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5 Positive Effects of Art on Mental Health

Sir Terry Frost, Alhambra, 1972, lithograph on paper, Tate Modern, London, England, UK. Detail.

Art State of Mind

5 Positive Effects of Art on Mental Health

It is scientifically proven that art can have positive effects on our mental wellbeing and can help improve our mental health. But what is it about art that gives it the power to help us so?

1. Creativity in day-to-day life

Mental health and the positive effects of art: Edward Hopper, Automat, 1927, oil on canvas, The Des Moines Art Centre, Iowa, USA.
The Positive Effects of Art on Mental Health: Edward Hopper, Automat, 1927, oil on canvas, The Des Moines Art Centre, Iowa, USA. Wikipedia.

Whether it is physically creating artwork, curating your own Instagram feed to look perfect, or just appreciating an advert that caught your eye, there is creativity in every aspect of daily life.


Edward Hopper, an American artist working in the first half of the 20th century, captured scenes of daily life in his paintings. For example, in Automat, a woman sits alone and drinks a cup of coffee. In the background, the glare of lights from inside the building is reflected against the dark night sky.

Hopper has created an engaging painting from a scene of normal life. It also demonstrates the investigative side of looking at a painting. We wonder, who is this lady? Why is she sitting there? What is she thinking about? In the process, we forget our own troubles and replace our thoughts with contemplation.

2. The transformative effect of art

Mental health and the positive effects of art: Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, 1484-6, tempera on canvas, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.
The Positive Effects of Art on Mental Health: Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, 1484-6, tempera on canvas, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy. Wikipedia. Read more about this painting.

During this process of truly looking at art, we are transformed and taken to another place, a place outside of reality. We are consumed by the narrative. For example, the dramatic action in the Renaissance masterpiece The Birth of Venus occupies our mind.

This mentally transformative experience has a physical impact on our wellbeing. The experience of looking can be interactive, sensory, cognitive, emotional, or even spiritual. Studies show that this repeated experience can have a long-term change on our brain circuits.

3. Mental health and art therapy

Mental health and the positive effects of art: Paul Gauguin, Vincent Van Gogh Painting Sunflowers, 1888, oil on canvas, The Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
The Positive Effects of Art on Mental Health: Paul Gauguin, Vincent Van Gogh Painting Sunflowers, 1888, oil on canvas, The Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

It is no surprise, then, that art therapy has become a frequently used form of psychotherapy to encourage expression and communication. Aimed at people struggling with emotional, behavioral, or mental health problems, the process of creating art helps process feelings while also reducing stress and anxiety. It also helps to increase self-esteem.

Anyone can be creative and that is why creating art is something that everyone can get involved in. Whether it is the process of drawing everyday or working towards a finished painting, it takes you away from any daily worries or stress that you might experience.

4. Painting as a form of expression

Jackson Pollock during painting. Still from Jackson Pollock Action Painting, NCGSArt/Youtube.
The Positive Effects of Art on Mental Health: Jackson Pollock during painting. Still from ‘Jackson Pollock Action Painting’, NCGSArt/Youtube.

Perhaps the most expressive technique of painting that comes to mind is that of Jackson Pollock, the famous pioneer of abstract expressionism. Called ‘Action Painting’, Pollock would use the full force of his body to throw paint onto huge canvases.

Pollock’s technique presents the physicality of making art and the effect on his mental wellbeing. The artist struggled with alcoholism throughout his life and turned to painting as a form of escapism. This also demonstrates that art does not have to be a meticulous, time-consuming process and can be very enjoyable.

5. Mindfulness from visiting a museum

mental health - gallery visits Mental health and the positive effects of art: Tate Modern Gallery, London, UK.
The Positive Effects of Art on Mental Health: Tate Modern Gallery, London, UK.

Finally, visiting a museum and standing before a beautiful painting transports us to another world. The quiet and tranquil atmosphere has the ability to relax your mind as soon as you enter.

So, in conclusion, it is the transformative effect of both creating and looking at art which has a massive effect on our mental health. It provides a distraction from daily life and a treatment for more serious conditions too, due to the use of Art Therapy. Most importantly, art is for everyone and there is an element of creativity in everything we do.

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I am 22 years old, living near London and an aspiring Curator. I have just graduated from The Courtauld Institute of Art with a Masters degree in the History of Art, and I am a lover of painting, feminist art criticism and reading!

 

 

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