Want to know a bit more?
What’s good about these activities?
- A great way to take a breathing space in a busy day
- Offers a guided experience of spending time with art
- Helps us to be in touch with the present moment
- Develops our ability to focus clearly
- Gently stimulates both mind and imagination
- Kindly brings our attention to our feelings
Art has many ways of nurturing wellbeing. Whether looking at it or creating it, many of us find that being around art sharpens powers of concentration, and helps us be more expressive, more uniquely ourselves. Art can help with all sorts of things from problem-solving to finding meaning in life. But one of the most important ways art can help us is to bring us relaxation, enjoyment, interest and a sense of connection.
Interestingly, researchers tell us that spending time looking at beautiful art can reduce blood pressure and heart rate, and help with pain management. That’s because art can stimulate something called the Relaxation Response, which not only reduces stress but also balances our hormones and boosts our mood.
Looking at art can also help us to be ‘in the moment’. It can be energizing to step away for a few minutes from our internal chatter, and just be aware of the moment as we inhabit it. Intentionally bringing our attention to the moment can be beneficial for mental and physical wellbeing, connecting us to life experience in a rich and vital way. Studies show that people who practice this tend to live longer, feel happier and be more successful in life.
The activities on Look at Paintings are about observing, noticing, watching, in a restful way. Being more observant of the world around us awakens our senses, grounds us, and can help us to de-stress because it declutters our heads to focus attention on one thing.
This type of approach has much in common with mindfulness. Mindfulness is one of those terms that’s very popular at present. It involves learning to pay attention to the life you’re living, right now, and trying to bring to this a kindly, open and interested attitude. Mindfulness meditation has many ways of helping us ‘wake up’ to our lives, through connecting us with our internal and external worlds. As humans, we’re unique in being able to attend to both these worlds as well as to see how they might be interconnected. So, we can bring attention to bear not only on our senses and all that they can tell us, but also to thoughts (noticing that they are only thoughts and not actual facts), feelings, breathing, bodily sensations, impulses and desires, and the consequences of our actions.
Many think that mindfulness is connected to Buddhism. Whilst it certainly has its roots in Buddhism, mindfulness is a secular set of activities or way of living your life. Mindfulness enables us to pay attention to our whole lives, whatever they are like and whatever faith we may follow, if indeed we follow any at all. As holistic physician and mindfulness coach Dr. Amy Saltzman says: ’This ability to pay attention is a natural, innate human capacity. One does not need to be Buddhist to pay attention in this way, any more than one needs to be Italian to enjoy pizza.’