An art workshop in Yankalilla helped teach young adults the fundamentals of gratitude.

Art psychotherapist, Jane Smeets facilitated a Yankalilla Council workshop for young adults over the winter in the Great Gorge walk, aimed to teach lessons of gratitude, mindfulness and grounding oneself.

With participants aged between 12-25 from the council’s youth program known as YAC, the workshop highlighted the importance of nature and how it connects to people’s wellbeing.

“The intent was to really connect with the environment through the art process,” Smeets said.

“When we’re in nature and present to it we forget all of our business and our concerns. It is a sensory engagement that we get.

“Our body has this sort of sensory memory of it and I think it just calms us.”

Participants were encouraged to choose an element of nature they were drawn toward as a way to find a personal bond with nature.

“Some of the participants chose a pink flower and said ‘this flower reminds me of who I am’,” Smeets said.

“We went through a mindfulness sensory activity to ground ourselves to nature: to connect, to feel it, to smell it, to see it.”

Based in Second Valley, Smeets has more than 12 years’ experience as an arts psychotherapist, working in palliative care.

Smeets said an arts psychotherapist is trained to use the tool of visuals to find clarity, insights and new understandings for those who struggle to communicate verbally.

“There are times when there’s no language to express some of our experiences, there’s no words that match those feelings, those body felt feelings,” she said.

“By finding another way of communicating a visual language, it really supports people to be able to express something normally they wouldn’t be able to express. It’s a universal language.”

Once the initial idea of gratitude had been established, participants then painted what caught their attention with raw materials they found around themselves.

Smeets said this was the most important part of the workshop as it required participants to put their learnings into a visual practise.

One participant said they didn’t expect to learn about gratitude on the day.

“I will definitely try to use art next time I feel like I don’t know what to do and am feeling stressed,” they told the workshop organisers.

Smeets said the overall message was for participants to be familiar with their emotions and use the grounding strategies learnt through the workshop to help them.

“Once we start doing those things, our hearts become open to connecting with nature and ourselves,” she said.

“They [the participants] realised it wasn’t just the end result that’s important; it’s the art process or the process of engaging that is probably the most important thing.”

To see more of Jane’s exhibitions, visit Art Worx Gallery Gifts in Goolwa and Pike & Joyce in the Adelaide Hills, or follow her on Instagram @jane_smeets for more.

Words: Claudia Dichiera