Mindfulness and Art

Woman looking at a painting
Photographer: Jack Caffrey, The Pimlico Project, 2017. © National Gallery of Ireland

It's a very normal thing to feel anxious and unmoored at times, particularly following the global pandemic we have experienced. Many people find it easier to cope with uncertainty by keeping busy, embarking on new self-improvement regimes that offer the comforting illusion of control in an unpredictable world. Others may find solace in the opposite, using 'downtime' to withdraw and reset.

Whichever camp you fall into, it is always beneficial to try to just be in the moment. Looking at art (or making it) is a great way to slow down, reflect, and just be.

We often run mindfulness tours in the Gallery, led by Mary Dowling, and now we're bringing some mindfulness to you online, too! Below you'll find a number of specially selected artworks for you to meditate on with curiosity and openness.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is deliberately pausing and paying attention to the present moment, without judgment. It gives us time to connect with ourselves and the world around us, fully experiencing what’s going on. We can practice mindfulness by spending time looking at an artwork, and it can be a very helpful tool to calm and settle our busy minds.

Some tips

  • Relax: Give yourself permission to relax as you look at the painting. Calm and focus your mind.
  • Breathe: Notice your breath as you breathe in and out. Don't try and change your breathing; just breathe as normal and become aware of it.
  • Release: Pay attention to how your body feels as you look at the painting. Are you holding tension anywhere? Check in with your back, your shoulders, your neck, your jaw, your eyes. Soften and relax.
  • Forgive: Allow your thoughts to come and go. Don't worry if your mind wanders, just gently bring your focus back to the painting.
  • Accept: Don't allow outside noise to bother you. In fact, accept any sounds or noise and let them become part of your experience of looking at the painting.

Select one of the artworks below:

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