Anxiety was identified as the world’s number one mental health concern in the 2019 World Economic Forum. While it’s an inevitable part of life, there is a powerful, easily accessible tool to help us cope with it: art. Read on to see how art uplifts, inspires and empowers us in times of stress and anxiety.
Improve your mood
Viewing art can stimulate the release of dopamine, an important chemical that makes you feel happy and relaxed. This is why you may find yourself smiling while looking at a Claude Monet painting. Researchers at the University College London have even discovered that when we look at works of art that we deem beautiful, the pleasure and reward centre of our brain becomes activated – as though we are falling in love.
Such uplifting effect isn’t limited to fine art, however. Consider your past experience with different art forms: perhaps you were once mesmerised by a dance performance at ArtisTree; or, have the unusual art installations around Taikoo Place ever made you smile? All art forms can have a positive impact on your mood; the key is to find the ones that resonate with you.
Be in the moment
When we feel anxious, our mind is in the future, consumed with possibilities of what might happen. Practising mindfulness brings us back to the present – and here’s where art comes in. When studying a piece of art, be it a painting or a sculpture, your focus shifts to the appreciation of the artwork. As you contemplate the details of the colours, shapes and textures, you’re essentially immersing yourself in the present moment. In other words, you stop worrying about the uncertain future and can thus reclaim your peace of mind.
Likewise, following a dance production keeps your thoughts to the then and now, and not elsewhere. “In Tundra, each moment was triggered live – the lighting, sound effects and dance movement must all be very precise,” says Marcos Morau, choreographer of Tundra, which was staged at ArtisTree Selects: Moving Pieces last September. “It also took rigorous concentration for the dancers to achieve absolute accuracy of the movement on stage.” Such focus required to appreciate and perform the act made it a highly meditative experience for both the audience and dancers, as they were pulled into the moment, tuning out all other thoughts to enjoy the different elements of the performance.
“In the face of nature, we have little control over the forces that act upon us,” says dance and circus artist Yoann Bourgeois, who brought his signature show Tentative Approaches to a Point of Suspension to ArtisTree last September. It is this feeling of losing control, accompanied by an overwhelming sense of helplessness and a fear of the unknown, that often leads to anxiety.
While it is unrealistic to expect certitude in a world full of uncertainties, art can empower us to take control of our own thoughts and actions. Art has no rules – we have the freedom to create what we want and interpret art in our own way. Through this exploration, we gain a sense of mastery and accomplishment, as well as that sense of control and confidence to face challenges.
Immerse yourself in the arts with a variety of virtual culture from around the world, and follow ArtisTree on Instagram for more inspiration.