NEWS Mental Health News Looking at Art Online Has a Similar Effect on Mental Health as Looking at Physical Art By Krystal Jagoo Krystal Jagoo Krystal Kavita Jagoo is a social worker, committed to anti-oppressive practice, who has worked for three academic institutions across Canada. Her essay, “Inclusive Reproductive Justice,” was in the Reproductive Justice Briefing Book. Learn about our editorial process Updated on August 23, 2022 Fact checked Verywell Mind content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Fact checkers review articles for factual accuracy, relevance, and timeliness. We rely on the most current and reputable sources, which are cited in the text and listed at the bottom of each article. Content is fact checked after it has been edited and before publication. Learn more. by Karen Cilli Fact checked by Karen Cilli Karen Cilli is a fact-checker for Verywell Mind. She has an extensive background in research, with 33 years of experience as a reference librarian and educator. Learn about our editorial process Share Tweet Email Print Verywell / Nez Riaz Key Takeaways When participants engaged with online art exhibitions for less than 5 minutes, it improved their moods, feelings of loneliness, wellbeing, etc.These changes were associated with aesthetic appraisals and cognitive-emotional experiences of the art exhibition.These findings hold promise for how online art can be utilized to improve mental health among the public, who may not regularly access art in person. Art has long been known to affect our psyche. Now, a new study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that even brief viewing of art online can improve moods through cognitive-emotional experiences. When study participants were asked to explore online exhibitions of either a Monet painting or a display of Japanese culinary traditions, they reported improved mental health and reduced negative moods with just a couple minutes of engagement. Researchers note that their results bode well for making the benefits of art more accessible to the public in terms of positive mental health impacts. Just 5 Minutes of Art Can Help Your Brain This study found that people who view art digitally, even for a mere 5 minutes, experience the same positive effects as viewing art in person, including a reduction in negative mood, loneliness, and anxiety. Researchers note that such cultural engagement may offer the possibility of regulating moods, contributing to other positive impacts for participants who are increasingly viewing art digitally since COVID-19. These research findings align well with earlier studies, which found that viewing nature could positively impact participants' mental health. This study had limitations such as a relatively small sample size and findings that were based on the self-reporting of participants. Coloring Books for Stress Relief Benefits of Art Extend to Virtual Spaces Licensed mental health counselor who specializes in holistic therapy, family support, and anxiety disorders, Julia M. Chamberlain MS, INHC, LMHC, says, "Readers can absolutely take way that looking at art in either a digital or traditional fashion has a positive impact on mental health and wellness including improving negative mood and decreasing anxiety." Chamberlain explains, "Although this was a small study including only 84 participants, it builds upon an established concept that looking at art improves well-being. The study is examining whether or not individuals can reap some of these same benefits in a virtual setting and the data points to yes." These findings are in line with previous research about the impacts of viewing art on mental health but translate to a virtual setting, according to Chamberlain. "This is important because it increases access to a potentially valuable tool in the pursuit of wellness," she says. Chamberlain highlights, "The sample size is relatively small which could be a potential limitation although, since the findings are in line with previous data this may not prove to be a factor." Julia M. Chamberlain MS, INHC, LMHC This is an important tool in the toolbox but one cannot fix everything with a hammer, meaning, that this may be a valuable tool for some, and may have no impact on others. — Julia M. Chamberlain MS, INHC, LMHC Since this exploratory study only featured a choice of two paintings, Chamberlain notes, "This is an asset in determining that this particular subject matter has a positive impact on mental health but conversely poses the question if other subject matter (more serious, sad, religious, or political) would have the same positive impact on mental health." Especially given how oppression operates, Chamberlain notes this could potentially be a great tool for individuals in rural areas, in hospitals, or who are homebound to access art and foster mental wellness. Chamberlain explains, "It’s important to note that some art has controversial subject matter, and some historic art pieces may even have content that is insensitive or offensive to some viewers. It is important to examine how viewing this type of art could impact mental health, especially if the subject matter triggers a trauma response in the viewer." Everyone is different, so Chamberlain notes that there is no intervention that is one-size-fits-all. "This is an important tool in the toolbox but one cannot fix everything with a hammer, meaning, that this may be a valuable tool for some, and may have no impact on others," she says. What Is Art Therapy? Accessible Art Improves Mental Health Anna Boyd, LPC, a licensed professional counselor with Mindpath Health, asks, "Have you ever thought about why pediatric doctor’s offices are filled with fun illustrations and playful colors? Research continues to support the idea that viewing and experiencing art holds the capacity to reduce feelings of loneliness and combat depressive symptoms." Boyd explains, "This study explores whether the experience of viewing art can hold the same power even if you're only able to experience it digitally. Accessibility is more available than before, and artists from across the globe are finding new ways to share, collaborate, and present their work." The bigger question serves to answer whether digital art elicits the same benefits as going to a museum or experiencing art firsthand, which is where this study comes into the picture, according to Boyd. The findings of this research study conclude that digital and online art can evoke emotional responses, yet Boyd notes that the level of engagement was much lower than those who experienced art in the community. Boyd highlights, "With the level of social media and technology, anxiety has risen and levels of concentration have decreased. Individuals who are in more isolated areas can potentially benefit from online art." Anna Boyd, LPC Art creates a level of aesthetic distance that creates emotional safety...If there is a level of feeling removed from the story directly, we can relate to art and stories in a new way that promotes healing and personal growth. — Anna Boyd, LPC Having worked in assertive community treatment programs, Boyd notes that art engagement can help individuals who have chronic and persistent illnesses to integrate into the community in a meaningful way. Boyd explains, "I have personally attended art museums, libraries, theater, opera, and other forms of art with my clients. This led to a stronger sense of belonging and opportunity for clients who were experiencing difficult identity disorders and depressive symptoms." As a creative arts therapist, Boyd has witnessed art as a modality of language that allows clients to articulate their experiences through the lens of imagery. "Limbic experiences of the brain engage both the emotional and somatic processing of stories," she says. Boyd highlights, "Art creates a level of aesthetic distance that creates emotional safety when recalling painful stories. If there is a level of feeling removed from the story directly, we can relate to art and stories in a new way that promotes healing and personal growth." It is why Boyd encourages any individual who is curious about deepening their social connectedness and sense of meaning to attend fairs and museums, while also complementing this work with online resources. "This study is an important measure for the promising nature of our world’s new accessibility to art," she says. What This Means For You This study shows that the psychological benefits of art extend to online exhibits. In the future, people in hospitals, rural areas, etc. may have more access to art that has the potential to improve their mental health. If you or someone you love has yet to explore online art, this research is a good reason to get started. How Mandalas and Brain Scans Could Enhance Mindfulness 3 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Trupp MD, Bignardi G, Chana K, Specker E, Pelowski M. Can a brief interaction with online, digital art improve wellbeing? A comparative study of the impact of online art and culture presentations on mood, state-anxiety, subjective wellbeing, and loneliness. Front Psychol. 2022;13:782033. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2022.782033 Bratman GN, Anderson CB, Berman MG, et al. Nature and mental health: An ecosystem service perspective. Sci Adv. 2019;5(7):eaax0903. doi:10.1126/sciadv.aax0903 Irwin L, Rhodes P, Boydell K. Evaluation of a gallery-based arts engagement program for depression. Aust Psychol. 2022;57(3):186-196. doi:10.1080/00050067.2022.2061329 By Krystal Jagoo Krystal Kavita Jagoo is a social worker, committed to anti-oppressive practice. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist Online Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.