Art Can Heal Us, Inspire Us, and Alter Our Brain Chemistry
With so much talk about the evidence of the positive effects of yoga and meditation, you might be surprised at what scientific research also says about how art affects the brain. Long before modern neuroscience, artists created works to inspire people, and today complex brain imaging scans can show us how art changes our brains’ physiology. Contemplation, observing, and taking in the beauty all stimulate pleasure centers within the brain while increasing blood flow by up to 10% in the medial orbitofrontal cortex. This can lead to an elevated state of consciousness, well-being, and better emotional health.
Mirror Neurons are neurons that fire when a person acts and observes the same action performed by another. This brings us back to a fundamental concept in human evolution, which involves modeling. When you observe a profound piece of art, you can potentially fire the same neurons as the artist did when they created it, thus making new neural pathways and stimulating a state of inspiration. This sense of being drawn into a painting is called “embodied cognition.
Art accesses some of the most advanced processes of human intuitive analysis and expressivity and a key form of aesthetic appreciation is through embodied cognition, the ability to project oneself as an agent in the depicted scene, – Christopher Tyler, director of the Smith-Kettlewell Brain Imaging Center
This explains why we might feel like we are dreaming when we look at impressionists like Claude Monet or have an ecstatic vision while looking at Alex Grey’s painting. The ability of art, combined with our own imagination, to transport us to other realms is astounding. Artists have the ability to show us new worlds, but we shouldn’t put them on a pedestal because each of us is an artist.
Making art activates the whole brain and can foster integration of emotional, cognitive, and sensory processes. – Joan French MA NCC LCPC
Creating art is also therapeutic, which has been the impetus for the art therapy movement. Every one of us lived like artists as children, and we have the ability to bring back this powerful form of expression and self-healing if we allow ourselves to. You don’t need to be an expert to enjoy smearing paint on a canvas and letting your pleasure centers light up like a child!
Modern Visionary Artists are applying the idea that art inspires community, is educational and has the capacity to elicit spiritual revelations. Painting together in groups and painting live at musical events, these artists allow participants in their creative process. Seeing and understanding that even the finest art pieces have many moments when the artist isn’t satisfied or needs to paint over something reveals for each of us on our spiritual journey.
Visual art can heal us, inspire us, and alter our brain chemistry, leaving us filled with inspiration and love.