Forget yoga, under-30s use museums and galleries to de-stress

Art Fund charity extends National Art Pass discount as figures show young adults gain sense of wellbeing from visits.

The 2018 Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts
 The 2018 Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Photograph: Ray Tang/Rex

Art-loving young people in Britain use museums and galleries to combat the stress of modern life, a study for a national charity has found.

While art fans of all ages feel that looking at paintings and sculptures is a good way to unwind, new figures analysed by the Art Fund show that those under 30 are twice as likely to visit a museum or gallery at least once a month specifically to “de-stress”.

In response to the findings, the fund, which buys works of art for the nation and also issues the popular National Art Pass, is to expand its young persons’ discount scheme, previously available only to under-26s, to include those aged up to 30.

A specially discounted version of the pass, which gives all holders money off tickets to major exhibitions and free entry to more than 240 museums, galleries and historic homes, is being launched for young adults. “We hope that by offering an expanded pass we will be able to lessen the cost and encourage more museum and gallery visits by this age group,” a spokeswoman said, adding that previous research by YouGov has shown that the cost of entry fees and travel can be off-putting. Top barriers to visiting museums and galleries cited by under-30s were travel (32%) and lack of free time (32%). A quarter also said museums and galleries are too expensive.

The charity’s report, Calm and Collected, put together last year, revealed that regularly engaging with museums and galleries contributes to a sense of wellbeing. The survey of 2,500 adults showed that under-30s tend to feel much more satisfied than older visitors.

Overall, the survey found that 65% of people under 30 had felt some level of anxiety in the previous 24 hours and that they were twice as likely as others to use monthly art visits to calm down. Yet only 6% of respondents actually visited once a month or more.

Leading sources of anxiety were worry about debt and finances, at 42%, feeling lonely, and issues around social media, at 32%. Levels of anxiety appear to start to drop as people reach their mid-50s, steadily falling in retirement.

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2019/jan/20/art-fund-young-people-de-stress-with-respite-at-galleries?utm_campaign=meetedgar&utm_medium=social&utm_source=meetedgar.com&fbclid=IwAR3e4-UaWkVEfsK5N2G4Halq3VTfeHGD_h6cET3i3fHds2CWaDR5V39_ets

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Nine tips for a stress-free family life

A stress-free family life can sound quite alien to a lot of people.

With all the chores, work, looking after the children, and other demands of daily life – is it possible not to feel frazzled?

Dr Rangan Chatterjee, author of ‘The Stress Solution: The 4 Steps to Reset Your Body, Mind, Relationships and Purpose’, and Dr Genevieve von Lob, a clinical psychologist and author of ‘Happy Parent, Happy Child’, believe you can have a calmer family life.

Here are their nine tips to help you achieve it.

Dr Rangan Chatterjee’s tips

1: Have tech-free mealtimes

“Mealtimes are a great way to connect, to communicate, to nourish those relationships with each other. Having tech there…can be really distracting.

So my top tip is whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, put the phones away and engage with those people around you.”

2: A daily practice of gratitude

“This is my favourite part of the day. Every evening at dinner time, my wife, myself and my kids have to answer three questions:

1. What have I done today to make someone else happy?
2. What has somebody else done today to make me happy?
3. What have I learnt today?

I guarantee that if you start putting this into your everyday life, you’ll feel less stressed and you’ll feel closer with your children.”

3: Do breathing exercises together

“Now it sounds like the kind of thing that kids may not want to do, but I tell you, if you model this behaviour, they are very likely to follow it.

One of my favourite breaths is one I created in my practice a few years ago – called the 3-4-5 breath.

You breathe in for three, you hold for four, and you breathe out for five.

Any time your ‘out’ breath is longer than your ‘in’ breath, you’re able to activate the relaxation part of your nervous system and switch off the stress part.”

4: Prioritise sleep

“A lack of sleep is one of the biggest stresses on the body in both adults and children.

It affects your ability to make decisions, your ability to remember things and your ability to concentrate.

The simplest tip that I find helps adults, but particularly children in my GP practice, is to switch off all tech for one hour before bed…see how quickly your children’s sleep improves.”

5: Do some form of physical activity together

“When you’re stressed, when you’re anxious, you’re priming your body for physical activity, yet in the modern world we’re often sat on our bums not doing anything about it.

A simple thing to do is before dinner put on some loud music, and just dance with your children.

That’s what I do with my children before dinner.

You can do some body weight exercises together or you can do play fighting.

The point is physical activity helps lower stress levels, and if you do it together, you engage relationships and it’s much more likely that you continue it long term.”

Dr Genevieve von Lob’s tips

6: You come first!

“As parents it’s really important we can be that calm presence for our children, and be that safe haven.

It’s really important to find ways to calm yourself down. Whether that’s having a glass of water, or taking really deep breaths, or taking some time out or just listening to some calm music.

So before we can be there for our children, we need to fill up our own cup first and calm down.”

7: Pack a toolbox

“When your child is in the midst of stress or anxiety, find ways to calm them down.

Initially, it will be a lot of trial and error and finding what works for your child. Some children like to count, some children like to breathe, some like to have a hug, or some like to do rough and tumble play or go running, or bounce on the trampoline.

So whatever it is, we need to help our children calm down the stress response before we can talk to them rationally, because if they are in the midst of a lot of big feelings, they can’t hear logic or reason – the thinking brain has gone offline.

So put together a coping toolbox with your child and see what works.”

8: Listen to your children

“One of the most powerful gifts that you can give your kids is to unplug from your phone, sit, be present with them and just listen.

Often as parents when our children come to us with a problem we just want to fix it for them, we just want to make it all OK. And actually sometimes our children just need us to hear them.

Think of how you feel when you’ve unloaded all your problems on to a friend. You don’t need them to tell you what the answer is, you just want to be heard.

This is the way your child will feel validated. This is the way that you can really bond with your child. And that bond and emotional connection is what is going to help you for the future.”

9: Have fun

“As parents, sometimes life can be very serious – there’s a lot of responsibilities and a lot of chores.

So I think we all need to carve out time to be less serious, to be fun, and to play with our children.

Put away the schedule and routine for a bit and just be with your children. Put on silly voices, dress up, dance, just connect with that child-like aspect of yourself.

It will really help your emotional connection with your kids.”

You can listen to the BBC Woman’s Hour parenting podcast here. Let us know your comments and thoughts on Twitter and Instagram @BBCWomansHour.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/1sJc711plyz8Qr5TFM4YQl2/nine-tips-for-a-stress-free-family-life

This Mum is on the Run…today!!!

Today’s the day the amazing Sophia Thorne runs the London Marathon in aid of our life saving service, The Tomorrow Project.
 
20 weeks of training, 60 runs, 350 miles – Starting at 5k and running a grueling 42K today! It has been a pleasure to watch Sophia’s dedication through training for this Marathon, and the entire service send good luck wishes.
 
Sophia is runner number: 27671. You can download the London Marathon 2019 app and track her as she runs.
 
Sophia is running the London Marathon in memory of her Uncle Phil… “ but also in celebration of a broken heart that carried on, as I saw my mum’s do. When somebody takes their own life, it’s not just their life that they take”.
 
There is still time to donate: https://localgiving.org/fundraising/this-mum-is-on-the-run/
 
Good Luck Sophia, run like the wind! We are already so, so proud of you.
 
Harmless and The Tomorrow Project team x

The teenage brain: Seven things parents should know about adolescent behaviour

The moods, the inability to get out of bed in the morning, the embarrassment of being around parents. We’ll all recognise these common teenage behaviours.

But why do adolescents act in these ways?

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore is professor of cognitive neuroscience at University College London and the author of Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain.

As part of the Woman’s Hour parenting podcast, she outlines seven things parents need to know about the teenage brain.

  1. The teenage brain undergoes a huge transition

“Contrary to what was believed for many, many decades, the teenage brain in fact undergoes really substantial amounts of development, both in terms of its structure and its function throughout childhood, throughout adolescence and it only stabilizes around the mid-20s.

“Something to bear in mind when you have teenage children, when you work with teenage children, is that they are going through a period of really important transition.

“They are changing a lot, and the thing to remember is that those changes are there for adaptive, evolutionary reasons.

“They need to go through this period of transition in order to become fully independent adults.”

  1. Teenage behaviour is often influenced by friends

“Peers are a really important source of information and influence during the teenage years.

“If you think about the risks we worry about teenagers taking, like smoking or binge-drinking or experimenting with drugs, those are risks that teenagers don’t take when they are on their own normally, but they do when they are with their friends.

“Social influence is at its highest during the teenage years.”

  1. There’s a biological reason why your teenager finds it hard to get up

“Any parent of a teenager will know that sleep really changes in the teenage years.

“Young children wake up early in the morning, are really alert then and go to bed early.

“Whereas that shifts in the teenage years and teenagers are really hard to get out of bed in the morning and go to sleep at night.

“That’s probably for many reasons, including the fact that teenagers lives are much busier, they are up later doing their homework, doing after-school activities, socialising with their friends, maybe on their phones.

“But in addition to that, we also know that their biological circadian rhythm is changing.

“We know that melatonin, which in humans is the hormone that makes us feel sleepy at night, is produced in the brain about two hours later during the teenage years, than during childhood or adulthood.

“That makes it really hard for teenagers to feel sleepy and go to bed early in the evening.

“It also makes it really hard for them to get up in the morning.

“There’s a biological reason why your teenager might be in bed all morning at the weekend.”

  1. Long-term health risks don’t scare teenagers

“When we are worrying about the kinds of risks that adolescents take, research shows that focusing on the long-term health risks, or the long-term legal risks of decisions, does not work as well as focusing on the social consequences of those risky decisions.

“This is because the social world is really paramount to teenagers. They care very much what their friends think.”

  1. Teenagers might need decision-making and planning support

“We know that parts of the brain that are undergoing particularly substantial development in adolescence are regions involved in decision making and planning, self- awareness, awareness of other people.

“Those regions of the brain that are involved in those cognitive processes are still developing right throughout the teenage years and even into the 20s and 30s.

“And at the same time those cognitive processes are also developing gradually across adolescence.

“So adolescents might need support in those areas, like decision making and planning.”

  1. Rewards are more efficient, in terms of learning, than punishments

“Adolescents respond better to immediate rewards than to punishment.

“That’s sometimes hard when we’re dealing with adolescents, whether we’re parents or teachers, but actually remembering that can be useful.”

  1. Teenage years can be an opportunity

“We know that the brain is undergoing huge amounts of development during the teenage years, we know that this is a period of lots of change, lots of transition, and this period of life is a vulnerable one.

“Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to the development of mental health problems, for example.

“But it’s also a period of opportunity. The changes in the brain make the brain particularly susceptible to change and that renders this period of life an opportunity for things like learning and creativity and intervention and rehabilitation.

“It’s not too late for those kinds of interventions.”

The Woman’s Hour parenting podcast is released every Wednesday.

You can listen to more from Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore’s here or you can download the podcast on the BBC Sounds app.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/29h0HQPw8L8xJmyNh1Ss7Qb/the-teenage-brain-seven-things-parents-should-know-about-adolescent-behaviour?utm_campaign=meetedgar&utm_medium=social&utm_source=meetedgar.com&fbclid=IwAR25mbKtlOzNUnsLiWT7aRo3zJ2TsEEm8o02PzDOzvuSF9hxO30cGakmF3Q

Elephant in the Room: staring down the stigma of black men’s mental health

A couple of years ago, the actor and choreographer Lanre Malaolu was creating a duet about mental health. “I was working with an amazing contortionist dancer,” he remembers. “But for various reasons she had to drop out … I didn’t have time to get anyone else.” He swears under his breath and smiles, before explaining how he sat in his living room and tried to come up with a quick solo performance. “I was like, ‘What’s one of the challenges that I’ve experienced with anxiety, depression? Getting out of bed.’”

The scene Malaolu made “was almost verging on clownish. I was using physical theatre and hip-hop movement to show this guy just wanting to get up.” The performance went down a storm. “People were really affected by it, and were like, ‘You need to tour this around.’ I was like, ‘It’s only 15 minutes!’ But that got me thinking.” Malaolu has expanded that single scene into a full-length show, Elephant in the Room, which now has a three-week run at Camden People’s theatre in London.

“Basically, it’s about a young man’s challenges with his mental health,” he says. “But also how he interacts with different characters that he’s grown up with, and how they influence his perception [of his mental wellbeing].” The piece mixes dance, theatre and spoken word, with Malaolu playing the mostly silent protagonist Michael and the other characters.

Malaolu has explored similar issues in his work before. Growing up on an estate in pre-gentrification Hackney Wick, he trained as an actor at Drama Centre London before taking a role in Anthony Nielson’s Marat/Sade, set in an asylum, for the RSC in 2011. Recently Malaolu worked as movement director for Birmingham Rep’s revival of Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange, a dissection of institutional racism and mental health. He has also been developing his BFI-supported short film The Circle, about a pair of teenage twin brothers and the stigmas they face in the inner city.

Malaolu’s interest in the topic comes from a straightforward place: “I guess I looked at myself.” He adds: “I’m not saying I’m the spokesperson for working-class black mental health. I don’t want to say that. But [Elephant in the Room] is from the perspective of a working-class black man, where things like race and class come into play.” In what way? “When you think of mental health, or when you think of having to change the way you act in public …” Malaolu trails off, before listing things such as people crossing the road to avoid young black men, and the effects of violent crime on working-class boys. He sighs. “How does that affect you if that stuff happens every day? [The show] is just dissecting that, looking and challenging that, but also putting a mirror up and saying, “Well, look. This is the shit it’s contributing to, you know?” He pauses. “Any time I hear that suicide is the biggest killer of males under 45 in the UK, I always go, ‘What the fuck?’”

Malaolu’s voice betrays only a hint of apprehension when he acknowledges that a three-week run of a solo show about depression promises to be demanding. Still, he’s clearly excited to present the finished project, and it’s easy to be swept up in his enthusiasm. There’s only one thing he won’t answer: why is the play called Elephant in the Room? Malaolu grins. “Great question. Come see it.”

Why should people come see it? He thinks for a minute. “I was getting a sports massage the other day, trying to prep my body,” he says, and explains that he and the masseur started talking about the show. “I said it’s about my experience with mental health within the black male community, and he was like, ‘Oh. That’s really good. I’ve had my own battle with depression.’ We spoke, and he started talking about how he had suicide attempts and stuff. We had a conversation, and by the end of it he was like, ‘Man, that’s like the first time that I could just talk with another guy about it and not feel weird.’ And I just paused. In my head, I went, ‘Yeah. This is it. Just having a conversation.’ That’s one of the things I’ll be happy with. Everyone just talking, you know?”

Elephant in the Room: staring down the stigma of black men’s mental health
 
A couple of years ago, the actor and choreographer Lanre Malaolu was creating a duet about mental health. “I was working with an amazing contortionist dancer,” he remembers. “But for various reasons she had to drop out … I didn’t have time to get anyone else.” He swears under his breath and smiles, before explaining how he sat in his living room and tried to come up with a quick solo performance. “I was like, ‘What’s one of the challenges that I’ve experienced with anxiety, depression? Getting out of bed.’”
 
The scene Malaolu made “was almost verging on clownish. I was using physical theatre and hip-hop movement to show this guy just wanting to get up.” The performance went down a storm. “People were really affected by it, and were like, ‘You need to tour this around.’ I was like, ‘It’s only 15 minutes!’ But that got me thinking.” Malaolu has expanded that single scene into a full-length show, Elephant in the Room, which now has a three-week run at Camden People’s theatre in London.
 
“Basically, it’s about a young man’s challenges with his mental health,” he says. “But also how he interacts with different characters that he’s grown up with, and how they influence his perception [of his mental wellbeing].” The piece mixes dance, theatre and spoken word, with Malaolu playing the mostly silent protagonist Michael and the other characters.
 
Malaolu has explored similar issues in his work before. Growing up on an estate in pre-gentrification Hackney Wick, he trained as an actor at Drama Centre London before taking a role in Anthony Nielson’s Marat/Sade, set in an asylum, for the RSC in 2011. Recently Malaolu worked as movement director for Birmingham Rep’s revival of Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange, a dissection of institutional racism and mental health. He has also been developing his BFI-supported short film The Circle, about a pair of teenage twin brothers and the stigmas they face in the inner city.
 
Malaolu’s interest in the topic comes from a straightforward place: “I guess I looked at myself.” He adds: “I’m not saying I’m the spokesperson for working-class black mental health. I don’t want to say that. But [Elephant in the Room] is from the perspective of a working-class black man, where things like race and class come into play.” In what way? “When you think of mental health, or when you think of having to change the way you act in public …” Malaolu trails off, before listing things such as people crossing the road to avoid young black men, and the effects of violent crime on working-class boys. He sighs. “How does that affect you if that stuff happens every day? [The show] is just dissecting that, looking and challenging that, but also putting a mirror up and saying, “Well, look. This is the shit it’s contributing to, you know?” He pauses. “Any time I hear that suicide is the biggest killer of males under 45 in the UK, I always go, ‘What the fuck?’”
 
Malaolu’s voice betrays only a hint of apprehension when he acknowledges that a three-week run of a solo show about depression promises to be demanding. Still, he’s clearly excited to present the finished project, and it’s easy to be swept up in his enthusiasm. There’s only one thing he won’t answer: why is the play called Elephant in the Room? Malaolu grins. “Great question. Come see it.”
 
Why should people come see it? He thinks for a minute. “I was getting a sports massage the other day, trying to prep my body,” he says, and explains that he and the masseur started talking about the show. “I said it’s about my experience with mental health within the black male community, and he was like, ‘Oh. That’s really good. I’ve had my own battle with depression.’ We spoke, and he started talking about how he had suicide attempts and stuff. We had a conversation, and by the end of it he was like, ‘Man, that’s like the first time that I could just talk with another guy about it and not feel weird.’ And I just paused. In my head, I went, ‘Yeah. This is it. Just having a conversation.’ That’s one of the things I’ll be happy with. Everyone just talking, you know?”
 

Why Med Schools Are Requiring Art Classes

First-year medical students discussing Dallas Chaos II (1982) by Peter Dean, Blanton Museum of Art. Photo by Siobhan McCusker.
“What does Impressionist art have to do with medical communication?”
It’s a question that Dr. Michael Flanagan often gets after telling people about “Impressionism and the Art of Communication,” the seminar he teaches to fourth-year medical students at the Penn State College of Medicine.
In the course, students complete exercises inspired by 19th-century painters like Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet, ranging from observation and writing activities to painting in the style of said artists. Through the process, they learn to better communicate with patients by developing insights on subjects like mental illness and cognitive bias.
Dr. Flanagan’s seminar speaks to a broader trend in medical education, which has become pronounced over the past decade: More and more, medical schools in the U.S. are investing in curriculum and programming around the arts. Professors argue that engaging in the arts during medical school, whether through required courses or extracurricular activities, is valuable in developing essential skills that doctors need, like critical thinking and observational and communication skills, as well as bias awareness and empathy.
While it’s become more common in recent years, some medical schools have been incorporating the arts into their curriculum for decades. Penn State, for example, was the first medical school in the U.S. to develop its own department of medical humanities, which launched with the school in 1967. And many schools have long required students to take reflective writing courses or interdisciplinary classes that tap into social sciences or the arts as part of graduation requirements. This coursework is meant to address a wide swathe of real-world scenarios, from medical decision-making to ethics. And within this framework, there’s room for the performing arts, music, literature, and visual arts, as vehicles to deliver lessons.
Students from Dr. Michael Flanagan's class "Impressionism and the Art of Communication" at Penn State College of Medicine.

“It’s not just a nice idea to incorporate humanities into medical schools to make the education more interesting,” Dr. Flanagan says of such programs. “It’s protecting and maintaining students’ empathy so that by the time they go off to practice medicine, they’re still empathetic individuals.” He notes that while medical students traditionally enter their first year with very high levels of empathy, after three years, research has shown, the exposure to content around death and suffering can cause those levels to plummet. Engagement in the humanities can rectify this problem.
Dr. Delphine Taylor, associate professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, emphasizes that arts-focused activities are important in training future doctors to be present and aware, which is more and more difficult today given the pervasiveness of technology and media.
One of the most popular programs, adopted at schools including Yale, Harvard, and UT Austin, involves students meeting at art museums to describe and discuss artworks. At the most basic level, these exercises in close observation help to improve diagnostic skills—priming students to identify visual symptoms of illness or injury in patients, and (hopefully) preventing them from making misguided assumptions. But it’s also about delving beneath face value.
Photo from the Art Matters event at MoMA, courtesy of Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons.

“It’s a richer experience than just, ‘Check, I know how to observe now,’” says Dr. Taylor, regarding the courses Columbia offers, where students visit museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She notes that by verbally reacting to the art they see, and developing hypotheses around factors like what the artist was thinking or why they used a certain shade of red, students can prepare for future scenarios with patients and colleagues that will be uncomfortable and uncertain. These classes, which are most often led by museum educators, also serve to engender curiosity, to encourage students to ask questions, and, importantly, to consider the perspectives of others.
One of the oldest courses of this type was begun at Yale in the late 1990s by dermatology professor Dr. Irwin Braverman and curator Linda Friedlaender, who created a class that takes place at the Yale Center for British Art, and continues to be taught today. After taking that course in 2013, current Yale med student Robert Rock, who studied art history as an undergraduate, took the initiative to develop his own art tour of the Yale Center for British Art.
“The point is to create a critical consciousness,” Rock explains. “I think in medical culture there’s a deference to authority that holds people back from asking important questions about things that can mean life or death.” He notes that the museum is neutral territory where students, who often don’t have much experience with art, can feel comfortable voicing opinions or asking questions. His tour, called “Making the Invisible Visible,” has since been incorporated into the Yale curriculum.
Beyond looking at and discussing art, students are also making it. At Columbia, students can take a comics course taught by Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, assistant professor of medicine and chief creative officer at Columbia’s Department of Surgery, who is also a contributing cartoonist to The New Yorker. In his classes for first- and fourth-years, students learn to create their own comics and, in the process, gain insights into the different vantages from which to see and understand real-life situations. Perhaps most importantly, they learn to practice effective storytelling.
“When you become a doctor, you train really hard to learn another vocabulary and it really is almost like its own language,” says Dr. Schwartz. “You become so well-versed in it that you can forget that you’re speaking it and words that are common to you might be confusing jargon to the person you’re speaking with.” Making comics, he explains, can help to prevent these types of scenarios, and engender mindfulness.
Students from Dr. Michael Flanagan's class "Impressionism and the Art of Communication" at Penn State College of Medicine.

At many schools, programming around the arts is also happening outside of the classroom. Yale has its Program for Humanities in Medicine, which promotes interaction among the medical school and other schools at the university, while also supporting student-run organizations and events—like Rock’s art tour and a series of drawing sessions started by one of his classmates, Sue Xiao.
Yale med student Nientara Anderson says her involvement in an on-campus interdisciplinary group and other artists initiatives has helped widen her perspective on important issues—perspective that will ultimately make her a better doctor.
“I noticed in my first year of medical school that we were talking about things like race, mental health, sexuality, and we weren’t really reaching outside of medicine and asking people who really study these things,” Anderson says. “I see art as a way, especially art in medicine, to bring in outside expertise.”
Rock agrees, stressing that a sense of “criticality, more than anything, is what I would hope that the arts and the humanities bring to the medical profession.” He points to incidents of unconscious bias, where preconceived notions about things like how a certain disease presents or where an individual lives can negatively affect a doctor’s decision making. “There are a lot of apparent assumptions in Western society that can be extremely problematic and very dangerous when aligned with the power that a physician has in the clinic, operating room, or emergency department,” he adds.
Dr. Taylor notes that at Columbia, students are similarly receptive to taking humanities courses. “The application to medicine is very obvious, we don’t have to tell our medical students why they’re doing this,” she says. And visual art, it seems, has a special role to play.
Dr. Schwartz suggests that visual art is somewhat unique in what it can offer to medical professionals. “For me, the greatest asset with visual art in particular, when it comes to teaching medical students, is just that it gently takes us out of our comfort zone,” he says. “It gives us a great opportunity to have these stop and think moments.” Doctor or not, we could all stand to have more moments to stop and think.

Why Going to an Art Museum Could Be as Good for You as Exercise

Fifty years ago, a doctor might have told you to run up and down the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Artà la Rocky, because new research showed that a little exercise was the key to good health. Though it’s common practice now for doctors to prescribe exercise, it might’ve sounded strange at the time. What if the same happened with art? What if today, your doctor told you that after running up those museum steps, you should also spend some time perusing the galleries?

Such is the hope of Nathalie Bondil, director of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA). “For me, it’s always been very obvious, the impact of culture in our lives,” she said. “It will be as important in the 21st century as it was for sports and physical exercise one century ago.” This past November, the MMFA launched a year-long pilot program of doctor-prescribed museum visits. The program allows for doctors who are members of Médecins francophones du Canada to prescribe up to 50 visits to their patients; one prescription covers museum admission for two adults and two children.

For an art museum, the MMFA is exceptional in its commitment to health sciences. Last year, it created an Art and Health Advisory Committee to facilitate research studies in collaboration with medical professionals. According to Dr. Rémi Quirion, who is chairman of the committee and Quebec’s chief scientist, those studies inspired MMFA’s prescription visits initiative. In one study, a local psychiatric hospital working with young women with anorexia found that group visits to the museum, followed by painting sessions, helped socialize the women and gave them new tools to communicate. Another study linked to the museum looked at how heart attack survivors, who often struggle with depression (due to the changes in blood chemistry and hormones caused by cardiac arrest), demonstrated lower levels of anxiety and depression after a museum visit and an art workshop.

And the research goes on: A trip to the museum has been shown to help people with anything from shortness of breath to dementia. Like exercise, exposure to the arts reaches parts of our being that conventional medicine doesn’t prioritize. These new initiatives recognize that attached to the hearts, lungs, and brains that our doctors test, poke, and prod is a whole person.

Family activities at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts. Photo by Caroline Hayeur/Collectif Stock P. Courtesy of the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts.

For over a decade, London-based professor Helen Chatterjee has been researching ways that museums can better serve their communities, and, in turn, how communities (particularly doctors) can take full advantage of museum resources. “A lot of standard interventions that have been through clinical trials just don’t work,” Chatterjee said over the phone. “So, we need to think about this whole-person-centered approach.”

Doctor-prescribed museum visits fall into a broader category of treatments known in the U.K. as “complex non-clinical interventions,” Chatterjee explained. These interventions go beyond the basics of medicine, encompassing activities that engage with patients on deeper physical, psychological, cognitive, and emotional levels. Additionally, she noted, they lead people to engage in complex problem solving.

There’s new evidence, Chatterjee added, that shows that such multi-sensory and complex cognitive activities are even more beneficial when they involve emotional engagement. In other words, if you’re going to a museum and looking at a piece by

Andy Warhol, thinking about that Warhol is that much more rewarding when you’re enjoying it.

But to enjoy the Warhol, you have to care about it. To art lovers, it might not even be surprising to hear that there is research to prove that a trip to the museum can be good for your health. But the art-averse may be skeptical. Like walking instead of Ubering, and drinking soy instead of cow’s milk, museum-going is part of what we picture to be a happy and healthy metropolitan lifestyle—accessible only to a select few.

After shuttering her private practice in rural Puerto Rico, my mother moved to rural Iowa to continue practicing hematology and oncology. Both Chatterjee and Bondil listed cancer patients as prime candidates for doctor-prescribed museum visits, as they can help patients with everything from processing their diagnoses to learning about pain management. I called my mom to ask what she would do if she could prescribe museum visits to her cancer patients. From her Iowa apartment overlooking a cornfield, she told me, laughing: “I don’t think that would be of any use for us out here!”

Photo by Mikaël Theimer (MLK). Courtesy of the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts.

Dr. Quirion acknowledged that accessibility is definitely an issue, even in Montreal, where the MMFA is out of range for residents of its semi-rural suburbs. Part of the pilot program’s purpose is to learn how to scale the initiative and reach more people. Dr. Quirion’s hope is that new technology will facilitate remotely guided visits. Bondil’s hopes are loftier still: “In one year, we’d be able to study the impact of museum prescription, and we will see how to spread it in other countries,” she said.

Chatterjee travels all over Europe helping local art museums become involved in scientific research (which often comes with a deeper well of funding opportunities). “The challenge is what is available in people’s communities, and putting them to best use,” she explained. Having seen how the urban-rural divide is cross-cut with more insidious accessibility issues tied to class, she noted that “it always comes back to the ethics of: Why should only privileged people be able to access the arts?”

The success of a doctor-prescribed museum visit rests on how accessible art feels—not only to the patients, but to those with the prescription pads. Another challenging divide is the one that places the sciences and the humanities on opposite ends of an imagined academic spectrum. The reluctance goes both ways.

On the clinicians’ end, “they don’t understand non-clinical interventions because they’re not taught them in medical school,” Chatterjee explained. Dr. Quirion, a neuroscientist himself, noted that in the museum visits, “you have a new strategy, so opening the minds of the clinicians, even if it’s only a small percentage, would already be a win.”

Just as some doctors will need convincing, the board of the MMFA also needed some persuasion. Bondil had to show the board that making the museum available to researchers was as important an effort as conservation, publications, and exhibitions. The museum prescription, she said, is in itself a powerful symbol—that anyone can imagine being at the doctor and having this treatment option.

The prospect of doctor-prescribed museum visits sheds light on a host of issues that have long kept the general public away from the arts, and the arts away from the sciences. A future where art-based activities are as commonly recommended as exercise is a future in which doctors and clinicians trust and believe in the power of art to heal. Going to museums and galleries would be less of a socio-cultural hurdle, as visitors would feel that the art is theirs to enjoy. It’s a world in which local patients happily jaunt up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and into the galleries, only to ecstatically fist-bump when they reach the Monet.

.“This new vision,” Bondil concluded, “will rethink the impact of culture beyond scholarship and artistry, and the museum will be a platform for wellbeing in our society.”

https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-going-art-museum-good-exercise?fbclid=IwAR1kc09hj8WRh8-wbjGRTyx_GRsfwNEOR9L8qPk-q0heGlwJZPYsMYYUxQc

We are close today

All of the team hope you’ve enjoyed your long Easter weekend so far.
A gentle reminder Harmless and The Tomorrow Project are closed today, and we will reopen Tuesday 23rd April 2019.
 
If you need immediate support please call Hope Line on 0800 068 41 41 or the Samaritans on 116 123.

Happy Easter, from all at Harmless

 
Easter, similar to other holidays, can be a stressful and difficult time for anyone. For some, it means a long weekend spent with families, having a get-together with food and chocolate. Unfortunately for others, it can be a deeply stressful occasion.
 
Before Easter weekend approaches, take some time to stop and think about your needs. What is best for you? What will you enjoy? – How do you want to spend this break?
 
Your needs are as important as those around you and they shouldn’t go unnoticed. If you are faced with anything difficult it’s okay to change your mind and say no. Perhaps if you wanted to, you could extend a hand to someone who may be spending Easter alone? A cup of tea can make such a difference.
 
Easter should be a joyful and peaceful time, and this may look different for everyone; after all, we are all unique beautiful beings! Happy Easter from all of us at Harmless, and remember, your needs are important #selfcare
 
Our service will be closed on Good Friday (19/04/2019), Easter weekend and bank holiday Monday.
 
We will re-open the following Tuesday (23/04/2019), thank you for your understanding.
 
If you need immediate support please call Hope Line on 0800 068 41 41 or the Samaritans on 116 123.