5 Mental Health Benefits of Visual Art

Art is one of the oldest human traditions with the earliest cave paintings in Indonesia being estimated to be nearly 44,000 years old. There’s no questioning that art is deeply rooted in our being, and our ability to create and appreciate art is part of what makes us human.

Art can be a cathartic experience, but this isn’t the sole benefit that art imparts on us. Art can also influence how we interact with the world. To learn more about this, read on for 5 mental benefits of visual art!

Imparts Positive Feelings

People often feel happy when looking at a painting they’re particularly fond of. And while you can chalk this up to the emotional connection they have with art, there’s more to it than just that. A study conducted by the University of London has found that blood flow increases by 10% to the “joy response” part of the brain when looking at a beautiful painting.

Helps Ease Anxiety

If art can impart positive feelings such as happiness, can it also alleviate negative ones such as stress and anxiety? Experts seem to think so, as the cancer clinic at Duke University heavily features art that helps relieve patients of their stress and anxiety. Images of nature are particularly effective, as they tend to put patients at ease and even increase their tolerance to pain. This can be particularly useful in hospitals, as patients are often nervous about their condition.

Makes Better Learners

Art’s ability to ease anxiety, and by extension improve your overall mental health, can lead to a multitude of benefits. Psychologists at Maryville University have explored how improving your mental health is linked with better learning success in other fields. As a result, helping younger and older generations appreciate the value of visual art can promote lifelong learning in the future. Indeed, this connection between one’s mental wellbeing can be integral, as it opens up the possibilities of using art and art appreciation to create better learners, and improve the overall state of education in the country.

It Helps Build Connections

Art has a visceral effect on people. Even when one is lacking in formal training, art can still induce both positive and negative emotions within those that experience it. This is what makes art a great medium to teach empathy. A piece of art connects the audience’s emotions to what they see, which then lets them further understand their feelings — and by extension the feelings of others.

Cultivates Creativity

Lastly, the mere act of experiencing art can improve your own creativity. A study published in the Journal of Brain and Cognition details how viewing paintings triggered responses in the brain regions that are associated with understanding and object recognition. Looking at the paintings of the greats such as Van Gogh and Monet stimulates the creative sections of your brain and helps nurture your own creative talents.

If you found this interesting and are looking to better yourself through art, check out the works from the most recent iteration of the annual Art Matters exhibition!

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