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,

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.

Ten Nice Ways To Fill Your Holiday Time

As Christmas approaches quickly and some people are lucky enough to get some well-deserved time off from work, I thought I would share some ideas of what to do with this free time. My own holiday to France has just been cancelled due to the French government closing the door to British travellers, so now I am determined to enjoy my holiday in a different way.

Here are my ten suggestions for using the Christmas holidays effectively and enjoying some down time, alone or with others.

1) Workout regularly

Even if it is just a 15 minute workout twice a week, make sure you don’t become too sedentary over the holidays, especially if you are eating more than usual (as I definitely shall be). A fast walk or a Youtube cardio session can be enough to give you a boost and keep your heart healthy.

2) Read a book or short stories

It is no shock that I recommend more reading at Christmas time. My other posts suggest lots of books and stories worth checking out such as these. I have changed my book choices so that I am just reading festive books until the New Year and I am absolutely loving it. In January I will return to my other novels.

3) Do some craft work

My friend has become obsessed with making cards and is actually very good at it. It is interesting to see a new hobby become a part of someone’s life. For me, writing has become my main passtime but I am also challenging myself in other ways, such as with exploring baking.

4) Have a deeper clean

We frequently hear people asking about spring cleaning but for me, the Christmas break provides a good opportunity to give the bathroom a good spray and wipe as well as dust in the places you normally don’t get round to.

5) Do something musical

A few years ago I bought myself a cheap electric keyboard and had a few lessons with a local piano teacher. His father became ill and he flew back to Australia but I wasn’t confident enough to teach myself. I have recently started spending some time reminding myself of those skills so that I can pick up lessons again where I left off in January. Learning an instrument is great for dexterity and can be incredibly therapeutic.

6) Watch ‘West Side Story’

I just cannot stop gushing about this. I was lucky enough to see this Spielberg masterpiece last weekend and am returning to watch it again in a few days. The soundtrack is constantly playing in my car and I genuinely think this is one of the best movie musicals I have seen in years.

7) Go for a walk with a friend

A walk in the country is always fulfilling.

In the holidays, rather than just meeting up with friends for dinner, I prefer to go for a walk with people who I wish to catch up with. Sometimes this is followed up with a coffee and snack but the walking is my priority, mixing exercise with socialising. I love this kind of catch-up.

8) Listen to a Podcast

I am hooked on Davina McCall’s ‘Making the Cut’ podcast as well as Jane Horrocks’ ‘Queen Bees’ one. Over the next two weeks I will be having more baths, which are my excuse to listen to these podcast episodes in a relaxed way.

9) Have a massage

In the past, I have had some wonderful getaways to health spas and when that is not possible I pop to a local spa for massages during my vacations. Nothing beats a hot stone massage and prices can be very reasonable if you look around.

10) Cook something new

This is a fun one. I bought some baking trays and bits and bobs two years ago and had a few failed attempts at baking sponges but I am determined to step back into the kitchen this Christmas. Why not have a go at trying a new recipe or baking a simple cake this Christmas?

These were just a few suggestions for how to use your holidays well. I hope that you enjoyed this post and may consider following my blog for similar future articles. Have a lovely Christmas and keep reading and supporting the blogging community.

Are You a Lazy Reader?

When I was at university I sometimes had to read through a lot of material very quickly and under a lot of pressure. This reading was often fuelled by copious amounts of hot drink and led to me pulling all-nighters. Why? Usually in order to meet an essay deadline or before giving a presentation. I got through most of my essays that way, using the skim reading techniques I had learned and refined at secondary school.

It makes me wonder how many people take short cuts when reading fiction books. It is often tempting to skip a page or two or rush to the ending early on so as to prepare yourself for what’s coming. I have friends that do this all the time.

This leads me to the questions that follow which will get you to reflect upon your own reading. I have included my honest responses, as usual.

Do you read little and often or often and little?

1) Do you sometimes skip lines or paragraphs?

Although I am competent at reading fast and gleaming the key points from a non-fiction text, I feel like I am cheating myself and the author if I do the same thing whilst reading a story. There have been times when a book has been very boring and I have decided to abandon the narrative completely and ditch the book rather than skim read it. When a book becomes repetitive or takes too long to show any signs of narrative development I switch off and lose interest for good.

2) Are you unable to wait for the ending of a book?

I literally make myself wait until the end to discover what happens every time I read a new book. Sometimes this is painful, especially when I have less reading time than I would like and it may take me ages to finally get to the conclusion. However, I really am someone who feels the need to read every word, in sequence.

Lately, I especially enjoy stories which begin with a paragraph taken from somewhere near the end of the story. These usually then snap back in time to unveil how the characters got to that particular predicament.

3) Have you ever used one of those popular summary apps to find out the gist of a storyline?

These shortening applications literally summarise story books in fifteen minutes. I hear they are increasingly popular and are particularly good if you want a quick summary of a text before you see a play or watch a movie about it.

I haven’t used them yet but wish I had before I saw a Shakespeare performance as I’d have had a better idea of what was going on. There is a place for reading summaries but if you are a passionate reader it will be more rewarding to read a whole book, appreciating the details and building up a picture in your mind.

This was a post that I wrote for fun. It just made me wonder how many of you are tempted to take shortcuts while reading, in order to find out the ending quicker or because the narrative was dragging. Was there a time when you were a lazy reader?

For some ideas about how to make more time for reading click here

Let me know your thoughts in the comments and maybe consider following my blog for more book orientated content.