In thinking about achieving and maintaining good health, we often think of good nutrition and plenty of exercises. While healthy food and regular workouts are essential to good physical and mental health, what we choose to look at and experience also has a huge impact on my day-to-day mental health. To nourish your soul and psyche, I recommend a visit to an art museum.
Meditate at the Museum
Find a painting, sculpture, drawing or photograph that you feel deserves or needs more looking time. I know that when I walk through an art museum, not all artworks get careful scrutinization. My eye and body tend to linger in front of works that pull me in because I like the artist or subject matter. Perhaps I am intrigued with the color, the way the brush strokes are applied, or the overall mood of a work. Let the artwork grab your attention and keep you longer.
When I go to the Baltimore Museum of Art, I have a favorite painting of Mount Saint-Victoire by the French artist Paul Cezanne. Even though I have seen dozens of paintings by Cezanne of this subject matter, this painting never fails to pull me in for a good long look. This good long look at a beautiful and moving work of art is for me both meditation and inspiration.
My mind goes blank as my eye drifts slowly around this wonderful canvas, and I take in those powerful and brief brushstrokes as well as the blank white spaces that Cezanne chose to keep paint-less. My breathing slows, and I can feel my blood pressure lowering almost immediately, no prescription drugs necessary.
Tips for an Art Museum Visit
Below are some tips to help you make the most of your museum experience:
- Wear comfortable shoes when you go to an art museum. (As a shoe junkie, I am required to say this.) Museums tend to have uncomfortable floors that are made of cement and marble
- If at all possible, I recommend that you choose a time to visit the museum that is less crowded, perhaps on a weekday
- You are not required to like or respond to everything you see in an art museum but do keep negative comments to yourself
- You may want to perform an art museum recon mission of walking through an entire floor quickly, and then deciding where you want to spend your quality looking and seeing time
- Many museums these days are free, offer significant discounts to students and senior citizens, or have cost-savings membership packages
- I like to write down the names of artists I have never heard of but would like to know more about. Then I look them up on the internet when I get home
- Don’t look too long at art. Just as too much rich food can make you ill, looking at art for longer than two hours (or so) is visually exhausting, so don’t overdo it. You don’t want to give yourself an Art Attack 😉
And no, a team of scientists at a world-renowned university did not receive millions in grant money to prove me right. I just know it is so. Even if you have never been to an art museum, it is not too late to start. Looking at art can stimulate your mind and increase your sense of well being. So get out, go to a museum and improve your mental health!