Can simply observing art provide anxiety relief?

anxiety relief mindfulness Aug 06, 2022

What do you do when you hit rock bottom?


When you get told you have to wait 12 weeks to see a mental health professional?


You do what you can to reduce the anxiety's hold on you!


For me, this meant trying various techniques and modalities to reduce the symptoms of severe perinatal anxiety and depression, which included self-led art therapy.


During this mindfulness practice, I let myself be fully immersed in the painting and let my imagination run wild with me becoming part of that artwork.




Even Indie enjoyed sitting with me (and still does), feeling gratitude for the beauty in front of us and allowing ourselves to be filled with the colours.


My curious mind and tenacity to defeat the feelings of anxiety had me continue to "test" and experiment with many techniques; however, being in a more stable state of mind, I also needed to understand the science behind these techniques.


There I entered yet another rabbit hole, as I was on a quest to understand why observing beautiful artwork (in my case, it was artwork by the INCREDIBLE Gayle Stoneart from Victoria, Australia).  Provided a calming effect and relief from the symptoms of anxiety.



After going down the rabbit hole of neuroscience studies and art therapy, I discovered an extensive amount of scientific literature supporting the effectiveness of art therapy in promoting positive brain health.



I was more interested in the effect of simply viewing a piece of artwork rather than being the artist.



Several sources referenced the same key piece of evidence: a study conducted by Professor Semir Zeki, chair in neuroaesthetics at University College London, where participants underwent MRI brain scans while being shown images of paintings by major artists for only 10 seconds.


The study found that when people viewed the art they thought was most beautiful, blood flow increased by as much as 10% to the part of the brain associated with pleasure (The American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine)— the equivalent to looking at a loved one (insert brain explosion emoji)!



What was interesting is that Gayle utilises art as a form of meditation, and the artwork I purchased from Gayle had been lovingly created from her own experiences, emotions and observations. Yet, I was using this artwork as my form of mindfulness. However, my approach was as the observer. 



There also appears to be increasing evidence in rehabilitation medicine and neuroscience that art enhances brain function by impacting brain wave patterns, emotions, and the nervous system. Art can also raise serotonin levels… who doesn't love serotonin? 



The mere act of observing art can stimulate the creation of new neural pathways and ways of thinking. I find this mind-blowing and INCREDIBLE!



For positive brain health, why not give this a go?!





  • select a piece of art that sparks your interest. Don't overthink it!
  • In a quiet spot where you have minimal distractions, observe what is in front of you (even if it is on a digital device).
  • Pay attention to the colours, shapes, and textures.
  • Pay attention to how the piece of art is making you feel. Are there any emotions coming to the surface?
  • Sit with the feeling and continue to take in the beauty in front of you.


Are you feeling inspired?



If you are feeling inspired and your mind is running away with alternate narratives, why not put pen to paper and let your creative juices flow by writing about your interpretation of the artwork?



I like to fully immerse myself into the artwork and create a story that links to my life experience. There is no right or wrong. It's what feels right for you.



Keep an eye out for my next blog, where I will share a piece of my inspired writing.



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Until next time, never forget that you always have been and always will be, 𝐄𝐍𝐎𝐔𝐆𝐇!


Tammy x 


Disclaimer: Mumma life is now content is based on lived experience and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.



The information contained in posts is general information for educational purposes only.

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