How to elevate your consciousness with art!

July 12th Harvest: Hakurei and Purple Top Turnips, Nasturtiums, Dill Flower and Coriander.

Appreciating Art Can Improve Mood and Alter Brain Chemistry.

The benefits of practices like meditation and yoga have become widely known but lesser known research is now demonstrating the positive benefits of spending time appreciating art. Researchers are using MRI brain imaging scans to discover that observing and contemplating beauty in art stimulates the pleasure centers in the brain and results in a 10% increase in blood flow.  These experiences can provide an elevated state of consciousness, well being, and better emotional health.

The blood flow increased for a beautiful painting just as much as it increases when you look at somebody you love. It tells us art induces a feel good sensation direct to the brain.
— Professor Semir Zeki, Chair in Neuroaesthetics at University College London
Photo by Highwaystarz-Photography/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by Highwaystarz-Photography/iStock / Getty Images

Art Can Help You Feel Inspired

Scientists have also discovered that appreciating art can stimulate the firing of mirror neurons.  Mirror neurons are neurons that fire when the person observes an action performed by another. Thus, the neuron "mirrors" the behavior of the other, as though the observer were itself acting.  This form of mental modeling can be stimulated when appreciating art. It allows the viewer to mentally transport himself or herself into a scene depicted or to feel the inspiration experienced by the artist during the creative process. This is called embodied cognition. It explains why we may feel as if in a dream when observing a water lilies painting by Monet. 

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

Making Art Can Promote Well Being, and Integrate Emotional, Cognitive and Sensory Awareness

Art Therapy is a widely used psychology practice used to help individuals and groups express troubling feelings and experiences in order to access healing. Patients are encouraged to visualize, and then create, the thoughts and emotions that they can't express verbally. The resulting artwork is then reviewed, and its meaning interpreted by the patient. The analysis of the artwork typically enables a patient to gain some level of insight into their feelings and allows them to work through these issues in a constructive manner.

How Creating Art Changes My Consciousness

I enter an altered state of consciousness when creating my artworks.  The act of creation surely affects my brain chemistry.  I am normally an easily distracted personality.  However when I get in a good mental flow of the creative process, I enter a state of hyper focus. My perception of time becomes warped and time quickly slips away.  Every good artist has self-doubt. This is a normal condition which helps push us to create better artworks. With self-doubt comes hesitation and for some artists creative paralysis.  However in this altered state of consciousness I am able to free myself from doubt to become more experimental.  I am able to generate innovative ideas that do not surface at other times.  I am in an open state of mind where I am able to take creative risks without judgement of the possible outcomes.  This state of mind usually results in better artworks and the most productive use of my time. 

For example, I took a creative risk during a recent art making session.  I tried something new in my artwork series titled Sustain.  I created a still life featuring the food I harvested on a single day from my urban organic garden. Still life is a popular style among painters and photographers but I have not explored this approach before.  I experimented with gesture, use of pattern, use of color, symbolism embodied in the bee themed apron, and lighting style.  Overall, I created many photographs and I am not sure which one(s) I prefer.  Do you have a preference?  If so please leave your comments below! 

Do you experience enhanced sensory awareness or a sense of well being when appreciating art?  What other feelings does appreciating art bring to you?  I would love to share a dialog, so please leave your comments below. Thanks!

Sources:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-news/8500012/Brain-scans-reveal-the-power-of-art.html

http://www.aaas.org/news/how-engaging-art-affects-human-brain

http://psychology.jrank.org/pages/45/Art-Therapy.html

Hey if you enjoyed this, please join my Art Insiders Group by clicking the link on the right. You will get to receive subscriber only discounts, invitations to exhibitions,  insight into my creative process, updates about new artworks, tips on collecting and caring for art and more.  You can expect to hear from me about once a month.