Art. It’s good for your soul… and your body!

Beautiful things. They make you healthier. How do I know this? Because science, that’s how.

If you want to improve your health and help your system resist viruses, give the arts a try! Really. Recent studies and research have proven that visiting art galleries and attending music venues can positively impact your health and well-being in untold ways. Some of the health benefits you may experience are viral resistance, a balancing of blood pressure, lower anxiety and depression, boosting of critical thinking skills, and ultimately, a reduction of systemic inflammation. In short, by simply focusing on things that you find pleasing changes the state of your wellness at the cellular level. I call that good gravy!

So let’s get into the basic science part. Cytokines are the signaling molecule that promotes inflammation. The thing to know about inflammation is, not only can it be painful, it can be quite detrimental. I remember taking some radical approaches with medical interventions on my Marines during despairing situations, and grateful that lives were saved while doing so. However, once an aggressive inflammatory response in the body took place, most traditional therapies failed. We “Doc’s” called this a cytokine storm. It’s a slang term characterized by elevated proinflammatory cytokines, a sharply increased incidence of shock, and less than desirable outcomes. In other words, a cytokine storm made for a very bad day. Systemic inflammation must be avoided at all costs.

So here’s the good news! Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley recently published a study in the journal Emotion, “Positive Affect and Markers of Inflammation: Discrete Positive Emotions Predict Lower Levels of Inflammatory Cytokines”. This particular study found that activities that inspire feelings of awe reduces the levels of inflammatory cytokines and may actually boost the immune system. UC Berkeley psychologist and co-author Dacher Keltner said, “That awe, wonder, and beauty promote healthier levels of cytokines suggests that the things we do to experience these emotions ~ a walk in nature, losing oneself in music, beholding art ~ has a direct influence upon health and life expectancy.”

Did you catch what the good Dr. said there? Direct influence.

These are strong words in the medical community. This revelation means you and I have the power to do something to directly influence our own health! Something as wonderfully simple as partaking in a cultural event like we have here at SBDAC. How cool is that!

Ok, this is fascinating! I’d like to touch on some more tidbits of the science surrounding the evidence that the arts are healthy for us all.

Dr. Masaru Emoto, a famous researcher from Japan, has provided scientific proof again and again how thoughts can alter the physical world around us and within us. His water molecule experiments plainly demonstrated how we can promote vitality or expedite severe degradation in the very structure of water molecules with exposure to certain notions. This carries far reaching implications for those of us that are made mostly of water!

Researcher, Koenraad Cuypers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, conducted the Nord-Trondelag Health Study. He collected information from 130,000 people ages 13 and up about their habits of participation in cultural activities. Cuypers found those that had a creative outlet like attending concerts, art galleries, dancing, or a painting class have increased rates of health.  More specifically, people that took part in four or more art related diversions reported a high level of life satisfaction and health. Cuypers’ study concluded that these same health benefits were enjoyed whether someone actually produced the art or by simply viewing the artistic creations. Even more fascinating, the findings suggest that men got more healthy benefits from passively viewing art, while women had higher benefits from actively creating art. Who’da thunk?

Also worth mentioning is the stance we take on the current science during the COVID-19 public health situation. In alignment with the CDC public health recommendations, the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center is taking multiple measures to prevent community spread of COVID-19, which includes undertaking enhanced cleaning and disinfection procedures. As well as recommending frequent hand washing, practicing social distancing, limiting group sizes, offering protective facemasks, and providing abundant hand sanitizers throughout our facility.

As countless studies have been documented on this phenomena, I only had the time to mention a few today. I just want to point out a couple of takeaways from this new information. The Berkeley study pinpoints the emotion ‘awe’ being the crucial factor in people having the lowest levels of cytokines. It is now widely understood that people who have become withdrawn from others suffer more with depression, aches and pains, memory loss, and become more susceptible to illness resulting in a failure to thrive. That’s why the world under isolation has become so painful to most of us. We actually need to move our bodies and have our minds inspired by things that make us say ‘wow’. Inflammation is not our friend, and we can show it the door by going through our own doors.

So, here’s the deal, if you’re done with staring at your walls, maybe it’s time to add a little color and flair to your life?  You may even live longer for it.  (Because, science.)

For goodness sakes go look at some art, OK?



Rebel Lilly

~A lover of lesser used words, critters of every order, and coffee. She is the girl that prefers her flowers uncut, her sunshine unbroken by clouds, and her toes in the sand.  

•All statements made in this blog are my opinion and my thoughts alone. Statements on this blog and webpage are not to be taken as medical advice in any manner. I base my writings on my personal experiences and on my own inquiry. It is highly suggested readers complete their own research and consult a medical professional before implementing any guidance offered here.