Pablo Picasso said “Art shakes the dust accumulated by everyday life from the soul” and now all studies agree that art makes our lives better, increases well-being and decreases the amount of stress accumulated daily.

Contemplating a masterpiece we release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, causing emotions capable of acting on the mind even more than drugs and increasing the sense of pleasure and gratification.

And it is even shown how art helps even after a serious physical and mental trauma. According to the data collected by Ercole Vellone of the University of Tor Vergata in Rome, presented in Copenhagen during the last Spring Meeting on Cardiovascular Nursing: following 192 patients who had suffered a stroke, the researcher verified that being interested in art, in any form of it is associated with a better quality of life and a more marked recovery of skills. Participants were asked if they loved painting, music, theater and saw them as an integral part of their lives before and after stroke; the results clearly indicate that art lovers had better overall health and more energy, and also found it less difficult to walk. There’s more: they felt calmer, more serene and less anxious or depressed, they showed a stronger memory and communicated better, being able to understand and express themselves more adequately than those who had no interest in art. .

vincent van gogh
Vincent Van Gogh – “Notte stellata”, 1889 – MOMA

“The search for beauty, in which art and culture are important tools, can be an important element for achieving that quality of life to which we all aspire”, writes the neurosurgeon Giulio Maira in his book “The brain is bigger than the sky “.
“On the other hand, the perception of beauty as the highest expression and realization of our reality is also part of achieving happiness. If we think about it, we are surrounded by beauty, our whole world is permeated with beauty and harmony, just look around to discover it in the elements of nature and in the works of man, from simple wildflowers to the works of artists of all times “.

Many scientists, therapists, philosophers and many other professionals have tried to show that art plays an extremely important role in determining our moods. How, then, can art have such a positive influence on our lives?

The contemplation of a work of art improves our mood

According to a Norwegian study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, visiting exhibitions improves moods. The research examined over 50,000 people for three years, subjecting them to questionnaires on their creative and cultural activities and their mood. This is one of the evidence in support of how even the contemplation of art can be a useful tool in a therapy to combat depressive states. Sometimes there is an explosion of feelings and sensations, often confused, and our body and mind feel an inner fulfillment. This is where the so-called reward circuit comes into play!

Art has positive effects on our life

Art can prove to be a real means to cure or alleviate certain physical, neurological and mental behaviors. A report presented by the World Health Organization confirms a positive correlation between various artistic activities and human health. When analyzing the benefits of the visual arts, performing arts, culture, literature and online arts on different patients with different medical conditions, the conclusion remains the same: art heals!

The mechanism of emotion

In 1994, neurobiologist Semir Zeki, a lecturer at University College London, founded neuroaesthetics, a discipline that aims to investigate the mechanisms involved in the aesthetic experience, trying to understand what is set in motion in our brain when we observe a work of art.

The neurobiologist conducted an experiment with functional magnetic resonance imaging (reports the magazine Plos One): it consisted of observing the brains of 21 people, while they were intent on looking at a certain number of works of art. When the volunteers found themselves in front of a picture that they considered wonderful, one area in particular was lit up: the orbit-frontal area, involved in the brain’s pleasure centers.
“Beauty is always accompanied by the neural activity of a specific part of the brain responsible for processing emotions which is called field A1 and which is located in the medial orbit-frontal cortex,” explained the scientist. «This activity is also quantifiable. The more intense the experience of beauty, the more intense the activity recorded in the area will be “.
A truly curious fact is added: the caudate nucleus, a very deep brain area, the same that is set in motion by romantic love, was also activated in those who looked at the paintings. Zeki deduced that there is a kind of correlation between the beauty of art and that of the desired person.
It is this mechanism that is largely responsible for the emotions and the sensation of intense pleasure that comes from admiring a work of art.

la gioconda
Leonardo da Vinci – “Monna Lisa”, 1503/1504 – Museo del Louvre

Artist like a neurologist

“The beauty of things exists in the mind of the beholder” said the philosopher David Hume in the eighteenth century. It is in the eye of the beholder that the painting in the museum, the sculptural body of an actor or the face of a lover become truly and absolutely splendid. When the stimulation of the visual cortex arouses a strong emotion.
But what the scientist Lamberto Maffei wrote is also true: “The artist is a sort of refined neurologist who knows how to find the appropriate stimuli to excite the brain and art is a good drug to which it is physiological, and perhaps even therapeutic, get used to it “.

In conclusion?

The many studies analyzed agree on the same conclusions: art is able to increase our well-being and is a real therapeutic catalyst.
The visual arts, the performing arts, music and many other disciplines are proven remedies against loneliness, shyness, illness and contribute to spreading a sense of well-being to everyone. One more reason to surround yourself with works of art!