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The Benefits Art has on Mental Health

Art Piece by Local Artist Cathy Carey

The correlation between art and mental health has become prominently discussed in today’s world. A multitude of forms of art therapy and how art can benefit those who suffer from mental health issues have been discussed in the form of treatment. Prioritizing mental health in society has led to monumental mental health movements, an increase in inquiring professionals for help, and the development of destigmatizing the stereotypes that revolve around mental health issues. For centuries, art has been used as a form of self-expression and catharsis. In recent years, however, the therapeutic benefits of art have begun to be recognized by the scientific community. Numerous studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between art and mental health. Participation in artistic activities has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. It can also help to boost self-esteem and self-awareness. Additionally, art can provide a sense of connection and community for those who feel isolated or alone. Whether it’s painting, sculpting, drawing, viewing art, or simply doodling, there are countless ways to use art as a tool for mental health. 

Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses art-making to facilitate healing and self-expression. The goal of art therapy is to help people explore their emotions, increase self-awareness, and cope with stressors in their lives. Art therapy can be an effective treatment for mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and trauma. It can also help improve functioning in areas such as communication and social skills. A growing body of research supports the use of art therapy for a variety of mental health issues. In one study, for example, participants who engaged in 45 minutes of creative activity showed increased levels of positive emotion and decreased levels of negative emotion. These findings suggest that even brief periods of creative activity can have a positive influence on mental health. Art therapy may be an especially useful treatment for people who are reluctant to talk about their emotions or who have difficulty expressing themselves verbally. Through art-making, people can explore difficult emotions in a safe and supportive environment. Art therapy can be an effective way to reduce stress, promote self-awareness, and improve overall mental health.

It is evident that creating any form of art can help improve one’s mental health state. However, what is uniquely interesting is how just the act of viewing art has been proven in scientific studies to be just as beneficial as creating art. The benefits of just simply viewing art consist of a decrease in stress levels, an increase in empathy, a gain of emotions of love, a stronger level of critical thinking, and an improved sense of relief from mental exhaustion. There is increasing evidence in rehabilitation medicine and the field of neuroscience that art enhances brain function by impacting brain wave patterns, emotions, and the nervous system. Art can also raise serotonin levels. These benefits don’t just come from making art, they also occur by experiencing art.

The Benefits of Viewing Art

1. Decreased Stress Levels

A new study has found that exploring an art gallery can help to reduce stress levels. The research, which was conducted by the University of Westminster, involved asking a group of office workers to spend thirty minutes or more during their lunch break visiting an art gallery. The workers were then asked to rate their stress levels before and after the activity. The results showed that those who had visited the gallery felt significantly less stressed than those who had not. Gallery goers also reported feeling more alert and creative. This research suggests that taking some time out to appreciate art can be an effective way to reduce stress and improve well-being.

2. Increased Empathy

A recent study found that students who visited an art museum displayed higher social tolerance and increased historical empathy. The study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Leicester, surveyed a group of students before and after they visited an art museum. The results showed that the students who visited the museum were more likely to exhibit tolerant attitudes towards people from different social groups and to display a greater understanding of historical events. The study highlights the importance of arts education in promoting positive social attitudes and understanding of history. It also suggests that museums can play a valuable role in promoting tolerance and empathy among young people.

3. Emotions of Love

When we look at a work of art, we may not be aware of the complex chemical reaction that is taking place in our brains. However, neurobiologist Semir Zeki has found that viewing art triggers the release of dopamine, the chemical associated with pleasure and satisfaction. In a study conducted at University College London, participants were asked to view a selection of paintings while their brain activity was monitored. The results showed that certain areas of the brain became more active when viewing certain types of art, and that dopamine was released when participants experienced aesthetic pleasure. This research provides insights into the complex relationship between the brain and art, and how art can affect our emotions and well-being.

4. Stronger Critical Thinking

A new study has found that children who visit an art museum experience a significant increase in critical thinking skills. The study, which was conducted by the American Psychological Association, found that children who visited an art museum showed a 9-18% increase in critical thinking skills. This is the first study to examine the impact of art museum visits on cognitive abilities. The findings suggest that art museum visits can have a positive impact on children’s cognitive development. The study provides new evidence for the importance of arts education and will likely lead to more research on the subject.

5. Relief From Mental Exhaustion

A new study by psychology professor Jan Packer has found that viewing art can help relieve people of mental exhaustion and restore focus in the same way that the outdoors can. The study, which was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, asked participants to look at either a landscape painting or an abstract painting for two minutes. The researchers found that participants who gazed at the landscape painting experienced a significant decrease in mental fatigue, while those who looked at the abstract painting did not. The findings suggest that viewing art can provide the same cognitive benefits as spending time in nature. Professor Packer believes that this is because both activities involve “soft” attention, which is a type of gentle, unfocused attention that allows the mind to rest. So next time you’re feeling frazzled, take a break to appreciate some art – it just might help you refocus and feel refreshed.

It’s important to allow yourself time to create and experience art regularly, even if you don’t consider yourself “artistic.” Not only is creating art itself therapeutic but viewing art can also have positive effects on your mental health. If you struggle with a mental health condition, consider seeking out art therapy as a treatment option – it may be more effective than you think!

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