The Healing power of Art

People are visual beings. According to branding expert Ernesto Olivares, we are 90% visual beings. While animals like dogs and cats use their sense of smell, and bats have a heightened sense of hearing, people are undeniably visually stimulated. Research from 3M Corporation tells us that humans process visuals 60,000 times faster than text. Visuals catch your eye, grab and sustain your attention more so than text ever can, at a speed and rate that text cannot match. HubSpot social media scientist Dan Zarrella found that tweets with visuals are more likely to be retweeted 94% more than tweets without visuals. This is a statistic I have known for a long time, and not because I work in the field of  advertising/marketing. Here below is a famous advertisement from the 1930s advertising agency, Young and Rubicam. It is a classic example of how a visual can affect the way we feel and think.

From Young and Rubicam Inc., July 1930, Public Domain

Also, when I think of the magazine National Geographic, I visualize the iconic photo of Afghan refugee, Sharbat Gula, captured by photographer Steve McCurry. It remains a powerful image etched in my and the collective world’s memories.

Afghan girl, Steve McCurry, National Geographic, 1985

Donghwy An and Nara Youn of South Korea’s Hongik University write that “appreciating art induces inspiration, which in turn facilitates performance on creative tasks.” Their research show that simply displaying art in the work environment could enhance and intensify employees’ creative capabilities.

This research is no doubt part of an increasing amount of scientific evidence that has proven that visual art enhances brain function. It has an impact on brain wave patterns and emotions, the nervous system, and can actually raise serotonin levels. Art can change a person’s outlook and the way they experience the world.

For me, looking at photos and artwork put my mind at ease. This could be the reason why I have loved going to art galleries around the world while on vacation. Whenever I go to London, I always visit the Tate Modern, and the British Museum. In 2018, I was fortunate enough to spend my birthday in New York City, where I visited the Guggenheim, The Met and the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). It was a dream come true, and a bucket item I could tick off my list! When I spend time with art, I feel uplifted, inspired and transported to another time and place, and my momentary worries dissipate. Even if for just 5 minutes. Looking at art is for me, a healing balm in a sea of daily monotony and anxiety.

Vincent Van Gogh, The Starry Night 1889 at MOMA
Claude Monet, Water Lilies 1914-26 – at MOMA
Pablo Picasso, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907 at MOMA

On social media, I read posts that include a story with an image, or just a hashtag with a video. I find that as a hobbyist photographer, I love Instagram for the window it opens for me, to view other photographers’ work and to admire the creativity in art; in fact, it downright inspires and motivates me. When I am having a bad day, I spend time scrolling Instagram and being motivated by countless photos of food, landscapes, fashion and art, lifts me right out of the doldrums. Many times, posts don’t need words. Visual art speaks to me like no other medium can. I don’t have to process text, dialogue, nor lyrics. I don’t have to concentrate on the meaning behind the words, or the scene. I just have to stare at it, for possibly just seconds, and I feel its emotions, and connect with its message. That is the healing power of art and the visual medium.


Ernesto Oliveras (January, 2013). We are 90% visual beings. Retrieved from

Rachel Gillett (September 18, 2014). Why We’re More Likely To Remember Content With Images And Video (Infographic). Retrieved from

Image of Afghan girl, Sharbat Gula. Steve McCurry, National Geographic, June 1985. Retrieved from:

Scott Martin (July 10, 2017). Attention Grabbers: 5 Essentials to Make your Marketing stand out. Retrieved from

Tom Jacobs (November 23, 2017). Exposure to art inspires creativity at the office. Retrieved from

Renée Phillips (May 13, 2019). Art Enhances Brain Function and Well-Being. Retrieved from

All other images of art from MOMA, taken by MKwok003.