14 Jun 2019

Our Museums + Galleries: An Untapped Wellbeing Resource

A familiar theme forms when I'm preparing for a trip away; book my travel, research, research, research, then pack my bags. With heavy weight given to the middle bit, I consider the planning and map-making to be the key to a decent couple of days away. Good for my head, and good for whoever I'm with.

Always on the list; local cafes, coffee shops, craft beer bars, design stores and museums + galleries. As I've got older my tastes have changed; I'll now seek out the coffee shops with a more considered approach to service and the interior, and cafes with a nice balance of personality, but one constant which hasn't altered are the museums. Since a teenager I've always loved spending time nosing around museums; an hour's wander at the British Museum in London with a buddy, a solo visit to the Manchester Art Gallery taking in a photography exhibition, or learning about something more historical like the Trencherfield Mill in Wigan. It's part of what I've always enjoyed.

Art Fund recently approached me with the subject of how 30 minutes of leisure activities a day is the key to improved wellbeing, which got me thinking about why I've always liked making time for these exhibitions + well designed spaces around the country. It's the perfect thing to do when you're riding solo, but when a buddy tags along you'll find yourself chatting about subjects that generally don't cross your mind. 

For context, here are some of the findings from Art Fund’s Calm and Collected report, a study into how regularly visiting museums and galleries can contribute to a greater sense of wellbeing:

- 53% of adults said they had recently felt some level of anxiety on any given day, with 34% describing that anxiety as being at a ‘high level"
- 27% of adults feel guilty about taking time for themselves
- Only 41% say they have a hobby or activity that they regularly make time for, there is still plenty of scope for improvement – and that’s where art can play a more significant role
- While 51% of those surveyed say they would like to visit museums and galleries more regularly – and 63% say they have at some point visited specifically to ‘de-stress’ – only 6% of us actually visit at least once a month
- Those who regularly visit museums and galleries as part of their overall lifestyle tend to feel much more satisfied with their lives, and in the social study, those who visit a museum or gallery at least once a week report a range of benefits, from learning new things to finding space to reflect

So why are we increasingly feeling so anxious? I'd be the first to say that I feel the pressure which social media and a freelance lifestyle seems to evoke. I have great days and crappy days, and it's generally down to the pressure I've put on myself to be earning, to always be "on" and by comparing myself to others. I am finding the balance though; switching off totally isn't the right tact for me, but if I pinpoint the times where I do feel de-stressed I would have to say a lot of those moments are when I'm making time for the things that feel right. Museums + galleries fit in perfectly.

I'd never proclaim that the job role I've found myself in is "hard work" - it's a job I love, and therefore I feel fortunate to have found my place - but it would definitely benefit my own wellbeing to pursue more of the things I love to do in my spare time. I visit a museum maybe once a month, and leave feeling content and usually a little closer to the person who I'm with, so why don't I make more time for these visits? I'm not sure I have an answer to that.

"Do more of what feels right"
What I tell myself when things aren't going to plan 

Investing in yourself maybe isn't a subject we think about all that often. The Art Fund study shows that we are aware of the benefits of pursuing activities which contribute to our wellbeing (listening to inspiring podcasts, reading, exercise, socialising without phones etc), but it's the keeping it up bit that I reckon I struggle with. So this is me making a pact with myself to do more of what feels right, on a regular basis. The UK’s museums and galleries seem to be that untapped resource to wellbeing that many of us are seeking.


Through the National Art Pass (an annual membership which gives you free entry to hundreds of museums, galleries and historical places across the UK + 50% of entry to major exhibitions including those at the British Museum, Tate, and the Design Museum) the Art Fund is encouraging us to say ‘yes’ more often to the things that make us happy. So when was the last time you dedicated a bit of time to visiting a gallery, what did you see + how did it make you feel?⁣⁣


  1. I agree! Museums and galleries are always on my list when travelling, and even to visit one here at home is very soothing. It's nice to just stop and appreciate the ability of humans to create beautiful things.

    Jane / http://deluminators.blogspot.com

  2. Graviil Petrov11:18

    Nice photography

  3. Sizzling Suzai04:45

    hi Matt!! its been a really long time i havent make a visit to urs here... ok one thing that i agree the most and the thing that ive been struggling as well "I feel the pressure which social media and a freelance lifestyle seems to evoke." i feel u man! OMG perhaps i need to consider a museum visit as well? lol haha coz i know that im not a museum-goer at all LOL bad me huh!


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