The museum, an ally to be happy and healthy?

Go to the museum to heal. The idea may come as a surprise, but it’s gaining ground. According to a recent US study, these cultural therapies may have a host of beneficial health effects, such as alleviating chronic pain and alleviating mental illness.

Millions of people visit the museum every year. While many go there for education, these visits can also improve their physical fitness and mental well-being. At least that’s what researchers at the University of Pennsylvania claim in a study published in the journal The Journal of Positive Psychology

Katherine Cotter and James Pawelski have compiled and reviewed more than a hundred scientific publications and reports that focus on the many health benefits of art. They found that contact with works of art significantly reduced anxiety and stress. Recent work has shown that visiting an art museum has a real impact on the secretion of hormones responsible for our well-being, such as cortisol and serotonin.

Prescribed museum visits

The therapeutic virtues of art don’t stop there. “Museotherapy” has also proven itself in the prevention and management of behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia. A team of Australian and South African researchers has found that cultural therapies help fight depression in people with dementia while improving their cognitive functions.

With this in mind, the association Médecins francophones du Canada has allowed its members to send their patients suffering from depression, diabetes or chronic diseases to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts free of charge. Launched in November 2018, this one-year pilot project has since led to similar initiatives in Switzerland and France.

One thing is certain: going to the museum plays (positively) on our mood and mental well-being. But the benefits of these cultural visits don’t stop there. Katherine Cotter and James Pawelski have found that museums respond to social cohesion. People who visit them regularly tend to feel less alone. They are also more likely to question social issues, “suggesting that the experience of a visit” [d’un musée] stimulates different forms of thinking and thought processes”, conclude the researchers in their study.

(ETX Daily Up)

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