Can Art Promote Relaxation?

Can Art Promote Relaxation?

The lazy days of Summer may be behind us, but relaxation is something that we could all benefit from fitting into our everyday lives all year round. if only for a few minutes at a time.

With its warmer weather, trees vibrant with leaves, and a bit of time off from the working week, the summer season can proved to be a great time to practice a bit of self-care. If you’ve relished the opportunity to indulge in a little ‘me time’, why not continue your practice into the cooler months...when we often need it the most.

So, what can we do to promote a little tranquillity in our lives, and can ‘art’ help to induce a sense of relaxation? There is certainly some testimony to suggest so.

For over a century, art therapy has been used in clinical environments to help patients express emotions or experiences which they may be struggling to verbalise or process, with the aim to reduce stress, anxiety, and associated symptoms. There has even been documented demonstration (by D.L Tusk, R Cwynar, and D.M Cosgrove) of the presence of artwork in hospitals leading to a reduction in the length of patient’s stays, and even decreasing the need for pain medication.

A review in the National Library of Medicine states that there is indeed evidence that “engagement with artistic activities, either as an observer of the creative efforts of others or as an initiator of one's own creative efforts, can enhance one's moods, emotions, and other psychological states”.

The reason for this could be attributed to the ability of the creation or appreciation of art to lower levels of cortisol. Known as the primary ‘stress hormone’, cortisol is naturally released by our adrenal glands when we experience mental and physical stress. But prolonged activation can lead to overexposure and disruption of all the body’s processes, and result in a multitude of health problems, including anxiety.

According to a study carried out for Art Therapy journal, researchers found that 75% of participants had lowered cortisol levels after creating art for a period of 45 minutes.

Typically, art therapy is carried out by a licensed professional in order to help a patient work through their emotions. However, there are lots of ways in which we can take advantage of the innate beneficial effects that art can have on our well-being.

Spending time creating art is a great way to help unwind and immerse yourself in the moment, like scrapbooking, sketching, or even colouring-in. And if we aren’t artistically inclined, spending time admiring art produced by others can also afford significant positive effects.

According to a University of London study, the simple process of looking at something which you consider to be beautiful can make you feel ‘better’. When we see something which we find appealing a chemical called dopamine (linked to feelings of love) is released into the brain, making us feel good.

Looking at artwork can also provide us with a sense of escapism, as we can be instantly transported to the time or place which has been painted. For example, admiring a beautiful green landscape, blue and blustery seascapes, or fantastical and joyous scenes can put us in mind of those things and experiences and the potential to gain some psychological benefit from observing them, even if we cannot be there in reality.

From an evolutionary perspective our brains have a negative bias when it comes to storing experiences. This means that we need to give extra attention to positive things for them to have the same impact. Taking part in uplifting activities and truly savouring those moments can help redress our negative/positive balance. So, spending a little time each day soaking up a pleasant experience like appreciating an attractive piece of art really could help promote relaxation.

Why not head over to our online gallery and give it a try? Do you have a preferred subject? Perhaps you love lush countryside, vibrant summer vistas, balmy harbour scenes, or bustling cities? Or maybe you’re enchanted by animals, fluttering birds, or buzzing bees?

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