Art’s Effect on Happiness

Frozen in Time - Original by Becky Black shows color effects on mood and power of color psychology

Article by Leily Zhu

Think back to all those times you were an artist in your childhood. 

Young Girl Painting Cardboard House connecting art and happiness
Photo by Tatiana Syrikova from Pexels

When your finger paintings were hung up on the refrigerator in preschool. When you created figurines out of playdough in elementary school. When you doodled in your notebook while your teacher droned on in middle school.

As we grow older, the time we spend enjoying art seems to lessen and its importance seems to dim. What used to be proudly displayed on the refrigerator for all to see, gradually dwindles to lonely doodles in the margins of a notebook filled with to-dos and takeaways from meetings. However, just because art isn’t often seen as a priority doesn’t mean people don’t need it. There’s a reason children love drawing pictures and why adult coloring books exist. 

Research has shown that there are many benefits of art, including stress management and overall happiness.

 

Art and Stress Reduction

Your environment affects your mood. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is directly related to the impact one’s environment has on their mood. This is why the design of the building and the artwork featured in workspaces, healthcare facilities, and living areas are becoming increasingly important for stress management.

A study conducted on college students had three different groups participate in an activity: an individual art activity, a group art activity, and a non-art activity. Their feelings of stress were measured before and after the experiment. It was found that those who participated in art activities had lowered anxiety levels, while the group who did not interact with art remained the same. Additionally, numerous studies have found that patients experience lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, after viewing or engaging with art. 

So remember: if you feel stressed, take a breath and spend some time enjoying art.

Frozen in Time - Original Encaustic Art hung on bedroom wall by Becky Black shows color effects on mood and power of color psychology
“Frozen in Time” by Artist Becky Black. An array of soothing colors and textures, this piece is an ideal addition to a bedroom to create an atmosphere of calm

Colors and Emotions

The power of color is ever-present in art. Color psychology is used to influence the thoughts, emotions, and moods of the viewer. When choosing the type of artwork you want to be displayed in your space, it is important to understand the different color effects on mood.

Phoenix Rising Acrylic Canvas Wall Art by Emilee Reed available on Artlita
“Phoenix Rising” by artist Emilee Reed. A mixture of vibrant reds, blues and yellows, this artwork creates an energetic and appealing environment.

Yellow

The color yellow is associated with optimism, youth, and sunshine. It creates a feeling of happiness, hope, and joy. However, there can be too much yellow. In too large of quantities, yellow has been known to cause feelings of depression and to make babies cry. 

Red

The color red can evoke many different types of emotions: excitement, energy, assertion, ambition, and impulsiveness. It increases the heart rate and can create an atmosphere of power or emergency. Different cultures perceive the color red differently. In many Asian countries, red is seen as a symbol of fertility and luck. In Europe, it is linked with a sense of power and aristocracy. 

Blue

Blue is often associated with the color of the sky or ocean, which creates a sense of calm and peace. This color is good for calming your mind, reducing stress, and even lowering your heart rate. Additionally, the color blue represents wisdom and can create a sense of security and steadiness. 

Green

Similar to blue, green gives off a sense of balance and stability. It is a symbol of gentleness and hope and has even been known to have healing power. Unsurprisingly, it is also associated with wealth.

Orange

Orange is a lively color that is eye-catching and aggressive. It is often used as a call-to-action color to subscribe or buy. Because of its youthful tone, it creates an atmosphere of spontaneity, creativity, and fearlessness. This is a good color to have in your creative space. 

Purple

The color purple is often related to royalty and regality. It has a soothing effect when used in lighter shades. Darker shades can create a mood of gloom and sadness. An interesting fact is that most children (75%) choose purple over any other color.

Black

Black is an interesting color because it can create many different moods depending on how it is used. The color black is one of power and glamor and is used as the main color of many luxury products. However, black can also create an atmosphere of mystery and morbidness due to its lack of light. The dark relates to death and grieving. It is wise to use contrasting colors when mixing in black.

White

Similarly, white is an interesting color because of its lack of color. Symbolically, white represents cleanliness, innocence, and purity. When utilized in small doses, white can lighten shades and add brighter colors to the artwork. However, too much white space can leave the canvas looking blank and empty. Because of its clean aura, it is a good color for new and successful beginnings.

Art and Happiness

In the grand scheme of things, happiness is one of the most important parts of life. However, with all the stress associated with life, it can be difficult to figure out how to be happy. That’s where art comes in. Art is a great way to naturally increase happiness.

Neurobiologist Semir Zeki found that viewing art has the same psychological effect and reaction of experiencing romantic love. He showed 30 random participants carefully selected pieces of artwork and scanned their brain activity as they viewed each piece. The scans showed that when the subject viewed a visually pleasing artwork, such as the classically beautiful painting The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli, the brain had increased levels of dopamine (the “happy neurotransmitter”) and increased activity in the brain’s frontal cortex. These activities in the brain’s pleasure center mimic that of someone in love.

oil painting,venus,sandro botticelli,the birth of venus,painting,1486,free pictures, free photos, free images, royalty free, free illustrations, public domain
“The Birth of Venus” by Artist Sandro Botticelli

Since art has the power to reduce stress and make your brain think it’s falling in love, isn’t it time to fall in love with art?

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