“If you tried to count Allah’s blessings, you would never be able to number them,”

— (16:18) Qur’an

‘Sun from the Heavenly Bodies series,’ by Dana Awartani. Courtesy Dana Awartani and Athr Gallery, Jeddah. The Heavenly Bodies series combine Awartani’s research into both talismans and Enchanted squares, in particular an investigation into how they were created, used and their spiritual significance. Each of the central squares (from 3 to 9 squared) are affiliated with one of the seven classical planets, a day in the week and an angel – they were also once regarded as a form of protection as well as a source of higher spiritual knowledge through numerology. These works, created using traditional methods and pigments, are structured based on the first square, which sits at the top right of the work and holds the code to deciphering which planet has been illustrated.

Take one deep breathe.

Take another.

Hold, and then slowly count to 10 as you exhale. These ‘calming counts’ are one of the oldest and simplest ways to reduce anxiety and rebalance oneself.

Counting brings about a soothing sense of relaxation through its familiarity, and helps us refocus our attention on the present moment. We need numbers in our lives in more ways than one.

The ever-changing social and global dynamics have raised the importance of overall wellness and well-being in everyday life. Every company and individual in society has begun to recognize the role wellness plays in enhancing the quality of life. While the current scope of understanding is limited to the roles of fitness and nutrition, there are several key aspects of wellness that deal extensively with engaging our mental faculties, particularly through cultural engagement and creativity. Mental well-being is an essential element in completing the wellness circle.

As humans, we are multifaceted beings, thus, ignoring the primal areas of our brain function can result in the creation of imbalances. Each human brain has two sides - the analytical, methodical left hemisphere and the creative, artsy right hemisphere. In most cases, the left hemisphere is more dominant compared with the right because we’ve been conditioned to resort to logic and facts from the grassroots level.

The result? Our imaginative right hemispheres are, very often, underutilized, thus giving way to feelings of anxiety, melancholy, and incompleteness. Even though we are conditioned to exercise our logical and analytical thinking more frequently, the silver lining is that there are several methods and tools that allow us to think creatively and improve overall well-being, thus allowing us to manage our anxieties and insecurities by regularly engaging our creative right hemisphere.

Here are a few tips and at home exercises to get your creative juices flowing:

1. Painting By Numbers: This activity is not just for kids! Just like adult coloring books have gained popularity in recent years, this fun, therapeutic exercise has you using paint and numbers to fill in a picture displayed on your canvas. By merging both numbers and bright colors, our artistic senses in the brain’s right hemisphere are activated, thus helping us feel calm and relaxed.

2. Engage in Calligraphy: Calligraphic writing brings together the beautiful symphony of words and souls on paper, with each stroke of the pen gently calming your breathing and soothing an overactive mind. Additionally, it nurtures the concepts of aesthetics and may trigger a revival of Islamic geometric rules, allowing you to see beauty in the smallest things while also improving patience and willingness to learn.

3. Put Together a Jigsaw Puzzle: Remember trying to put together puzzles as a kid? Jigsaws required focus, patience, strategy, and an ability to imagine alternative scenes. The beauty of this exercise is it combines both your logical and cognitive abilities with your artistic side to engage all facets of your brain.

4. Learn to Play the Oud: Dating back to the Akkadian Empire (around 2350 BC), this ancient instrument is a prevalent part of Saudi Arabian culture and has also been the backbone of melodious compositions in the recent past. Pay homage to the rich culture of the country and engage in an online class as you learn to play this traditional stringed instrument and let its calming tunes wash all over your soul.

5. Create an Artistic Time-lapse Wall: Identify a wall in your home that you’d like to deck up with picture highlights from your life and/or the past year. A fun, uberengaging activity for any family to participate in, this exercise will allow you to tap into old memories while awakening all your senses.

“Moon from the Heavenly Bodies series,” by Dana Awartani. Courtesy Dana Awartani and Athr Gallery, Jeddah.

The importance of creativity and its positive effects on mental health and overall well-being cannot be denied. The more creativity, culture and art we bring into our lives, the more rewarding everyday experiences become. Being one with our environments and finding our zen becomes easier. All it takes is immersing ourselves in activities that spark joy and nudge us in the right direction toward peak wellness. Add value to your health by taking the time to get creative - I promise you, it’s worth it.


Virtual resources to check out:

Ithra Goes Virtual

My Paint by Numbers

The School of Oud Online


Written by Leila Almaeena, a leadership coach, consultant and Saudi media personality in the field of wellbeing in both personal and professional development.

She also hosts her show “Ghathi Modak” on Fatafeat Discovery Channel.

Instagram: @LeilaAlmaeena