Did You Take Your Art Pill Today?

Why Art is Good Medicine for Troubled Times.

Photo by Eddy Klaus on Unsplash

The mountain view. Sunset on the beach. A field of wildflowers.

Music, poetry, sculpture, visual and performing arts—our brains are wired to read things that are aesthetically beautiful as rewards.

Studies show that art promotes health and mental well-being.

Art expresses things that are too difficult to put into words. It helps us to understand how to care for ourselves.

Anyone who has put on a certain song to improve their mood has used art to feel better.

I grew up close to the Dali museum. One of my favorite things to do was to walk around the museum by myself. I reaped great enjoyment from getting lost in the flow of Dali’s mind-bending works.

Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Museums have positive effects on us psychologically and socially. Try to walk through a museum without being swept up in positive memories. Art encourages self-reflection.

If you need to reduce stress and feel better about the world these days, you could do a lot worse than spending a few hours inside of a museum.

Depending on the type of art it is, it may even lower your blood pressure.

Art Should Never Be Separated from Education

I used to teach school theatre classes. Over the course of a semester, the positive changes I would see in my students was incredible.

Their intrinsic motivation, self-worth, and creativity would all dramatically increase (pun intended).

When students are asked to participate in making and responding to art, it can:

  1. Improve observational and awareness skills.
  2. Increase empathy.
  3. Enhance nonverbal communication.
  4. Make students better collaborators.
  5. Make students better at managing interpersonal relationships.

When nurses were given a visual art educational program, it increased their empathy for their patients.

And art education is a net-positive. Research has shown that the better understanding you have about the art you are experiencing, the more pleasure you get from it.

A New Science is Emerging Around Appreciating Art

Neuroaesthetics is the study of the aesthetic experience, particularly visual art, on the brain.

One finding that this new area of science found was that dynamic artwork activates the motor systems of your brain.

Your brain’s motor system controls sensations, motivates body movements, and allows you to respond to your environment.

What this finding means, is that the reward of experiencing artwork happens regardless of the emotional content of the art itself.

So that bright abstract painting hanging in the doctor’s office is doing something to your body.

That sad symphony or melodramatic film can make you feel better.

Reframing Art Therapy

The term “art therapy” was first used by the British artist Adrian Hill. He discovered the healing benefits of drawing and painting while recovering from tuberculosis in a sanatorium.

He spoke about art’s power to “completely engross” the mind and body. He witnessed patients using art to build up defenses against “misfortunes.”

Like most therapist-guided practices, the use of art therapy has mainly focused on children, teens, or adults who are trying to manage psychological issues.

Photo by Andrew “Donovan” Valdivia on Unsplash

While art therapy’s uses to help manage addictions, raise self-esteem, or process abuse is certainly useful, maybe it’s time to realize that art therapy can benefit everyone.

The beauty of art therapy was finding a way to introduce art to people who didn’t see themselves as artists.

Now, even prisoners can have art shows.

Many people mistakingly see art as the ritual practice of a chosen few. Designed for the expression of a gifted person’s talent and made for the admiration of a niche public.

But art in its purest form is so much more than that.

It is the doorway to the awakening of the unconscious mind.

In the Middle Ages, religious scribes painted illuminated manuscripts of their sacred texts.

The East has a rich history of using mandalas to reduce anxiety and help someone enter a meditative state.

Photo by jens holm on Unsplash

In challenging times, art tends to get pushed aside, or worse destroyed. But it is often art that comes closest to giving us perspective when the unimaginable happens.

As the great filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky said, “art would be useless if the world were perfect. Art is born out of an ill-designed world.”

Brian Boyd, author of “On The Origins of Stories” says, “A work of art acts like a playground for the mind.”

It’s a good thing we have these playgrounds all around us.

If you like this, check my other article “The Traits of Timeless Art.” Thanks for reading.

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Writing as I live it. Creativity. Flow. Leadership. Peak Performance.

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Brendan Patrick Blowers

Brendan Patrick Blowers

Writing as I live it. Creativity. Flow. Leadership. Peak Performance.

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