7 Ways Art Improves Quality of Life
1. Admiring Great Artwork Feels Like Falling In Love
Science confirms what all art lovers already knew in their heart: art appreciation promotes quality of life and makes you feel good.
According to Professor Semir Zeki, neurobiologist at the University College of London, when you stare at great artworks, the part of your brain that is stimulated is the same as when you fall in love.
The feeling of desire and affection that we have when we fall romantically for someone, is the result of our brain releasing dopamine, a feel-good chemical.
Our brain has the same kind of pleasurable feelings when we admire great artworks, such as The Birth of Venus, by Sandro Botticelli, or other masterpieces by great artists like Monet, Turner and Constable.
Other researches have shown that listening to a favorite musical piece stimulates dopamine production in the brain, also promoting positive emotions.
"Love of beauty is Taste. The creation of beauty is Art."— Ralph Waldo Emerson
2. Art Making Is a Form of Healing and Therapy
Visual expression has been used for healing throughout history, but only recently art therapy has emerged as a profession.
In the last few decades we have rediscovered the benefits of art making for personal growth, self-expression, transformation, and wellness. Art therapy has grown since the 1970s, becoming a recognized form of treatment in the fields of health and medicine.
Through the artistic and creative use of materials, we can discover and follow our true stream of imagery, we can come to know ourselves deeply.
Art making can be soothing and stress-reducing; it is also a source of relaxation, gratification, and self-expression.
Talent is not the key element in art therapy; actually talent is not required at all.
Art therapy revolves around the concept that the creative process exists within every individual.
We all have a gift of creativity, and it is unfolding that inner creativity that will take us on a healing journey as unique as we are.
3. Surrounding Yourself with Things You Love Brings Happiness
Joy is about surrounding ourselves with the things we love.
We grow in a house for which we haven’t chosen the décor, and we absorb from teachers and relatives concepts of what is beautiful and attractive, without even realizing it. As adults, we think we know what is desirable, and what we love, but do we really know what shapes and forms make us happy?
How much of our choices in home furnishing are coming truly from within, and what part is deeply affected by what we have learned to be good choice, either from parents or decorator?
Much pleasure can be found in color, shape, form, and image. So it is very important to ask ourselves: What do I like? What gives me pleasure?
4. Learn what Pleases You the Most and Be Happier
To learn your own personal aesthetics you can try these simple ways to learn what pleases you.
a. Collect images that interest you. Collect appealing magazine clippings and photos, and organize them by category, like furnishing ideas, artistic, crafts, etc. Pinterest provides a wonderful tool to do this digitally.
b. Collect small objects the same way. You can fill a box with small things like buttons, cute sticks, stones, or anything that is interesting because of color, shape or texture.
You will end up with a collection of things that touch you at some level, and looking at the collection ask yourself: what do they have in common? It could be color, or a style, or texture, or design. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it speaks to you. Look at your favorite especially, why do you like them so much?
c. Notice what pleases you. Each collection is a way to get to know your own personal esthetic. Once you know better your sources of pleasure, make sure you surround yourself with things that make your smile, and feel good. Having sources of inspiration and pleasure in your own house, or work place will make your life more pleasurable.
Let me arise and open the gate,
to breathe the wild warm air of the heath...— Violet Fane
5. Art Has a Feel-Good Power on the Brain
More scientific results suggest that the dopaminergic effect of art on the brain has a powerful effect on quality of life. In fact it has been shown, by Ercole Vellone and al., that among stroke survivors, those with interest in the arts enjoyed better general health, found it easier to walk, had more energy, and tend to be happier. They were also less likely to be depressed, or anxious.
The results suggest that art may have long term changes to the brain that help the person to recover when things go wrong.
6. Our Sensitivity to the Fine Arts Evolves Throughout Our Life
In the 1940s, Abraham Maslow, an American professor of psychology, developed a Hierarchy of Needs. According to Maslow, a person will develop from basic needs to self-actualization in steps.
His theory can be visualized as a pyramid. At the bottom of the pyramid are the primary needs of every human being, and going up we find the more refined and sophisticated needs. A person will not care about the upper level until the bottom needs are fulfilled, said Maslow.
Art is at the top of this pyramid, in fact it belongs to the self-actualization step. This may explain why some people do not appreciate arts as much as others, and why our sensitivity to the fine arts changes with time throughout our life.
Many revised versions of this pyramid have been developed, sometimes adding new categories of needs, but the top ones are always related to feelings and gratification, and that’s where artistic experience belongs.
7. Art Is a Deep and Very Personal Experience
The language of art, expressed though sounds, colors, shapes, lines, and images, speaks in ways that words cannot.
Whether you experience the arts as a creator and artist or as an art lover, you can gain great pleasure and enjoyment from all kinds of arts: music, poetry, visual art, sculpture, theatrical performances, or dance.
Art has a way of reaching deep inside our souls and connect what is inside us, our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions, with outer realities and with our own experiences.
Being such a deep experience on a personal level, art can help us understand who we are and enhance life through self-expression.
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Art Has Taught Me to Do What I Love and Love What I Do
Enjoying art can have some wonderful effects on our life.
When I go to a museum I can spend hours looking at the artwork and admiring technique, concept, and design.
Music is a constant background of my life; it can affect my mood, setting the stage for me to be cheerful and energetic, or romantic. The cool thing about music is that you can choose it in relation to how you want to feel, and it does the magic for you.
Of course, art is not the only source of good feelings. The same results can be attained by admiring a beautiful sunset, or taking care of loving pets, or any pleasant activity that you can think of.
When I paint I feel like I’m temporarily in a different dimension, my connections to reality are very thin, and the sense of time is annihilated. I have to set the timer to make sure I don’t miss important responsibilities, like picking up the children from school, or meeting a friend.
I’ve been an art lover all my life, but art making has brought a new balance and a new joy into my life. I thought I would be sad when we moved to a new state and I had to leave my beloved full time job, but surprisingly I feel thankful every day because now I have the time to enjoy art and my life is much more fulfilling.
I experienced first-hand the old advice to take the time to enjoy life, stop and smell the roses. If you have to take away something from reading this article, may it be this: “Live in the moment, spend time appreciating beauty, and do all the things you love.”
© 2012 Robie Benve