Healing Through Art & Travel
Kristen Kantounatakis, MA, AT
Founder of Artful Expeditions


Please share your thoughts, favorite quotes, and anecdotes! 
Benefits of Gratitude

Let Us Whine No More Or At Least Much Less

I cannot have all of my wishes filled

Whine, whine, whine!

I cannot have every frustration stilled

Whine, whine, whine!

Life really owes me the things that I miss, Fate has to grant me eternal bliss!

And since I must settle for less than this

Whine, whine, whine!

                          -Albert Ellis (Sung to the tune of The Whiffenpoof Song by Guy Schull)

Good Morning, Fellow Self-Seekers!

There is something to be said for this little poem written by psychotherapist, Albert Ellis. Negativity only gives way to more negativity, and if one could flip the switch to look at the world through a grateful lens rather then an entitled one-it is guaranteed to lighten the general atmosphere around you! Gratitude, like any other skill one wants to develop, must be regularly practiced in order for one to reach full potential. However, unlike practicing many other skills, the results are practically immediate! Admittedly, there may be times when it is quite difficult to identify the positive aspects of certain situations (sometimes they are only identifiable in retrospect), there is always something-any tiny shard counts.

Challenging ones self to find gratitude changes one's perspective, and helps to sweep away the petty annoyances of our day-to-day that conjure feelings of impatience, intolerance, passing judgement, anger, and resentment all of which take a lot of energy and drag ourselves and each other down. According to Dan Mager, author of Some Assembly Required, research based benefits of regularly practicing gratitude include but are not limited to:

•    Gratitude facilitates contentment. Practicing gratitude is one of the most reliable methods for increasing contentment and life satisfaction. It also improves mood by enhancing feelings of optimism, joy, pleasure, enthusiasm, and other positive emotions. Conversely, gratitude also reduces anxiety and depression.

•    Gratitude promotes physical health. Studies suggest gratitude helps to lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, reduce symptoms of illness, and make us less bothered by aches and pains.

•    Gratitude enhances sleep. Grateful people tend to get more sleep each night, spend less time awake before falling asleep, and feel more rested upon awakening. If you want to sleep more soundly, instead of counting sheep count your blessings.

•    Gratitude strengthens relationships. It makes us feel closer and more connected to friends and intimate partners. When partners feel and express gratitude for each other, they each become more satisfied with their relationship.

•    Gratitude encourages “paying it forward.” Grateful people are generally more helpful, generous of spirit, and compassionate. These qualities often spill over onto others.

Kristen's Call to Action!

Don't let the week revolving around Thanksgiving be your annual exercise in practicing gratitude. Start today! Do it everyday! Take something that is irritating you right now, and challenge yourself to find a positive element that you could/should be grateful for. It could change the day's entire outcome!!

Personal Gratitude Story

Today I am truly grateful. Today I ran for the first time since breaking my foot on July 26th of this year. I ran three miles with no pain [in my foot]. I gradually increased my speed choreographed to a playlist, and when I reached the peak with Madonna in my ear I felt like I could fly (The song was “Die Another Day,” which I will include in this post!). More importantly, I got back the feeling that I can do anything, which I had not felt since the break.


It might sound overly dramatic and analytical, but hey- it’s what I do to myself! (Sound familiar?) This break did something else to me. Like my choreographed playlist, this break could not have had more perfect/awful timing. I had just been forced to close my art gallery that I owned and operated for five years, which is also why I hurled myself into training.


I strongly believe the mind, body, and spirit work together as one. When my business had to close, I still felt capable and strong through training for this half marathon. The day before I broke my foot, I reached a personal best of 7.5 miles! Once I broke my foot I was helpless. I had crutches and a boot for three weeks, and then the boot for another month.  Taking a shower was a nightmare because I had to hop on one foot over the tub to get in and out (don’t even ask about shaving…). One time doing this I had a really bad fall out of the tub, and at that point I had a melt down right there on the floor.


I have never felt so defeated. It’s just that... Well… I am a proud person, and I have always prided myself on independence. That ended abruptly both physically and financially. And in hindsight, I find this to be a blessing. I had to let people take care of me. My mom came up for the day to do my laundry, make a week’s worth of food, and paint my boyfriend’s bathroom that I started and couldn’t finish. The whole day was spent with me nervously hobbling back and forth trying to accomplish anything while my mom yelled at me to lie down while she accomplished everything. It was amazing. I had to let myself rely on people, and even ask perfect strangers for help. Most importantly, it made me rely on my now fiancé, which forced a trust in him I have never been able to achieve with another human being. It’s not a coincidence that I’m pulling out of my career-transitional-funk in tandem with myself being able to run three miles after four months of nothing…


I still have a ways to go to figure out how to make a career doing what I love, but what is different is that the fear is gone and that is what running meant for me today. I am truly grateful for a healthy and strong body, and a deeper awareness of love and trust.     


Inner Wellness Series: Week 1: Gratitude

Hello Everyone!
This week I am beginning the Inner Wellness Series. Each week I will focus on a topic that affect each and every one of us in our everyday lives. These topics can also be looked at as skills to develop to enhance your self awareness, and hopefully empower yourself to live the life you want! I am focusing on Gratitude this week. My personal experience I am sharing with you is longer than what most of my posts will be because it is a very fresh experience for me and so the feelings are still potent. I hope you are able to glean something from my story. Visual journaling really helps me to process and capture my feelings and thoughts and so I am including the page I created in my journal followed by the page I created in response to processing my experience.
Throughout the week I will post the benefits of regularly practicing Gratitude. Please check back, and feel free to share your own stories!

Look for us in Miser Magazine!

Miser Magazine, a local publication dedicated to the art and literature of local artists, is featuring Artful Expeditions in their June issue. Be sure to pick up your copy to see some awesome examples of visual journaling projects!

P.S. A very Happy Birthday goes out to our wonderful founder, Kristen, who turned 30 on May 16!

Living from the inside out!

I saw a Ted Talk recently where the speaker urged us to live from the inside out - not the outside in. This really resonated with me, and inspired me to re-examine my priorities.

We spend so much time on the outside: work, school, relationships, meeting the expectations of other people. We inevitably end up neglecting the inside: our dreams, our feelings, our values, our goals. Are our lives on the outside in sync with what's inside? Are we living according to our personal, inner voice or are we letting outside expectations construct our lives for us?

Sometimes it's hard to hear that inner voice. Making sure we nurture it is one of the many advantages of self-care and self-awareness. Take the time to get to know yourself today!

Take a deep breath and let it go!

Pinterest has become one of the best ways to discover, well, just about anything! Today I searched phrases like "inner peace", "personal growth" and "self-awareness" - and got thousands of inspiring results! There were so many uplifting quotes that I instantly felt in a better mood. I recommend searching on your own (especially if you're having a rough day!) but here's my favorite example:

"I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in tune once more." -John Burroughs

Self-awareness in the workplace.

On the heels of my last blog post, it is now 30 degrees and snowing. Gotta love Cleveland!

I read an article from the Harvard Business Review urging employers to hire people who are self-aware. "Companies frequently complain that it’s tough to find the right people... perhaps it’s time for a profound shift in how we think about staffing." The article explains that fundamental qualities, such as self-awareness, are the most desirable traits in a job applicant.

Read the full post here: http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/01/for-a-more-flexible-workforce-hire-self-aware-people/

What is self-awareness?

Just when I was beginning to think winter would never end - Happy SPRING! 62 degrees has never felt warmer! I am so refreshed by this weather.

Today, while working to promote Artful Expeditions, I realized that we use the term "self-awareness" a lot. And of course we do - that's our mission, to promote self-awareness! But what does it mean? This great video asks people on the street to give their definition. And how funny that travel is one of the first things that comes up! We are truly changed and made more self-aware when we experience other cultures.

What does self-awareness mean to you? Tell us in the comments!

Artful Expeditions indoor - because exploration begins at home!

With Old Man Winter stubbornly persisting into April, I've been forced to start looking for weather-resistant locations for Artful Expeditions! This has been a little bit of a challenge, but also quite enlightening. I had no idea how many museums, gardens, landmarks, reservations, and other amusements that Ohio alone has to offer!

Right now I'm tossing around several possible ideas. What would you guys think of participating in yoga as part of an expedition? A trip to the historic Hay-Mckinney house or the ornate Adena Mansion? Let us know about these and any other ideas in the comments! :)

Learn to travel and travel to learn.

I have to admit that I'm mildly obsessed with Ted Talks. I've learned about everything from psychology to economics to online dating through their short, but powerful videos. So I was browsing through the videos as usual when I came across this talk from Rick Steves, called "The Value of Travel". For the last thirty years, he has spent four months each year traveling, and here he discusses how it has changed and enriched his life:

I loved every minute of this talk. He gets a little political, and you may not agree with his views, but what I enjoyed was hearing his various experiences and what he learned from each one. Not only has he gained perspective on the world (he says travel has inspired him to become a better citizen of the planet), but he's been able to turn that perspective to his own life. Everything he learned while traveling has changed him. For me, the best part was when he explained how opening his mind has abolished his fear. After all, as he puts it, "fear is for people who don't get out much".

The Science of Happiness investigates art therapy!

Watch as participants explore their emotions and experiences through art - without even knowing what they're doing! Amazingly powerful to watch.

Check out this pic from last Saturday's class!

AE Uncorked Class
Focusing on the black canvas, one student described her finished product as a reflection of how she feels: "like glowing light in the darkness.... You have to smile at life, or it will make you cry."  Art naturally and unobtrusively draws out unexpected emotions and thoughts from all corners of the mind.

I wish each of these people had paint on the bottoms of their feet.


An inspiring, short-but-sweet message to start the week!

In art school, Phil Hansen developed an unruly tremor in his hand that kept him from creating the pointillist drawings he loved. Hansen was devastated, floating without a sense of purpose. Until a neurologist made a simple suggestion: embrace this limitation ... and transcend it.

Taking a cue from his own artistic journey, Phil Hansen challenges us to spark our creativity by thinking inside the box. Full bio »

The Power of Thought

Whatever you think, you create!

Let your thoughts be positive
for they will become your words.
Let your words be positive
for they will become your actions.
Let your actions be positive
for they will become your values.
Let your values be positive
for they will become your destiny.
~ Mahatma Gandhi

Kristen Kantounatakis MA, AT