1. Defining Life Satisfaction
2. Benefits of creativity
3. Using Art Therapy to explore life satisfaction
4. Free Download Art Therapy Exercise


The definition of life satisfaction is more complex and robust than the pursuit of happiness. Happiness can form a part of our life satisfaction, however, it is not achievable over an extended period as we navigate the complexities of life and all that it has to offer including sadness, despair, and joy.

Happiness is often a temporary state of emotion, however, life satisfaction contains a broader view to encapsulate our entire life experience. Life satisfaction can be difficult to quantify down to specific criteria because it is mostly reliant on self-assessment.

Relationships and accomplishments may be deemed to form a part of life satisfaction, however, some people may view those aspects as a low priority on their life satisfaction scale. If you value relationships and accomplishments high among your values, then your life satisfaction will also be high, whereas, if relationships and accomplishments are not important to you, then those metrics will do little to raise your life satisfaction.

For someone to assess life satisfaction, they should first determine what values they hold that are most important to them. While not all categories of life satisfaction will be important to everyone, we can usually identify specific aspects that an individual can review when determining their life satisfaction. These categories include (but are not limited to):

  • Relationships (family and friends)
  • Connection
  • Self-expression
  • Emotional release
  • Purpose – includes work
  • Wellbeing – cognitive and physical
  • Psychological growth

Life satisfaction will also remain a moving and malleable construct. We may go through periods in our life where we experience difficulty and our life satisfaction may feel significantly impacted by those experiences. Some people can still report a high level of life satisfaction regardless of current difficulties.

Given the complex nature of our experiences, it is also difficult to assess life satisfaction through simplified Likert scales where responses are often outside the scope of a single statement. Many people can acknowledge the impact of events on their life with added qualifiers. A person may have enjoyed the outcome of an event (birth of their children) but endured significant trauma in the process of that event (giving birth).

Events are sometimes not easily labeled as good/bad and in many cases are satisfying events with qualifiers attached. These broader viewpoints help us understand our experiences better and allow more leeway in how we view these experiences as contributing to our overall life satisfaction.

It is often the case for older people who begin their retirement with excitement at the prospect of spending time with loved ones and participating in hobbies, only to find their enjoyment of these moments can be impacted by the decline of their health as they age.

From all of this discussion, we can see that identifying and quantifying life satisfaction can be difficult. However, using art therapy to understand this construct is possible given the reliance on personal expression that is used within art therapy and creativity in general.


There are many benefits to embracing creativity in our everyday life. Many people connect creativity with the creative arts which include music, art, and dance. When people bring this assumption to the idea of creativity, they often exclude themselves from any creative endeavors as they feel they don’t possess the adequate skills to participate.

Benefits of creativity include:

  • Sense of purpose
  • Expressing fun and joy
  • Developing problem-solving skills
  • A sense of accomplishment and pride
  • Reduction of stress and anxiety
  • Improved awareness and insight
  • Improved cognitive processing
  • Develops social connection
  • Develops passions and shared passions with others
  • Inspires innovation for new ideas
  • Building self-confidence

Creativity doesn’t only include art making. A broader perspective on creativity would include:

  • Music – eg. Listening, creating/playing, singing
  • Visual arts
  • Movement-based expression – eg. Dance, drama
  • Expressive writing -eg. Storytelling, journaling

The broader view of these activities is not to focus on perfecting skills, instead, it is to develop our innate capacity for creative thinking and creative expression.

Creativity helps us to connect with our individual differences and perceptions. It helps us break away from thinking that is focused on what SHOULD I do and instead focuses on what COULD I do.


Art therapy is often viewed in the context of a client seeking reprieve from emotional or psychological distress, however, the nature of creativity can also facilitate exploration of self-expression, skill building, and joyful activity. This means art can provide significant benefits even on our best days as well as our worst.

Some themes, or ideas, to consider exploring based on the previously discussed categories of life satisfaction include:

  • Relationships (family and friends)
    • Reflect on a positive relationship in your life and express that relationship using colours, shapes, and textures in an artwork
  • Connection
    • Create an artwork while sitting outside in nature to help form a connection with art, nature, and relaxation
  • Self-expression
    • Create an artwork that portrays your inner-self
  • Emotional release
    • Reflect on how you are feeling now and translate that feeling to an artwork using shapes, colours, textures etc
    • Create an emotional clock that reflects on the change in your emotions throughout a day. Does any specific experience or activity you engage in alter your emotions?
  • Purpose – includes work
    • Create an artwork that invents a new animal, flower, or object. Let yourself creatively imagine a new idea!
  • Wellbeing – cognitive and physical
    • Create while listening to music and let the music guide your artistic choices
    • Create an artwork that reflects a safe and supportive space that you can relax in
  • Psychological growth
    • Create a collage of all your worries and stress. Transform that artwork into a new image using art supplies that reflect how you might overcome or work through these concerns.

Art therapy has a unique position in aiding the exploration of life satisfaction. Our art making is unique to us and therefore we can use art making to explore and gain deeper insights into our personality and approach to thinking about our lives.

Art therapy encourages us to disconnect from judgmental thinking and fear-based decisions. It encourages us to release our inhibitions so that we may help ourselves through compassion and self-acceptance.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Art Therapy Exercise

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Exploring Your Life Satisfaction with Art Therapy

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