Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Appealing Art Shown to Ease Pain


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As part of a series of articles about the human brain, New Scientist Magazine recently featured a piece about a study showing that viewing pleasing works of art reduced the physical pain and discomfort experienced by patients.

In Pain? Take One Masterpiece, Three Times a Day

Researchers asked patients to select paintings they found beautiful and ugly from a group of classic works of art. They measured the participants' reports of their pain levels when viewing those they considered beautiful or ugly or a blank panel. Patients considered their pain to be one third less intense when they viewed the art they considered to be beautiful as compared with their pain when they viewed art they considered ugly or a blank panel.

Other studies have shown that distraction plays a role in reducing pain (see this article: The Most Powerful Pain Reliever Revealed), but this study is the first to associate the appeal of the distraction (art, in this case) with less pain than a comparatively unappealing distraction.


The article discusses ways to apply this information to the decoration of hospitals, but there are many things you can do to improve the space around you in your own home to make it more comfortable. This study tells us that surrounding yourself with art that you find especially beautiful can play an important role in this process.

Most of us aren't art collectors and could never afford to be, but inexpensive prints of your favorite works of art are an easy way to inject some of this effect into your day to day life.

This study makes it clear that you should choose art that appeals to you. Don't worry about what you think you should like or whether other people will approve. Surround yourself with what you like to reap the benefits.

One classic painting I especially like is Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh, which I selected to accompany this article. I find the colors so beautiful and consider the image quite soothing. I also like nature scenes, such as photographs of people, animals and plants. What do you especially enjoy looking at?

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