Science Is Proving That Art Is A Potent Tool For Healing!

Aug 20, 2014 | Life With Art

Art will make your life better.  For almost two decades- actually for as long as I could actually see art on my own as a small child- I have been certain that art could reorganize the cells in my body, realign my mood and change my presence on the planet.  That’s been my truth. In the last 10 years I have grown convinced that art can both mirror our lives and move us to new spaces in health, happiness and well-being.

If you work with me, chances art I will have you buying art, making art or somehow melting your life with art in ways that you never could have expected, because for most of us, art is a decoration until it is selected, created and curated to become an extension of ourselves.

Science is catching up with me (!) and my deepest feelings about the curative nature of aesthetics in ways that are exciting.  While there is no conclusive formula as to how to use art as a tool for healing bodies, minds and lives, the positive results of studies in hospitals and health care environments are overwhelmingly positive.

The Wall Street Journal ran an article shared by my friend Cristy today that set my mind on artistic fire…More Hospitals Use The Healing Powers Of Public Art.  Patients in hospitals, their friend and families and even hospital staff are all subject to this restorative art energy.  While I recommend you read the whole article, these facts stood our dramatically:

“With studies showing a direct link between the content of images and the brain’s reaction to pain, stress, and anxiety, hospitals are considering and choosing artworks based on the evidence and giving it a higher priority than merely decoration for sterile rooms and corridors.

…Research suggests patients are positively affected by nature themes and figurative art with unambiguous, positive faces that convey a sense of security and safety.

Some studies have found that patients are likely to respond negatively to art with negative images or icons. Abstract art also often rates low in patient preferences compared with representational art.”

Interestingly enough, when I was recovering from my own massive health crisis in 2010, my first reach was toward staring at vases of flowers brought by friends that would overload my kitchen table.  Then, I started to draw them abstractly in pastels.  Soon, this routine would happen once a day, a part of the day that became my never-to-be-missed art time.  Before I knew it, my flowers evolved into butterflies, then gardens, then expanses… And once I was in the territory of abstract art-making, I was back to health.

The Wall Street Journal sites the Center For Health Design’s Guide To Evidence Based Art as a sort of manual for using art in hospitals and healing centers.  Formulated after extensive art and healing studies at hospitals, this is the closest reference point to using art to heal that has been codified based on the findings of these studies.

Based on an extensive body of both scientific studies and anecdotal accounts, Ulrich and Gilpin (2003) have developed the following guidelines for appropriate art content in healthcare settings:

calm or nonturbulent water

visual depth or open foreground
trees with broad canopy
savannah landscapes
verdant vegetation
positive cultural artifacts (e.g., barns and older houses)

healthy and fresh
gardens with open foreground

Figurative art:
emotionally positive faces
diverse leisurely

Could it be that hospitals are learning what ancient arts like feng shui have known for years?  It seems so! In fact, three is a part of this guide dedicated to the importance of placing art in specific ways to have a greater effect.

Very encouraging, indeed!

If you are struggling in body, mind or spirit, you might want to start with a box of crayons and a piece of paper at home. Create with abandon. Spend time observing the nature around you as art, even if you are just gazing out a window. Visit museums, walk through parks full of sculpture, even view art online as much as you can.

You don’t need to be an expert to be the master of your own artistic universe.  I have felt my body literally being re-created while holding a Pollock canvas in my hands, standing in front of a few of the MET’s best Cezanne paintings of peaches and wandering through my most favorite artist’s studios.  You can have your cosmic art experiences if you allow them in… and none are out of your reach.  xoxo Dana


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