Our modern lives are chaotic.  We all have unique stressors from our professional lives to our bills to our health.  Viewing art not only distracts from these tensions, but provides incredible chemical benefits within our bodies, lowering our fight or flight state of mind and instilling peace.

The University of Westminster studied a group of participants in 2006 after 35 minutes spent in an art gallery in the middle of the workday.  Not only did the participants simply feel less stressed, but their actual levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, had plummeted.  Many people regularly take drugs or supplements to keep their cortisol levels in check as too much of it can bring on a host of other health problems.  If only we all had just a bit more museum time!

Looking at certain types of art in particular makes it easy to see how our bodies react this way.  Timothy App’s abstract paintings could implant tranquility in even the most frenzied room.  With their large converging shapes and neutral tones, the viewers’ eyes can lock on and feel grounded in their statuesque presence.

Very dissimilar stylistically, Debra Hurd’s impressionist pieces layered so thickly with texture and color may at first sound unruly in nature.  However, the paint appears to almost drip away from the canvases themselves.  The effect of gazing at this work is akin to letting rain wash over you, or perhaps hearing it patter against a window.  Your surroundings slowly melt away.

The soothing consequences of the presence of art make it an absolute necessity in places of permanent unrest.  Buildings like hospitals especially place a great deal of importance on choosing particularly calming artwork for their facilities.  It is unfortunate that often the budgets for ideal quantities of artwork are less than ideal, as not everyone sees it as a top priority.

When we are not in a position of being able to visit our local galleries or view art in our current setting, it is essential to remember that not only does viewing art calm us, but creating it does as well.  One does not need to be an “artist” to create art that will relax his or her nerves.  How often do we catch someone doodling on a napkin during an aggravating phone call, or decorating the covers of their notepads on a long bus ride home?  This is art therapy, and we could all use a small dose.  “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” – Pablo Picasso