When I think of artists I often think of broody, egocentric characters who are more attached to the wine bottle than their own family members.
So it comes as quite a surprise to hear that an interest in the arts can actually correlate with feelings of optimism and well-being.
Perhaps most of us have come across at least one or two artists who use their special talent as an excuse to be obnoxious and outspoken. Being an artist can do amazing things to your ego but, as it turns out, an appreciation of the arts can do wonders for the spectator, too.
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An appreciation for the arts can actually make us happier, or so scientists would have us believe.
A study released by the University of Western Australia has found that enjoying and participating in the arts for just two hours per week can have a positive effect on our mental health and overall wellness.
More than 700 Western Australians took part in the study and were asked about their interests and involvement in the arts for enjoyment, entertainment or as a hobby.
Their love of the arts included things like photography, music, painting, theatre, craft, fashion, reading and sculpture, and their involvement could include being a spectator or actually taking part in the act of artistic expression.
It was found that people who had enjoyed 100 hours or more of the arts, around two hours per week, reported a higher mental well-being than those who hadn’t. They were reportedly happier and had a stronger sense of mental health.
VicHealth says the arts can help promote good mental health by building a sense of community.
“The strength of the community arts process is its ability to bring diverse people together around a common project and sense of purpose,” they said in the Arts for Health Creative Connections and Community Arts Participation Scheme document.
They also found that self-esteem levels and overall wellness increased after people took part in community arts programs.
The American Journal of Public Health-published review titled “The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health” also found that an involvement in the arts had the power to reduce stress, dull depression, reduce negative emotions and even help those suffering with grief.
Philosopher and writer Alain de Botton talks about the link between wellness and the arts in his book Art as Therapy, in which he uses art to help people resolve difficult situations in a person’s life.
Art can transform our lives, be used as therapy, help us conquer grief, and, yes, even make us happy. It might be worth making friends with that egocentric artist in our lives after all.