A recent "Discover" magazine article highlighted the benefits of visual art exposure on mental health. Viewing visual art activates the same brain reward systems as other pleasurable, highly sensory activities. Studies have shown that regardless of the context of where the art is observed–whether it's a gallery, museum, or even an online exhibit from home–other physiological benefits can include lowered stress levels, blood pressure, and anxiety when engaged in mindful art observation for at least two minutes. “Maybe it makes you think about your identity, evokes certain memories or elicits different sensations. This may allow you to learn new things about yourself and make the art-viewing experience something transformative,” reflects art therapist Sarah Vollmann.
Imagine if this positive impact could be translated to stressful workplace environments as well. Particularly for those in “frontline” helping professions during the ongoing pandemic, caregiver burnout remains an underreported yet incredibly common mental health syndrome exacerbated by lack of systemic support and exposure to chronic stress. This can lead employees to feel “checked out,” undervalued, resentful, and/or reactive, which in turn, negatively impacts job performance and quality of patient care. In response, the Whitney Museum of American Art has recently partnered with NYC Health + Hospitals Arts in Medicine program to provide integrative arts-based wellness workshops to hospital employees inspired by art pieces on loan from their collection and featured throughout the medical facility. Yesterday I was privileged to begin a new role in co-facilitating the first of these integrative workshops at a Manhattan hospital, where we applied creative resilience skill-building, social-emotional learning, and art observation mindfulness techniques to creative responses pieces and personal reflection. Vollmann continues, “I believe that the importance of art cannot be overstated. We are living in difficult times, and struggles with mental health are on the rise. The exhibits of museums and galleries can provide a sanctuary of sorts from the chaos and stress of our daily lived experiences, and, conversely, they can help us to face and make meaning of the struggles that we face.” Now, through this program, we are working to bring these crucial creative safe spaces to the workplace as well. #burnoutprevention #caregiverburnout #mentalhealthawareness #artheals #creativeresilience #mindfulness #safespaces
Post, artwork, and photograph by Sharon Itkoff Nacache ATR-BC LCAT LPAT PMH-C