Visual art is good for your wellbeing

I was reading an article last night on the health benefits of Visual Art, Fine Art Photography for example, and the impact it has on well-being, when I hit this passage:

"There is an increasing amount of scientific evidence that proves art enhances brain function. It has an impact on brain wave patterns and emotions, the nervous system, and can actually raise serotonin levels. Art can change a person’s outlook and the way they experience the world."

Although this passage has a distinctive feeling of empirical truth, being an engineer, I'm very skeptical of any sweeping statement praising the benefits of anything, unless it is accompanied by tons of research data and evidence.

Being an engineer is hard on one's blissful ignorance.

I couldn't find any hard evidence backing up the claim in the article itself, but I was captivated by the possibility of it being, if not outright true, at least plausible.

I embarked in my own research for evidence in the only way I know: using Google Scholar.

The first result of my search was encouraging.

"Evidence of an arts-mental health relationship was found in this study. Those who engaged in 100 or more hours/year of arts engagement (i.e. two or more hours/week) reported significantly better mental well-being than other levels of engagement."

The study focuses mostly on producing art, rather than consuming it. Consuming art was still part of the study.

Encouraging but not conclusive: what if the benefits are only connected to the creative process? I had to dig deeper. 

"The introduction of visual art into healthcare proved to play an important role in improving observational skills in health practitioners and in increasing patients' wellbeing."

We are really getting somewhere here: just by hanging visual art in the form of paintings and photography on the walls, this British Hospital improved the well-being of both patients and doctors in a scientifically measurable way.

Now, this is what I like, evidence and numbers. And art framed on walls.

One study is never conclusive, I was after more evidence. The healthcare angle looked very promising:

“Art in hospitals is generally viewed positively by both patients and staff. A qualitative evaluation of the Exeter Healthcare Arts Project found that the display of visual arts in that hospital was perceived by patients, staff and visitors to have a positive effect on morale.” 

“The fact that patients frequently express a preference for landscape and nature scenes is consistent with this observation and with evolutionary psychological theories which predict positive emotional responses to flourishing natural environments.”

That was it! Not only patients loved to have art displayed on the hospital walls, they also expressed a distinct preference for landscape art. Reason? Because, the field of evolutionary psychology explains, by virtual of natural selection over million or years, humans prefer natural environments over urban landscapes.

As I do, don't take someone's word on it, look at this study to back my claim:

"Parson's concludes that exposure to natural environments can be stress reducing.
He supports the evolutionary theory of environmental aesthetics and agrees with Ulrich's approach to environmental research. Parson's concludes that exposure to natural environments can be stress reducing." 

To sum it up, the best thing you can do consistently for your health is to expose yourself to nature, have a walk outside in a natural environment.
The second best thing, if the first is not available, is to have nature views on your walls, better in the form of Art.


Have you looked at my Hawai'i collection of Limited Edition prints?

Check it out and let me know what you think.


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