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Can Art Make You Happy?

art makes you happy

Can art really make you happy? Here are 10 ways that art can improve your mood, health and wellbeing


1. One hour gallery visit. A study of over 10,000 students found that over 70% said their one hour gallery visit changed the way they felt and thought. Viewing and enjoying art can make you feel happy by triggering a surge of dopamine. In the students, this change led to increased critical thinking, greater empathy and tolerance.

alison johnson gallery

2. Reducing Stress. Stress levels can be reduced through engagement with creative activities. These activities can contribute to lessening depression and help alleviate the burden of stress-related chronic disease.

3. Historic precedent. Throughout history people have used pictures alongside stories and dances as a part of healing rituals for increased happiness. Sandpaintings of the Navajo are traditionally created for healing purposes and treated as spiritual beings rather than static objects. Coloured sands are passed though the fingers onto animal skins and the symmetry of the paintings symbolise the way in which the patients wishes to be healed. It is believed that the illness of the patient is absorbed by the sandpainting.

 4. Removing Trauma. We often store the memories of trauma as images rather than as words in the brain. Drawing or painting them helps access the memory and can progress to forming worlds to describe the trauma. This process of externalising trauma can lead to increased happiness as a positive exchange with a therapist gives you ‘an active involvement in your own healing’ according to Megan Robb, certified Art Therapist.

5. Distraction. Creating art stimulates the brain and distracts us from our usual thoughts. Being totally immersed in a creative endeavour such as painting, sculpting or photography can lead to being in ‘the zone’ or ‘the flow’. This feeling of total distraction from stress can be rewarding and result in a feeling of calmness and happiness.

lucy moore abstract painting

 6. Brain exercise. Art encourages creative thinking which can be seen as a kind of brain exercise. This exercise helps maintain a high level of communication between brain cells. It is the lack of communication between cells which is thought to lead to memory loss in later life. Creative thinking also utilises both sides of your brain and not just the right side, contrary to popular belief.
7. Art Therapy. Art therapists are health care professionals with a background in both art and psychology. This method of therapy can be used to improve physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Art therapy is frequently recommended for pupils experiencing trouble at school.

8. Focus. Creating art requires focus and forces the artist to pay attention to their environment, acting as a form of meditation. Adult colouring books have become a popular form of stress-relief. The sense of accomplishment leads to increased levels of dopamine, sometimes called the ‘motivation molecule’, driving focus and concentration.


9. Art in Medicine. A study led by the University of Florida saw marked improvements in hospital patients’ symptoms, social functioning and a reduction in bodily pain when they enrolled in a programme of art-making as therapy. 50 participants note a significant reduction in 8 out of 9 symptoms measured by the Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale. Earlier discharges from hospital were also noticed among those taking part in the scheme. This evidence supports claims that art can help reduce time spent in hospital.

10. Colour Therapy. Colour therapy or ‘Chromotherapy’ is a healing process utilising the visible spectrum of light to influence mental and physical wellbeing. The emotional effects of colour on sighted people has long been recognised. Different colours activate different hormones within our bodies, leading to a variety of sensations.  Purple, for example, encourages creativity, yellow can help alleviate depression, while the colour green is said to be calming.
Featured images:
Alison Johnson Gallery Image
Lucy Moore ‘Urban Streets – Abstract Synapses’
Carolynne Coulson – ‘Finding Happy’
art makes you happy
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