Joy is the foundation of the 8 Expressive Arts of Healing. Work through this area first, since the other Expressive Arts are based on it. Then you can explore the others in any order or at any time. One of my doctors told me “If you know who you are, you heal better.” So let the healing begin.

These activities are designed to help you get in touch with your heart and soul, what makes you tick, and what you love. They will help you identify what brings you joy so you can increase it in your life. You will get a clearer picture of what motivates you so you can spend your time doing what is most important. If you are doing what brings you joy, it is easier to be optimistic and life is definitely more fun.

Joy MapA Joy Map uses a mind map format to brainstorm what brings you joy in your life. Begin by drawing a circle in the center of an unlined sheet of paper. In that circle write what you are brainstorming, “Joy” in this case. On the radiating lines from the center circle, write things that are joyful or fun for you. Continue to list on the radiating lines until you run out of ideas. Changing the color of pen or marker can help stimulate more ideas or expand your train of thought.

Under the radiating lines, list things you can do and places you can go to experience that joy. A Joy Map can be used to explore your hopes and dreams or identify goals. You can continue to create Joy Maps using this tool over time, since life is always changing.

The first time I made a Joy Map, my full-time job was not on it. Now I have different work that is a lot more fun. Through Joy Mapping I realized that I wanted to travel and see at least one new place every year. Now that is a part of my life and I have seen many new and incredible places I never thought I’d see.

Learn more about mind mapping at

Compass MapThe Compass Map reminds you to balance the areas of life – Personal, Family, Work and Community. Fill in your own desires or goals.

This diagram was inspired by a college professor who accomplished a great deal in her lifetime before passing away in her 90’s. At her memorial service, her son said “She lived her life like a compass” and he explained what she had done in each of the 4 areas balancing her life. She even hiked to a mountaintop in Switzerland the year before she passed away.


Guiding PrinciplesYour Guiding Principles are a list of core values or life lessons important to remember in decision-making or to share with your children or loved ones. You can print them on a card for a handy reminder.




Vision BoardA Vision Board is a collage showing pictorially what you love, your hopes and dreams or what you what you want to accomplish. Start with cardboard or poster-board and collect pictures from magazines, brochures, travel catalogs and online. If you do not have enough magazines at your home, go to a bookstore that has a large magazine rack. Local libraries also have a broad selection of unique publications and you can color copy the images you want to take home. Select photos of places you want to visit, things you want to do, or quotes that inspire and motivate you.

Glue all the images you selected on the board. You can make the collage more permanent by applying a top coat of a product like Mod Podge, found in craft stores. Applied with a brush, it is a water-based sealer like glue for finishing. This is a great activity for both children and adults. Keep your Vision Board where you can view it periodically. You will tend to accomplish things that are in the forefront of your mind and this serves as a reminder.

Activities for Children
Children can do a variation of these activities tailored to their interests. Blank unlined journals and markers are great gifts for sick or recovering children. Children should be encouraged to illustrate their feelings and write something, even just a sentence about the illustration. If they are too young to write, caregivers can write what the child says about their drawings. Through expression, their fears can be set free or at least shared and calmed.

Shadow Box Picture Frames can be used for children to make 3D collages of what they love or collect. They can be based on a theme, like a recent trip or include their favorite collections or found objects. The finished masterpiece can be hung in their hospital room or bedroom.

Additional Resources

Baker, Dan, PhD. What Happy Women Know (Rodale, 2007)
Beck, Martha Steering By Starlight: The Science and Magic of Finding Your Destiny (Rodale, 2008)
Buzan, Tony with Buzan Barry The Mind Map Book: How to Use Radiant Thinking to Maximize Your Brain’s Untapped Potential (Plume 1993)
Carr, Kris Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips (Skirt, 2007)
Carr, Kris Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor (Skirt, 2008)
Catteral, James S. Doing Well and Doing Good By Doing Art (Imagination Group/I-Group Books, 2009)
Digh, Patti Life is a Verb (Skirt, 2008)
Dossey, Larry, MD. The Extra-Ordinary Healing Power of Ordinary Things: Fourteen Natural Steps to Health and Happiness (Harmony Books, 2006)
Ganim, Barbara Art and Healing: Using Expressive Art to Heal Your Body, Mind, and Spirit (Three Rivers Press, 1999)
Geffen, Jeremy, MD. The Journey Through Cancer: Healing and Transforming the Whole Person (Three Rivers Press, 2006)
McMeekin, Gail 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women (Conari Press, 2000)
McNiff, Shaun Art Heals: How Creativity Cures The Soul (Shambhala, 2004)
McNiff, Shaun Trust The Process: An Artist’s Guide to Letting Go (Shambhala, 1998)
Rogers, Natalie The Creative Connection: Expressive Arts as Healing (Science and Behavior Books, 1993)
Tolle, Eckhart A New Earth: Awakening To Your Life’s Purpose (Plume, 2005)