Report: ‘One art experience per month can extend your life by 10 years’

According to a recent report, art as a daily practice can be lifesaving

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From painting at home to watching a play, art can have significant life-extending effects when practiced regularly. It’s the crux of Susan Magsamen’s bestseller, “Your Brain on Art: How the Arts Transform Us.”

“We are literally physiologically wired for the arts. Input from our senses builds connections among our brains’ 86 billion neurons,” the executive director of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s International Arts and Mind Lab told CNN.

“Engaging with art, whether as a spectator or creator, actually brings information into our bodies and profoundly impacts our biological circuitry.”

The health benefits of art have been documented repeatedly through the years. According to the Mayo Clinic, creative arts therapy (ranging from storytelling to dancing) is used in treatment for mental health, cancer, stroke and many other conditions — particularly for its ability to reduce anxiety and blood pressure. The American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine reported that simply seeing art can significantly affect the brain in positive ways.

“Art’s simultaneous activation of multiple neurological and physiological systems — a unique evolutionary phenomenon — involves the entire brain, body and spirit,” Magsamen said. “The next time you feel moved by your favorite song, consider that an artist’s choices are changing you on a cellular level.”

According to a 2019 study published in BMJ, people who engaged in arts activities every few months or more had a 31% lower risk of dying during the study’s 14-year follow-up period. Previous studies, the researchers said, have associated art engagement with the prevention and treatment of depression, dementia, chronic pain and frailty.

“The art you’re making doesn’t have to be good for it to be valuable for you,” Magsamen said. “One study showed that doing just 45 minutes of any kind of art lowered the stress hormone cortisol by as much as 25%. Other research suggests artmaking builds skills in executive function, decision-making and, if you’re working with others, collaboration. Playing music builds cognitive skills and enhances learning. And just one art experience per month can extend your life by 10 years. The process, not the product, is what’s important.”