photo of woman in front of painting

Arts Hobbies

On the benefits of viewing and making art, and how hobbies can introduce art into our lives.

Defining art

Art is anything you can get away with.

The Medium is the Massage, Marshall McLuhan

Marshall’s definition of art has a double meaning. Its obvious, and probably intentional, meaning is that art can’t really be defined. But this statement may convey another meaning: art is anything that enables you to get away.

Art is where we can escape definitions, that govern almost any other aspect of our lives. Definitions are exhausting. What makes art so undefinable is probably what makes it so great, and so beneficial – whether viewed or made.

Benefits of viewing art

Viewing art is relaxing:

There is promising evidence for effects of viewing artwork on reducing stress.

Evidence for the effects of viewing visual artworks on stress outcomes: a scoping review

Average levels of cortisol and self-report stress were significantly reduced by the visit to the gallery […] We conclude that the gallery visit caused rapid normalisation (recovery) from the consequences of high stress.

Normalisation of salivary cortisol levels and self-report stress by a brief lunchtime visit to an art gallery by London City workers

woman standing near paintings in art gallery
A short visit to a gallery has been proven to relieve stress.

Results demonstrated that average levels of self-reported stress and arousal were significantly reduced by a brief art museum visit during lunchtime […] The museum experience increased visitors’ feelings of pleasantness, happiness, and enjoyment and decreased their sense of wakefulness, alertness, and tension.

Influence of an Art Museum Visit on Individuals’ Psychological and Physiological Indicators of Stress

It is reviving:

Visiting the gallery has been found to relieve people of mental exhaustion, the same way the outdoors can.

Beyond Learning: Exploring Visitors’ Perceptions of the Value and Benefits of Museum Experiences

It makes us feel good, the same way love does:

Looking at art can immediately release dopamine, the chemical related to love and pleasure.

Inner Vision: An Exploration of Art and the Brain

Overall, it promotes our well-being:

The literature suggests art museum visitation is associated with reductions in ill-being outcomes and increases in well-being outcomes.

Art museums as institutions for human flourishing: The Journal of Positive Psychology

Aesthetic experience, in many settings, may promote well-being.

Art and Psychological Well-Being: Linking the Brain to the Aesthetic Emotion

Benefits of making art

Making art shares similar benefits as viewing it, such as relaxation:

Making art also reduces stress and negative emotions, creating an experience akin to meditation. Similar to meditation, art draws people’s attention to details and the environment, which creates a distraction from day-to-day thoughts.

The Benefits of Art on Memory and Creativity |

[…] a systematic review of 37 studies found that creative arts therapies can significantly reduce stress.

Creative Arts Interventions for Stress Management and Prevention-A Systematic Review

In addition, the complex creation activity further enhances brain connectivity and cognitive skills:

We observed that the visual art production group showed greater spatial improvement in functional connectivity […] We found a significant improvement in psychological resilience from pre-intervention to post-intervention in the visual art production group.

How Art Changes Your Brain: Differential Effects of Visual Art Production and Cognitive Art Evaluation on Functional Brain Connectivity

close up shot of a hand holding a palette knife
Making art is relaxing; as well as enhancing our cognitive skills.

Participants improved in their self-perceptions of problem solving and having good ideas. Participants found the drawing tasks relaxing but wanted more time per task.

Functional near-infrared spectroscopy assessment of reward perception based on visual self-expression: Coloring, doodling, and free drawing

Enjoy the benefits of art through art-related hobbies

In conclusion, art is awesome. Many of us don’t have enough art in our lives. Finding an art-related hobby can change it.

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