When I got my first computer in 1987, I was told it could simplify and speed up the mundane activities of my life – I would have more time to dream and paint and commune with nature. Today, the reality is that I don’t have more free time – my schedule is usually consumed by that technology. With emails, work deadlines, Facebook, Instagram et al. I am tempted to react and respond to the world without getting outside and moving.
This Sunday, April 22nd, is Earth Day, a day set apart in 1970 to honor the earth and the concept of peace. I’ve been thinking about my personal peace and the consequences of sitting with the computer against the benefits of being in nature and interacting with art. At first, the relationship between nature and art appears nice but not necessarily close; in reality, they are very similar. Studies show that spending time outside in nature can change people from being depressed, angry, fearful, stressed or anxious to a more calm and balanced feeling, lowering blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormones. When we concentrate on a flower, a bee or a breath-taking sunset, we can’t focus as much on pain allowing instead for increased creativity and connections with other people.
But what about art? By “viewing” art our physical bodies can be improved in lower cortisol stress levels just as they are with nature. But “doing” art is even more beneficial as it also increases brain activity. Studies show that in older adults, participation in art builds connections in the brain which help prevent memory loss. Concentrating on anything artistic can clear your mind of negative thoughts, helping you to focus on the moment, relaxing the body and brain. Many times, a painter will say to me that they can’t believe how relaxing painting is and their concentration and focus shuts out other concerns. But if your art doesn’t compare to Van Gogh, the good news is that Harvard Medical School found it doesn’t matter what your artwork looks like, it’s the process not the product that matters!
Earth Day is a terrific reminder of the need to get away from the computer and take a hike, paint a picture, stroll along the beach or go to a museum. My vote is to invite some friends over and have a painting party…Blank Canvas knows just how to inject some creativity into your event.
- Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 834360, 7 pages, http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/834360
- The benefits of nature experience: Improved affect and cognition, Gregory N.Bratman, Gretchen C.Daily, Benjamin J.Levy, James J.Gross, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2015.02.005
- Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural Settings, Ruth Ann Atchley, David L. Strayer, and Paul Atchley , Jan de Fockert, Editor, PLoS One. 2012; 7(12): e51474.
- How Art Changes Your Brain: Differential Effects of Visual Art Production and Cognitive Art Evaluation on Functional Brain Connectivity, Anne Bolwerk, Jessica Mack-Andrick, Frieder R. Lang, Arnd Dörfler, Christian Maihöfner, PLOS, Published: July 1, 2014, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0101035
- The healing power of art, Creative activities can relieve stress, aid communication, and help arrest cognitive decline. Harvard Women’s Health Watch, July, 2017