​What’s good for our WELLBEING? A visit to a GALLERY or MUSEUM!


As we lean in to the final week of term, looking forward to the holiday break, I encourage you to consider a visit to a gallery or museum as a means to reset and restore the wellbeing of yourself and your families.

By definition, wellbeing is not just the absence of disease or illness. It is a complex combination of a person's physical, mental, emotional and social health factors that contributes to feeling good and functioning well and is strongly linked to happiness and life satisfaction. In short, wellbeing could be described as how we feel about ourselves and our life.

As someone who’s top character strength is the appreciation of beauty and excellence I was very pleased to unearth this piece of new health and wellbeing research carried out by a team from the University of Melbourne and Museums Victoria which suggests that;

"regularly visiting museums contributes to wellbeing – providing a sense of connection, optimism and hope, self-esteem and resilience, support, quiet, rest and sanctuary, social capital and relationships, meaningful pursuits by providing a safe, rich environment with access to arts and culture."

Another study conducted in Norway analysed data gathered from more than 130,000 Norwegians ages 13 and up. They question more than 50,000 men and women about how often they participate in cultural events and activities such as going to galleries and museums, watching movies, going to the theatre and similar. 

This research concluded that viewing art in a gallery or a museum can positively impact your health and wellbeing in several essential ways;     

  • lowers symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • boosts critical thinking skills
  • improves empathy
  • can help you mimic the physical sensation of falling in love

When we enter the quiet sanctuary of a gallery or museum, we are separated from the whirl of everyday life. Time becomes non-linear and people experience objects and ambiences that have their own stories and histories. Visitors thread their way through, making meaning and creating associations that are complex and unpredictable. I know this to be true for myself and I often feel genuine affection towards other people, both familiar and unknown, whom I observe whilst sharing the same space and experience with me.

The fact is there is a growing body of evidence that shows museums can bring benefits to individual and community health and wellbeing in their role as public forums for debate and learning, their work with specific audiences through targeted programs, and by contributing to positive wellbeing and resilience by helping people to make sense of the world and their place within it.

"The importance of understanding ourselves, and the world around us, is seen as fundamental to health and wellbeing."

Museums are social spaces that can engage multiple generations, where everyone can find something of interest and relevance to them and where people can engage at many levels and in many roles. Hence, museums and galleries have the potential to make an enormous contribution to improving people’s lives and enhancing physical health and mental wellbeing.

So during these holidays, albeit local, regional, national or international, I encourage you all to visit a gallery or museum as it will provide many opportunities to observe positive, mindful wellbeing in action – and experience better wellbeing for yourselves.

Postcards welcome!

Yours in supporting and promoting positive wellbeing,

Donna Nairn
Director of Counselling

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