Do this once a month and extend your life by up to 10 years. No gym required

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Jessica DuLong

Published May 31, 2024

Most people don’t pick up a coloring book, paintbrush, poetry collection or museum membership for the health benefits — but maybe it’s time to start.

Research shows that art experiences, whether as a maker or a beholder, transform our biology by rewiring our brains and triggering the release of neurochemicals, hormones and endorphins.

In response to a growing body of evidence that art can radically improve both physical and mental health in effective and measurable ways, more health care practitioners are prescribing arts engagement as part of treating a wide array of conditions, including: obesity, heart disease, chronic pain, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, loneliness and depression.

The power of diverse arts practices to promote healing, well-being and even longevity provides benefits that rank right up there with exercise, nutrition and sleep, argued Susan Magsamen in her bestseller, “Your Brain on Art: How the Arts Transform Us,” coauthored with Ivy Ross.

Could this be why the arts have evolved over millennia to become central to human experience?

“I always thought of art as a luxury,” conceded Bianca Bosker in her new book, “Get the Picture: A Mind-Bending Journey among the Inspired Artists and Obsessive Art Fiends Who Taught Me How to See.” “It can’t feed you, house you or be used to kill predators.”

But she discovered that many scientists consider art a basic human need.

“Art is one of our oldest creations (humans invented paint long before the wheel), one of the earliest means of communication (we drew long, long, long, long before we could write), and one of our most universal urges,” she wrote.

Both Bosker and Magsamen recommend that everyone make art a daily practice, based on evidence and experience. Here’s why they see art as anything but a luxury.