Enjoying art is good for your health, here's 4 research-backed reasons why
06 Nov 2017
We also understand art plays a fundamental part in our society and lives, and we'll do just about anything to uphold that.
But beyond appreciation and recording history, can enjoying art be good for our health?
We asked science for their advice… here are 4 research-backed reasons why enjoying art is good for your health.
1. Art decreases stress
Engaging in art for even just a brief lunchtime break can have a significant impact on stress levels, according to a study by the University of Westminster. Usually, cortisol (stress hormone) takes roughly five hours to return to normal levels in your body after a stressful episode but a 35 minute trip to the art gallery can rapidly reduce that recovery time. Which means you'll be feeling calmer sooner.
2. Improves psychological resilience and increases brain activity
Every time you embark on a learning journey where you are exploring a new activity or trying your hand at a complex task, like learning to play an instrument or painting a detailed portrait, your brain creates new connections between brain cells. This ability is called brain plasticity and it's something we need to keep up for our brains to remain healthy.
In particular, research in How Art Changes Your Brain: Different Effects of Visual Art Production and Cognitive Art Evaluation on Functional Brain Connectivity reveals creating visual art has been found to improve functional connectivity in the frontal and parietal cortices of the brain, and this has a direct positive impact on increasing your physiological (stress) resilience.
3. Boosts self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment
There is something truly fulfilling about completing a task or project and happily gazing upon your handiwork. That sense of accomplishment releases the many chemicals into the brain, in particular, dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure centre. It's also been deemed the motivation hormone because it elicits drive, focus and concentration. Dopamine also enables you to resist impulses and plan ahead so you can achieve your goals.
Research by Professor Semir Zeki, a neurobiologist at the University College London, suggests viewing art triggers a surge of dopamine into the orbito-frontal cortex of the brain resulting in feelings of intense pleasure. These feelings of pleasure can boost your esteem, confidence and happiness.
4. Art is an escape and can ease ill health burdens
The notion that creative expression can make a powerful contribution to the healing process has been embraced by many cultures around the world. The use of pictures, stories, dance and chant as healing rituals has been practiced for thousands of years.
In The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A review of Current Literature, the review explores the relationship between engagement with the creative arts and positive health outcomes, specifically the effects of music engagement, visual arts, movement-based creative expression and expressive writing.
Music engagement or therapy has been shown to decrease anxiety and restore emotional balance by calming neural activity in the brain. The use of auditory stimulation as a strategy for achieving pain control has also been suggested to have effectiveness.
Visual art has been used as a healing therapy as it allows expression of experience without words. It's a way of focusing on and reconstructing positive self-identity during or after trauma.
Movement-based creative expression is used as healing therapy. Through the movement of mind and body in a creative way, stress and anxiety, as well as other health issues, can be relieved.
Expressive writing has also been used as a healing therapy where individuals have written about their experiences. The ability to express through words has shown significant improvements in various physical health aspects and better immune system function.
You don't have to be a Pablo Picasso or Elton John to be an artist or express yourself, you don't even have to be creative. That's the best part about art, you can be anyone and make anything you so desire. Art is about interpretation, imagination and expression, and if you find you do that best in the garden with your roses then keep doing it.
If you are looking to get your health back on track or kick-start your imagination, try a short course!
Short Courses by CIT Solutions offers over 200 fun, insightful and creative short courses to get those creative juices flowing.
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