The American artist Edward Knippers once said, “Art is spiritual by its nature in the same way that water by its nature is wet.” As a believer in the power of art, I encourage others to see it as more than a decorative element—to view it as a serious and necessary part of healthcare.
That many people think that art does not belong within healthcare is understandable for two reasons. First, hospitals are not exactly creative places. The nature of work that is performed within them is a no-nonsense, serious matter. Second, when art is compared to other commodities used within the healthcare system such as medicine, it sometimes falls short.
However, healthcare, like all other disciplines in life, is evolving. In fact, many practitioners in the field understand that each patient’s experience, whether positive or negative, is a sum total of his interactions combined with the physical and mental attributes of the hospital. In other words, the hospital’s environment plays a huge role in eliciting emotions that either benefit and speed recovery or slow it down. For example, an environment that encourages ease and happiness will better benefit the patient than one that causes discomfort or anxiety. One of the best ways to control the mood of the room and therefore the vitality of the healing process is through art.
If you’re an art curator or an artist yourself, you must understand that art in healthcare is very different than art for personal or commercial use. You must keep several factors in mind before creating art for hospitals. Similarly, if you’re responsible for curating art for a clinic or a hospital, you should know what will work and what won’t work before starting out.
Art is a non-invasive way to influence the overall health of an individual. Research has determined that art brings balance to the body and that each color in the spectrum has a different energy. The process of using these spectrums to illicit a positive response is known as chromotherapy, and it illustrates that visible color spectrums are intrinsic to healing.
Evidence shows that cool colors bring a sense of comfort and calm. These colors include blues, indigos, and violets. People with high blood pressure find the presence of blues advantageous to their moods. In fact, blue was one of the first colors that was used for treating injuries and aches. Augustus Pleasonton, a militia general during the American Civil War, wrote a book on the color blue and how it influences nature. He is often considered the father of chromotherapy because he tested his theory on plants to demonstrate the effect of blue wavelengths.
Green is another color that is known for having calming properties. If an individual is emotionally unstable, being surrounded by greenery can help restore balance.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to stimulate yourself and enhance your energy, vibrant colors such as yellows, reds, and oranges work the best.
Color therapy works because each color has a frequency and vibration. When you’re looking at certain colors, their energies enter your body and activate certain processes. These processes not only influence your emotions, but they can also help your body to heal.
Art Therapy in Healthcare
Another way to ensure art’s therapeutic influence within the healthcare system is to involve patients in it. Creating art is a healthy way for patients to practice self-expression and release their feelings. Many people are not good at putting their feelings into words, but art can help. It is an excellent tool to facilitate their communication.
Several studies show that patients have experienced clearer insight and comprehension when making art. The American Art Therapy Association is a strong promoter of using art to ensure the mental and physical well-being of patients.
The most common human conditions that require art therapy are mental health problems, PTSD, and eating disorders. Through art, patients come to terms with what they are feeling and develop coping skills to not only manage their condition but to also heal their ailments.
A more concrete branch of art called evidence-based design is making rounds within healthcare. Not only does it dispel doubts about art’s importance, but it also presents scientific proof of its influence over humans. Evidence-based design (EBD) is often considered an extension of user-centered design and comes from empirical data that helps stakeholders in the healthcare industry make decisions.
In evidence-based design, professionals construct a building or environment to purposely regulate outcomes. This process proves that the environment, including its artwork, can affect the physical factors of patients, such as their blood pressure and heart rates. Some patients that have had heart surgeries report feeling better and experiencing improved pain control within regulated environments.
Support-for-nature art is prevalent in this field of design. The following types of environments can go a long of way to improve patient well-being:
- Calm and non-turbulent waterscapes. These can include lakes, streams, and ponds.
- Figurative art that depicts warm relationships and smiling faces. A representation of nurturing and care can also be included under this category.
- Floral designs, especially those that are realistic and are accompanied by other healthy greenery.
- Landscapes that represent stability like parks, barns, and cottages with lush green fields. Non-threatening animals such as birds and frogs.
We hope that reading this article helped you understand the importance of art in improving patient health and their experiences within a healthcare facility. Hospitals can improve the perception of their services and speed recovery by the purposeful use of art within their facilities.