Anxiety: why looking at a work of art for 3 minutes can improve your mental well-being

Observing it online produces the same effects as going to real art galleries or even being in nature.

Photo: Leka Sergeeva/Shutterstock

Visit art galleries or museums has a stress and tension releasing effect, generates a pleasant and healing sensation, In addition, it enhances personal development and stimulates our imagination and creativity.

This was determined by a study carried out by researchers at the University of Toronto, Canada, in which they determined that at looking at paintings and forming an opinion about them activates numerous parts of the brain related to the recognition of objects and scenes, emotional experiences, learning and the regulation of movements.

With the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic and the need to stay at home, online viewing of works of art has boomed, which, according to recent research by psychologists Matthew Pelowski and MacKenzie Trupp: a quick three-minute visit to a cultural or art exhibition in a digital environment it also has significant positive effects on subjective well-being.

Researchers have conducted numerous studies over the last ten years showing how art can improve health and a sense of well-being. However, it was unclear if these impacts extended to the Internet.

An activity that reduces anxiety and stress

In the study, professionals from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and their colleagues from the Department of Psychology asked participants to attend art exhibits that were available via cell phones, tablets, and laptops.

The results showed that even very brief viewings can have significant effects, leading to lower negative mood, anxiety, and loneliness, as well as higher subjective well-being.

The paper highlights that personal media, or bringing artwork directly to a viewer, could perhaps duplicate many of the same results, especially if the beneficial effects are linked to the visual or cognitive-emotional aspects of the experience.

It even raises the possibility of overcome some problems that often arise because people do not enjoy art, allowing it to be more accessible, understandable, personal, even increasing the impact beyond traditional installations or visits to museums.

Furthermore, these effects were comparable to other interventions such as nature experiences and visits to physical art galleries. Upon further investigation, the personal subjective experiences of individuals became an important aspect to consider.

Another notable effect found by the research team was that the more meaningful or beautiful people found the art and the more positive feelings they had seeing it, the greater the benefit.

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