Susan Magsamen dances like nobody’s watching, usually singing or humming the tunes of Bonnie Raitt or Miles Davis on Friday nights with her husband in the living room.
He acts and sings a little poorly, he admits, but this does not discourage him.
“You don’t have to be good, but you have to be everything,” Magsamen said good luck, which states the benefits of participating in the arts for fun. “You don’t have to be good at art to be of great benefit.”
While countless studies show how exercise, TAKINGand a nutritious Food strengthens the brain, emerging evidence shows that making space for art produces similar results.
Dancing, gardening, and writing poetry help boost Magsamen’s mood and help him appeal to his feelings, he said.
“We are literally physically hardwired for these arts and aesthetic experiences,” says Magsamen, founder and executive director of the International Arts + Mind Lab at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine’s Pedersen Brain Science Institute. “We want to be felt.”
Magsamen and co-author, Ivy Ross, dive into how art is an important part of living and how to incorporate it into your life, in their book, Your Art Brain: How the Arts Are Changing Uspublished last month.
Conventional wisdom tells us that productivity means efficiency—and often, creativity can be an afterthought, Ross says. In many ways, art has been pushed aside for more practical, seemingly easier ways to get things done. But art is the basis of human experience and the ability to understand and express emotion for a reason, argues Magsamen.
“We’re not happier as a society because we’re optimizing for productivity,” he said. “If you look back, we were singing [and] dance. We don’t even have a voice in art. This is all we do. ”
Remember the excitement of an adult coloring book, the joy of kneading clay, or the allure of walking through a gallery admiring a beautiful painting.
Research shows that art can low stress, improve mood, and help regulate emotions—and art therapy can promote healing and encourage self-expression. Magsamen, who started a hands-on, creative learning company called Curiosity Kits in the 1980s, found that art helped children learn better and control their emotions. Dina Lobo, a trauma support specialist, has seen her clients improve after expressing themselves through an art session. And art promotes mindfulness, which reduces thinking.
This is because art engages our senses in the most intense ways.
“It turns out that artistic and aesthetic experiences are some of the most important ways we build neural pathways,” Magsamen said. Feeling, seeing, and hearing through art feeds our brain and allows us to feel before we think, says Ross. So the cherished phrase, stop smelling the roses, may have scientific backing.
Even engaging in art through your eyes stimulates the brain. A study from University College London found that more blood flowed to the brain when people looked at a beautiful painting.
Art of our age
While we often consider arts and crafts child’s play, everyone can benefit from art regardless of age. An art activity a month increases life expectancy by 10 years, according to the authors. And before RESEARCH REVEALS of older adults published in the British Medical Journal found that those who participated in art activities, such as attending museums, concerts, or galleries several times a year, died older.
Stimulating the brain through new activities can help reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s; Sound and light may also improve cognitive decline associated with these disorders by strengthening certain neural connections, Magsamen and Ross wrote in their book.
What does art mean?
Contrary to popular belief, there are no barriers to entry into the arts. Everyone can participate in the arts for play and curiosity—and you don’t have to be artistic to get started.
“Society says, ‘Oh, well, if you’re not talented, you’re not going to do it,'” Magsamen says, and that’s the biggest mistake people make.
Art is anything that appeals to your senses. Think: dancing, sewing, crocheting, journaling, gardening, or cooking. Even stopping other distractions from listening to the radio or walking in nature is a form of art, said Magsamen. Start by rediscovering the type of art you loved as a child; this can be a good way to choose where to start. And as research shows, appreciating the arts has benefits for the brain.
How long does it take to see the effect of art on the brain?
You don’t need to sign up for weekly ballet lessons and master the positions to see the results of the brain art. In fact, 20 minutes of any art form can improve mood and lower cortisol or stress levels. You can do 20 minutes on a more frequent basis.
So instead of seeing art as reserved for the so-called creatives, embrace the power of the senses and start small. Hum, doodle, or listen to the radio, for starters. And maybe dance like no one is watching because your brain will thank you later.
“Eight hours of sleep is good. Science now tells us that 20 minutes a day of some artistic activity is just as good,” Ross said. “You should add that to your daily diet.”