The Art of Relaxation

Years ago, access to information seemed our greatest luxury. Today its freedom from information, the chance to tune out and unplug that is most important for our health and well-being.

Only when you take some time out, can you put into perspective what you have taken in.

If you find that it’s difficult to meditate, you will enjoy how effortless it is to unwind by simply viewing the Moving Art.

In our busy lives it's not always easy to quiet the mind, even when we know how good it is for us.

Not knowing what’s coming next creates anticipation, focus. You are present.

Awe-inspiring experiences play a vital role in stimulating positive mental health. It’s a transcendent emotion. When you are truly engaged by what you are seeing, you feel small. It's a way to find your place in the world and by doing so, feel more connected.

It’s supported by discoveries in psychology and neuroscience. Experiencing awe plays an important role in attention restoration, offering us an opportunity to rest our focused attention as involuntary attention takes its place.

Awe engages the parasympathetic nervous system which helps us relax, as opposed to the sympathetic nervous system — in charge of “fight or flight” responses and releasing adrenaline and cortisol.

Can virtual nature be a good substitute for the great outdoors? The science says yes.

When we have anxiety, stress or pain, our bodies cannot recuperate. Our system goes into a fight-or-flight* response that puts our healing process on hold. 

One great way to break this cycle, is to engage our mind with something that will help relax us.

Steve Matson's moving paintings have a unique ability to draw you in and capture your attention. Studies have shown that nature scenes and soothing sounds have a profound ability to calm the mind and reduce stress. When patients view them prior to having a medical procedure done, most experience less pain thus requiring less pain medication. 

These therapeutic Moving Paintings also benefit those suffering from insomnia, high blood pressure, chronic illnesses, anxiety and hypertension.

Researchers from John Hopkins University in Baltimore Maryland discovered that showing nature pictures and playing relaxing sounds at a patient’s bed is enough to reduce the feeling of pain for many patients.1 Dr. Noah Lechtzin, from the department of medicine at JHU, improved his cancer patient’s experience, by decreasing their pain level, during a bone marrow aspiration procedure. In his research, he concluded that nature scenes and natural acoustic sounds such as gentle wind, moving water and birds singing had a particularly soothing effect on his patients. His patients experienced a significant lower level of anxiety, pain perception and recovered much faster after their procedure.

The new field of neuroaesthetics—in which brain scans are employed to study neurological reactions to perceived beauty and other aesthetic phenomena—is opening another front.2 

Dr. Zeki, of University College London, led a study in neuroimaging designed to investigate the neural correlates of beauty. During the study, when shown beautiful paintings, these participants elicited increased activity in the orbito-frontal cortex which is the area of the brain involved in emotion and reward. The participants experienced a decrease in motor cortex activity demonstrating a reduction in stress hormones and a significant decrease in pulse and heart rate.3

For a comprehensive abstract of literature see Ulrich (2009) and Hathorn and Nanda (2008). And JHU research, Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2003

1.Lechtzin and Diette, 2003.

2.Ridenour, Annette, Transforming The Healthcare Experience Through the Arts, (2009) 

3.Costandi, Moheb. “Beauty and the Brain’, Seed September (2008) 

*A physiological reaction in response to stress, characterized by an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, elevation of glucose levels in the blood, and redistribution of blood from the digestive tract to the muscles. These changes are caused by activation of the sympathetic nervous system by epinephrine (adrenaline), which prepares the body to challenge or flee from a perceived threat.