bigger selection of colors than you could ever fit into a pencil case! Lots of the designs are free, but more are available via in-app purchases.
Using an app to help you dance is not the easiest thing in the world. After all, unless you’re seriously well covered for accidents, nobody wants to dance with a phone or tablet in their hands! However, apps can give you a decent spread of pre-dance info, and help you not only to perfect your moves, but to learn new ones, and gain a greater general understanding of the world of dance. Pocket Salsa is one of the better dance apps out there. It provides dance-lesson vids and plenty of genuinely helpful advice to really improve your salsa!
Chromaldry is another coloring app - but with a difference. This one will take your smartphone photos and turn them into coloring pictures. It offers a nice paint palette, where users can mix their own colors by swirling them together with their fingers. It’s a lovely idea, and very well executed. The ability to turn your own photos into art adds a nice personal touch, and can really help those wanting to improve their artistic ‘eye’!
See Me allows you to turn your own photos and/or designs into wearable art. For $32 per tee, the app will print your design onto a t-shirt (which you get to customise to your own specifications) and send it out to you. Perfect for commemorating something lovely, or for providing someone with a unique gift! Of course, customized t-shirts are nothing new, but this app goes the extra mile to make a truly personalized tee easy and intuitive to create.
If you want to incorporate your phone into your dance (and why not), Air Pencil is a great way to do it. Basically, the app transforms your phone’s flashlight into a strobe light, which can be used to ‘draw’ temporary designs on the air. The app also captures your motions on its screen, allowing you to create beautiful designs with light. The app was inspired by artists like Picasso and Mili, both of whom experimented extensively in the arena of painting with light.
Lots of people are interested in pole dancing - and it is an excellent way to get fit and build confidence - but not everyone is comfortable with the idea of going to a class. Pole motion teaches you pole dance from the comfort of your own home. It’s suitable for both complete beginners and those who already know what they’re doing, so you don’t have to worry about getting in over your head! The app is free, so all you’ll need to purchase is the pole - but do be careful not to hurt yourself, and always do the app’s warm up before starting!
iDance is a dance and fitness app, which teaches dance steps through nifty little animations. There are plenty of styles to choose from, and it’s a great place to start if you’re new to dance, or thinking about taking it up but aren’t really sure whether it’s for you. While it may not be suitable for more advanced dancers, it does provide a great grounding for those starting out!
Overcoming Awkwardness: How to Let Go of Self-Criticism and Open Up to Self-Expression (Guest Post by Anne Haley)
Self-criticism is not necessarily a bad thing. That little voice which tells us when we’re doing something wrong is essential to give us some self-awareness, to ensure that we learn from our mistakes, and to prevent us from becoming narcissistic, over-entitled individuals. However, sometimes that self-critical inner voice gets a bit over-active. It starts shouting us down when it doesn’t need to, telling us that we’re going to fail, to make fools of ourselves, that everyone is going to hate us - so we should reign ourselves back and simply not try. Quite obviously, this can be very restrictive. Many who come to dance workshops may find themselves hindered by their self-critical inner voice - unable to express themselves as freely as they would like because they’re pre-emptively criticizing their performance. If this sounds like you - don’t worry! There are ways to conquer and incorporate your self-critical inner voice, so that it helps rather than hinders you. You can then unlock your full self-expressive potential, and feel the benefits of mindful dancing as you should. Here’s how:
Remember What Your Self-Critical Voice Is For
If you suffer from an excess of self-criticism, it is important to remember what purpose self-criticism actually serves. Self-criticism, if it’s working properly, should be a teaching and protecting tool. It’s not there to beat you down and make you hate yourself. Far from it. It’s there to flag up when something’s going wrong, and to help you think of ways to put it right or to do it better next time. The self-critical ‘teaching’ voice helps you develop self-awareness, which in turn helps you to navigate your way successfully through the world.
It’s also there to protect you from negative outcomes. If you have an overactive self-critical voice, it’s likely that you’re vastly overestimating (or misunderstanding) the importance of certain situations to your life as a whole. This is likely to be because you’ve been bullied in the past, mocked and abused until you started analyzing every tiny action for any potential it presents others to pick on you. When your self-critical voice starts up, what it’s doing is trying to protect you from the bullying you subconsciously expect to follow whatever action you’re contemplating. Of course, in practice, your self-critical voice has basically taken over the task of bullying, pre-emptively.
So what can you do? It’s simple: remember that your self-critical voice is about protecting and teaching you. If the situation it’s trying to muscle in on is not one from which you, realistically, need protecting, and not one from which you’re going to learn any ‘negative’ lessons, there is simply no need for it. In a dance situation, nobody is going to mock you - however ‘badly’ you dance - and you’re unlikely to encounter any ‘negative’ lessons. So, when your self-critical inner voice pipes up, acknowledge its input, but don’t pay undue attention to it. There’s no need to take what it’s saying too deeply to heart - it’s just not relevant in this situation.
Treat Yourself With Compassion
We’ve said above that self-criticism serves a useful purpose when used correctly. This is true. However, self-criticism only really operates correctly when it is working in conjunction with self-compassion. Without the compassionate side of the equation, your learning and protective mechanisms will be terribly lopsided, with the self-critical element of the mechanism grossly swollen out of all proportion. Self-criticism tells you where you’re going wrong. Self-compassion helps you to put yourself right. When things are operating as they should, the whole mechanism should be something like a kindly teacher. “Look, you got this sum wrong. But it’s ok! Here’s where you went wrong, it’s an easy mistake to make. Next time, you’ll know how to do it right, and you’ll get better and better!” Without self-compassion, however, you end up with a hectoring bully. “Look, you got this sum wrong. You’re so STUPID! You’re awful at math! How did you ever think you could do math? Why do you even bother to come to this class?”. To get things working as they should, start fostering your sense of self-compassion. Understand your humanity, learn to forgive yourself, and change your restrictive, self-hating narratives to ones of self-compassion and growth. Self-compassion leads to positive change, learning, and personal development. Without it, you’ll find yourself stuck in a particularly horrible rut.
To truly express yourself through mindful dance, you need to let go of the self-criticism which is holding you back. These classes are safe spaces, you have nothing to fear. This is a good opportunity to exercise your self-compassion, and let it help you to develop greater self-expression. Which in turn will lend you greater self-awareness and bring forth a good deal of personal development. Taming an overactive self-critical voice is often a tough process. It needs work, it needs vigilance, and it doesn’t happen overnight. But, trust us, it’s very much worth it.
Dr. Jamie Marich
Curator of the Dancing Mindfulness expressive arts blog: a celebration of mindfully-inspired, multi-modal creativity