The Healing Power of Art
I am honored by the invitation to be a guest speaker on Today’s Visions Talking Art, and excited to share my story on the Healing Powers of Art.
On October 8th, 2011, I suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm; to make a very long story short I will not go into detail, but just say that while laying in ICU I found that I was getting frustrated, noise of any kind bothered me, as did lights and even people. In an effort to find some relief from the stress that I could feel beginning to build, I picked up the tv control and started browsing through channels. Probably a hundred or more channels into this I came across one that was displaying beautiful artwork. Each image filled the entire screen and was displayed for approximately 5-7 seconds and then on to the next, and there was no break in this activity – it went on just like that 24/7 – no advertisements, no disruptions of any kind, just pure and beautiful art.
I cannot express enough how truly good this made me feel – it took my mind off the fact that I had just almost died, it gave me a real sense of peace, it even brought me joy on many occasions, depending on what the artwork was – I mean a real good sense of well being, and here I was laying there with tubes in both arms and hooked up to all types of life support systems, and I just felt good – the majority of it was actual photographs and since that has been my specialty for quite a few years, It was just what I needed! As long as I could view these beautiful images, and keep my mind off of what put me there, I was ok – it was this beautiful artwork that just sent me such a peaceful and beautiful energy; it seemed to just slowly ooze out of the tv and wrap me up in a nice warm bundle and embrace me and fill me to the brim with love. And, that is what that really good energy is; it is LOVE!
Now, I am not a religious person, by far, I am not a religious person, but I am very, very spiritual and I believe in these cosmic energies that are around us all, continually. What had happened to me and what continues to happen to me to this very day is that it was like a Light came on inside of me and showed me how easy it is to find these amazing energies every where around us. I have the ability to absorb these wonderful energies, from art, from nature, from music, which is of course another form of art and you also have these abilities, they are inherent.
During the course of my stay in ICU, which was lengthy to say the least, I was tested several times a day to make sure that there was no activity going on that would indicate a reoccurrence of the aneurysm, and after several days my neurosurgeon commented that I was healing very quickly. She said that this really surprised her as I was in critical condition and she was seeing remarkable progress. Besides her being such an awesome and skilled surgeon the only other thing I can contribute to this progressive healing is the wonderful energies that are abundant in art.
To say that this has changed my life would be an understatement! I am here to tell you all that the power of healing through art is not just a catch phrase and not just something to be shrugged off; it is a real and effective and very powerful tool that each and every one of us has built in – the thing is that we have to first of all believe in it, we have to be receptive to it and welcome it with open arms.
Art of any kind, whether it be photography, painting, music, writing, crafting, stained glass or sculpture – it really has no limit as to the healing properties – that is something that is different for each individual’s receptiveness, and according to the specific ailment. I have known others who were not as receptive to this concept as I, and have not healed to their full potential and some are no longer with us. For me, it seemed so natural and I searched it out the only way I could from that hospital bed and I am here to say it works! Something inside of me said “find some art, you need art, your will find the peace and energies that you so desperately need; search for some paintings, some photography any form of art”. I don’t just see the beauty; I FEEL it.
I am so happy that I listened to my inner voice, and now that I think back through the last eleven years, which were pretty stressful for me in regard to my home life as well as vocational, I think that getting into photography back in 2003 slowly gave me the strength I needed to get through my life to this stage – now I am ready for the next phase and what ever it brings. BRING IT ON!
Study: 21 individuals exposed to music and art for 4, 8, 12 and16 second intervals; they were asked to rate the level of beauty between 1-9, 9 being the most beautiful
Music was first to record correlation to beauty in segments 1 through 3.
Art came in second correlating to beauty in segments 2 through 4.
So audio beauty triggers the senses just a bit earlier than visual beauty.
They further concluded that beauty correlates to the emotion of JOY.
Results: ‘Beauty is, for the greater part, some quality in bodies that correlates with activity in the mOFC by the intervention of the senses’.
June 2014 Neuroscience of Beauty
The Neuroscience of Beauty and the Vagus Nerve
There is real science emerging behind the emotional impact of design. Variations in space, color, texture, and light have profound neurological and physiological impacts on the human body. Just as music and laughter trigger the release of endorphins and exytocin, so does the beauty of our surroundings activate certain areas of our brains. Dr. Dacher Keltner, co-director of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, is exploring how these pleasing visual stimuli spark our Vagus nerve.
What is Vagus Nerve?
The vagus nerve is actually two cranial nerves that extend from the brain stem and connect down to the abdominal cavity. Sometimes this nerve is referred to as cranial nerve X, the 10th cranial nerve or the wandering nerve. These nerves are used to send a variety of signals throughout the body, but will also transfer signals back to the brain. The vagus nerve is also known for wandering through the body, weaving through the abdomen and branching into other nerves that extend through the limbs and organs.
The vagus nerve is used to regulate a variety of body functions including the heartbeat and the muscle movement necessary to keep you breathing. This nerve also regulates the chemical levels in the digestive system so that the intestines can process food and keep track of what types of nutrients are being gained from the food that is taken in.
The resulting hormones lower blood pressure and slow our respiratory rates. In other words, perceiving objects of beauty is like practicing meditation or yoga: these activities set off chemical effects that create and support emotional states of happiness, calm, compassion, and joy.
“The Vagus nerve is a key nexus of mind and body and a biological building block of human compassion.” – Dr. Dacher Keltner, UC Berkeley
Nexus: a relationship or connection between people or things