04 Apr

Experiences, Not Stuff

Some months ago I read an article about proven methods to reduce stress. Apparently I’ve been intuitively utilizing several of them – coloring (so to speak), changes in spending, and reduced screen time. Research has shown increased screen time to be a major risk factor for mood disorders among U.S. adults.

One key recommendation was to spend on experiences, not things. The former give long-term happiness via memories, while buying things provides only a brief mood boost from brain chemicals. Rather than buying lots of stuff, I indulge in theater and concert experiences at home. I also make a point of taking vacations that provide novel experiences.

Last fall’s trip to southern Spain is an example. It will result in new paintings of everything from Seville’s old city to the stunning Moorish architecture of Cordoba, the gorge where Ronda clings to a cliff, and the ocean at Cadiz. My painting process shown here – photo  cropping, thumbnail sketch, rough-in composition – also helps fulfil the “coloring” recommendation for stress reduction. LOL  All joking aside, I do indeed find painting with vibrant pastels helps me focus and feel good.

This work in progress will become a painting of Cadiz, a port city where we relaxed for several days after spending too much time in buses on challenging mountain roads. While not exceptional, Cadiz checked all the boxes for Spain – a cathedral, the ruins of a fort, a medieval old town, lots of ham – plus stunning ocean views, and even surfers. I’ll post another image when this painting is finished.



  1. It will be a daylight painting, Laurie. Glad you liked seeing it in progress. Almost done; the finished piece will appear in another blog post. I’m love/hate with the Kindle, only use it because I simply can’t carry enough real books when traveling.

  2. I also love seeing the three phases of Cadiz. Will it be a sunset painting?
    Screen time is definitely a problem for me because of my Kindle.
    I love my Kindle ( not having to carry ten books while I am travelling and being able to read at night in the dark).
    But, huge but, I miss holding a book and smelling the scent of the paper.

  3. Susan and Michelle, so glad this resonated for you. Yes, activities from finger painting to snow shoeing are great, as long as they get us away from electronic devices. And I’m happy to share my process, helping people understand what goes into creating my paintings.

  4. Beth, I love this post and the focus on finding ways to reduce stress is spot on! I spend time outdoors, walking dogs, gardening, hiking,snowshoeing (in VT, where there’s still snow!), etc. And, like you, I prefer experiences to things. LOVE seeing this progression of your art. Thanks for sharing – can’t wait to see the final product!

  5. Does finger painting count? .
    I agree that anything that takes us away from our screens and allows for enrichment in our lives is a very good thing.
    Love seeing your process.

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