Today is National Go to an Art Museum Day! Art museums are wonderful places to visit and community resources. Where else would you get access to thousands of pieces of priceless art?! Everyone has different tastes, and art is all about exploration—in fact, that’s why we celebrate Go to an Art Museum Day on November 9th. More than 30,000 museums around the world participate, and each year even has a different theme. So today, go to a museum and discover something new!
Not only are art museums important centers for culture, but there are health benefits of going to art museums! Recent studies have shown that engaging with the visual arts can actually improve stress, memory, and empathy, whether by viewing art or creating it.
The benefits of viewing art are countless. According to a study conducted by the University of Westminster, participants who visited an art gallery on their lunch break reported feeling less stressed afterwards. They had lower concentrations of cortisol, the stress hormone, from just 35 minutes spent roaming the gallery. In a similar vein, science says viewing and creating art also helps alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
There is a link between reduced risk cognitive decline and visiting art museums. The brain is like a muscle in that it needs to be exercised in order to be kept strong and in top working order. Experiencing art and learning about art stimulates the brain. This strengthens existing neural pathways and creates new ones, which is key to fending off cognitive decline. An often overlooked but important component of maintaining a healthy brain while aging is social interactions. This combats the adverse effects of isolation, which many seniors experience. Art museums provide safe, public spaces to interact with others in a meaningful way and feel connected to a community.
Frequenting art museums can also help you live longer! A recent study in the U.K. revealed that not only do artistic and cultural activities make life more enjoyable, but also prolong our lives – so dance, paint and sing as your heart desires.
The study found that paying regular visits to museums, art galleries, theaters and concerts reduced the risk of early death by 31%, adding to existing evidence that the arts can benefit one’s health. They found that people who participated in such leisurely activities once or twice a year enjoyed a 14% lower risk of premature death than those who have never engaged in art.
Looking at art also causes people to experience joy, akin to the sensation of falling in love. Neurobiologist Semir Zeki scanned 28 volunteers’ brains as they looked at art and noticed an immediate release of dopamine, the chemical related to love and pleasure.
Additionally, visiting the gallery has been found to relieve people of mental exhaustion, the same way the outdoors can. As stated in Jan Packer’s study on the benefits of museum experiences, the four factors that contribute to mental restoration (fascination, being away, compatibility, and extent) are commonly found in both natural environments and museums, making it an ideal work break. Art museums can also be good exercise! The winding galleries and wide display rooms provide ample space to roam around. There are also plenty of benches when you need to rest, and most museums are wheelchair accessible.
Today, on National Go to an Art Museum Day, we invite you to, of course, go to an art museum! Often during visits people discover new types of art that they connect to, and learn more about not only the art itself, but history, psychology, and themselves.