The Relationship Between Art, Psychology, and Wellbeing

I am delighted to share a fascinating guest post with you by ‘The Wellbeing Blogger’ which explores how art and wellbeing interact. I was pleased to read this as I have a keen interest in art and always wondered how it linked to psychology, as it does seem to stimulate calmness and satisfaction in me. Read on, to find out more about the importance of art.

A historic painting that I (Jamie) discovered in a Luxembourg castle.

Guest post by Vanessa Dias, thewellbeingblogger.com

Art has been a primary form of communication between human beings for hundreds of years. A piece of art, whatever it may be, can carry many ideas, experiences, and values. How did art come about though? Does our brain play a role in the Arts? And what can the Arts do for our psychology and well-being?

Scholars believe the Arts are exclusive to mankind, and I believe there is an Artist in each one of us, ready to be uncovered and liberated. It seems, however, that Art in all its manifestations is a recent event in mankind’s history. Despite the existence of hand stone tools linked to Homo erectus and Homo habilis, it was only with Homo sapiens that Art became part of humanity’s heritage.

Starting out

The first objects of Art being produced were fine hand tools, small statuettes made from ivory, bones, beads, and pendants. There was also body painting and jewelry, which are thought to have been used as a way to evidence social status and group identity. Only much later did Art become a source of beauty and awe to human beings. 

Scholars also believe the evolution of art and its cultural purpose reflects the evolution of the human brain. Increased hemispheric asymmetry, interconnectivity between specialized areas, neuronal density, and brain size are thought to have contributed a great deal to the increased practice of art. 

Unlike Language, which seems to be located in the left hemisphere, Art can’t be reduced to a single brain region or cerebral hemisphere. It’s a rather complex phenomenon and it has the capacity to affect the brain itself. Our nervous system can be positively impacted whenever we find ourselves involved with art. Whether that means producing or appreciating art, we can benefit a great deal from it.

This eye-catching mural is in Salzburg, Austria.

What does research show?

Research studies have shown that visual arts interventions (e.g. drawing and painting) have positive effects on our psychology by regulating our levels of stress, self-reflection capacity, self-awareness, behaviour and thinking patterns. These effects are also reflected in our physiology. When we engage with art, and especially when we produce some sort of creative work, our heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol (the stress hormone) are normalised.

On a daily basis, contact with artistic outlets can help us cope with reality setbacks and difficulties. It seems to function as a stress buffer, protecting us from the negative consequences of high arousal states. If it means being involved in the production of creative work, the better. A 2020 study showed that arts participation enhances mental health and increases life satisfaction.

So how can you incorporate these findings into your life?

There are several pathways you can choose from, and my advice is to pick an outlet without thinking too much about it. Just allow yourself to go with the experience and invite your explorative spirit into action. You have painting, sculpture, literature, architecture, cinema, music, and theatre. Select one of these forms of art and explore different ways you can engage with it.

For instance, let’s say you choose painting. You can try watercolor, oil, or acrylic painting. You can also focus on different styles of painting, and learn more about each one of them: modernism, impressionism, cubism… but if you want to start small and collect some immediate benefits, you can start with colouring in. I have a ready-made colouring workbook that you can download and use for free. The act of colouring directs our conscious attention away from ourselves and into the present moment. This way our mind gets a break and the chance to relax. Give it a try and start witnessing the benefits of art in your well-being.

This is a beautiful painting that gets you intrigued and keeps you amused. I (Jamie) saw it in a London gallery.

Thank you for reading Vanessa’s informative and thought-provoking article about art and wellbeing. If you enjoyed it then please give her lovely blog a follow.

5 Ways to Get Back Into Reading

Guest Post: By NotSoModernGirl

I am so excited to feature my very first guest post on the blog today. Eleanor (NotSoModernGirl) has kindly agreed to share her thoughts about returning to reading after some time away from books. As usual, her ideas are relevant and useful. I’d like to thank Eleanor for putting together such a wonderful post. Here it is:

 

I’ve always read books ever since I was little, but after going to University- and having to read so much for my degree- I fell out of love with reading for pleasure. I would always have a book on the go, but I rarely finished it- and if I did it would take me months.

 

Ever since finishing University, I’ve tried to get back into reading. However, with lockdown and the uncertain world situation, I turned to Netflix to distract me- and it’s only since things started to get less intense in the world that I’ve started to pick up books again as a welcome hobby.

 

Now I love reading almost as much as I did before. Yes, my attention span isn’t what it used to be, and I still take a while to finish a book, but I’m so happy I managed to get back into reading, and I’m finally finishing all the books I start- and enjoying them!

 

In this post, I’m discussing 5 ways to get back into reading for pleasure. It might take a couple of weeks or a couple of months, but there are definitely a few ways to improve your reading habits and get back into a hobby you once used to love.

1.   Read a bit at a time

 

You shouldn’t force yourself to read a lot in one sitting, because it’s not going to happen and you’ll feel disappointed in yourself.

 

Push yourself to read a little bit at a time, such as before bed or in the mornings. You might only read 5 pages, but that’s the best way to stay consistent, and actually enjoy reading as a hobby rather than as a chore or something you do for your degree.

2.   Choose a book- not your phone

 

It’s so easy to pick up your phone when you have 5 minutes of downtime, but try to choose a book instead. Make sure to have your book close to hand, and any time you would be mindlessly scrolling on your phone- read instead.

 

It’s a hard habit to get into- and I’m still working on it- but it’s a great way to give your mind a rest from bright screens, and get some valuable reading time.

3.   Mix it up

If you can’t decide what to read, try something a bit different. You don’t need to read the same genre as you always used to, and there are so many book blogs and recommendations out there to find the perfect read for you.

 

Choose books that are different from each other to keep yourself interested, and try out different types of books, such as non-fiction reads.

 

I loved reading ‘Circe’ by Madeline Miller during lockdown, as it was unlike anything I’d read before. I also found that choosing non-fiction reads got me interested in reading again, and this is a great way to try out different books and find out what you like now, after a brief period without reading.

4.   Take your book everywhere

 

This is an idea I’ve started recently, and it’s really paid off!

 

If you take your book with you in your bag, you always have it whenever you have some down time. If you have a break at work or you’re waiting for the bus, pull out your book and read for 20 minutes.

 

This is a great way to pass the time, and when you have your book on you then you have no excuse not to read!

5.   Choose books that interest you

 

There’s no point reading books that don’t interest you. Don’t read an old classic if it’s not something that makes you excited to get back to reading, and don’t read a popular book because you feel like you should. If you want to read a Romance novel, go for it. Or if you want to give Sci-Fi a go, then do that.

 

You should be reading whatever gets you interested, and you’re not going to get back into reading by choosing books that don’t inspire or interest you. You need a book that pulls you back to it, and finding that perfect, fast-paced book is the most important part of getting back into reading as a fun activity.

 

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Thank you so much to Jamie for letting me post on his blog today!

 

I really hope my tips help you fall back in love with reading, or encourage you to pick up a book instead of your phone next time you’re taking a break from work.

 

It can be hard to get back into reading for pleasure after a short or long break, but it is such a rewarding and fun hobby- so it’s definitely worth pushing yourself.

 

 

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This guest post was written by Eleanor. She is a freelance content writer from the UK, and she loves writing lifestyle posts for her blog and other websites.

 

Check out her blog, or connect with her on Twitter to find out more.