Great art has long been known to lift the spirits, but can it also help to ease physical pain? Researchers from the University of Bari, in Italy believe it can, after an experiment in which volunteers given pricking sensations felt less discomfort when looking at beautiful works of art than at unattractive paintings or a blank canvas. The 10 volunteers had been asked to pick their favourite and least favourite works from a selection of 300 including Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. They then looked at the paintings while researchers blasted a laser pulse at their hand. The volunteers reported feeling a third less pain when looking at the beautiful pictures that when looking at the ones they did not like or a blank canvas. “Hospitals are designed to be functional,” says Dr Marina de Tomaso, who led the research. “We think their aesthetic aspects should be take into account too”.
There are companies that address this in both prisons and hospitals in the UK. In fact one of our personal training clients in West Drayton works for an organisation that addresses aesthetics in public places, including hospitals – from a common sense point of view it follows that patients will feel mentally better if they are in pleasant surroundings.