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If you’ve been feeling extra stressed, down or simply not at your best, you’re not alone.
Since the pandemic began, the number of Americans taking prescriptions for anxiety and other mental health conditions has skyrocketed.
And rightly so.
First, there were worries about the virus itself, lockdowns and more. And though that’s subsided, a lot about our everyday lives changed — and that alone creates a level of stress for just about anyone.
Luckily, there was an upside to the fact that our stress levels resulted from an event that affected so many: it spurred research into new avenues to help fight that stress — and this may be one of my favorites…
Stress relief on your screen
It’s long been known that viewing art while visiting galleries and museums can have powerful effects on your mood, stress and well-being.
Who wouldn’t feel a wash of joy, admiration and awe come over then at seeing the beauty of Monet’s Garden or van Gogh’s Starry Night — and feel the troubles of the world melt away?
But, when Covid-19 hit, art galleries and museums shuttered their doors. However, they came up with a unique workaround that could deliver the same benefits — then and now.
They took the art that people traveled to see online and their museums into the digital space.
This meant that for the first time, art and cultural objects could be accessed from your own home while sitting on your sofa and munching on a handful of buttery popcorn. It also meant that people everywhere could now enjoy masterpieces they had only ever dreamed of seeing.
This left researchers everywhere wondering…
Could viewing art over the internet have positive effects on stress and well-being?
So a team of researchers at the University of Vienna set out to see.
They asked participants to visit art exhibitions accessible via smartphones, tablets and computers and spend just three minutes enjoying the paintings, sculptures and more. Before and after the visit, every person’s psychological state and well-being were measured to determine the extent to which viewing the art might be beneficial.
What did they find?
Their results showed that even very brief viewings can have significant effects, including:
- Improved mood
- Reduced anxiety
- Fewer feelings of loneliness
- Higher subjective well-being
These results were even found to be comparable to other interventions such as spending time in nature and vising a physical art gallery.
And they concluded that the more meaningful or beautiful participants found the art to be — and the more positive the feelings were while viewing it — the greater the benefits they received.
Art therapy, any time, anyhow
So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed out or just lonely, why not put the power of art to work for your mood?
Just a few online museum tours you can take include:
- Louvre Museum in Paris, France
- Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, Spain
Maybe you’ll feel inspired to create your own work of art…
From doodling and coloring to free drawing and painting, research has shown that creating art, with its lines and colors, can lower cortisol levels, help you relax and focus and increase your sense of pleasure.
Now there’s one suggestion I’d offer…
If you already spend a lot of time viewing screens, as most of us do, whether it’s for work or leisure, consider your overall time spent viewing a smartphone, computer screen, tablet or TV.
If it’s a lot, think about cutting it down from other sources, like evening TV watching. Digital screens emit blue light that can affect your sleep, and cause premature aging of brain cells and your retina — not to mention eye fatigue and strain. Blue light-blocking glasses can help. So can getting enough “eye vitamins” — specifically, lutein and zeaxanthin.
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Online art viewing can improve well-being – ScienceDaily