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Natural Awakenings

Viewing Art Online Improves Well-Being

Open laptop computer with artwork displaying on screen

Visualmind/AdobeStock.com

Art and music have long been said to soothe the savage soul, and hundreds of studies have shown that people’s moods and sense of well-being are improved by everything from artwork displayed in mental institutions and offices to regularly visiting art museums. With the pandemic, many museums began offering extensive online tours and exhibits, and a new study from the University of Vienna suggests that online art can have the same effect as “real life” art.

Researchers tested 84 individuals that viewed Monet’s The Water Lily Pond and also photographs of a Japanese bento box that included information on its traditions and food preparation, such as might be found in a history museum. Participants typically spent one to two minutes with each viewing. Follow-up questionnaires found that even a short online experience encouraged positive states like serenity, happiness and stimulation, while also lowering negative states like fear, anger, anxiety and loneliness. Well-being effects are most pronounced, wrote the authors, when “such content is beautiful, meaningful and inspires positive cognitive-emotional states in the viewer.”

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