How A Grown-Up Field Trip To A Museum Can Improve Your Work (And Life)

Studies show that museums help you feel inspired, relaxed, and open to new possibilities.

Your next big idea might not come in a brainstorming session, but instead among the dinosaur bones and masterpieces.

With at least 17,500 museums in the country, there are options for a visit to the 18th century or your favorite painter's thought process. But as a compelling space for startup brainstorming or stress reduction? Give the benefits of museums a peek with these reasons they're great for your creative process.

Museums reduce stress and anxiety

If you’re reading this with your shoulders tensed to your ears and a headache from staring at a screen, take a breather at a local museum. A University College London study shows that the cultural centers have their place in public health: reducing social isolation, providing positive distraction, teaching new skills, and increasing a sense of community and belonging.

A similar study exploring the expectations of museum-goers and the benefits they felt after a trip found that feeling restored was an important part of the experience. Escaping from the outside world, to the cultures and arts of other places and times, is a large part of why people go to museums.

Museums inspire creativity

This video presented by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and the American Alliance of Museums says it all. The awe of visiting a museum, arboretum, or arts attraction is an experience to bring back the childhood wonder in all of us. If you’re stuck in a creative rut, this can be the injection of inspiration you need.

“I want to be engaged,” says an interviewee. “So I walk up to the artwork and I say, 'Please engage me. I’m here, I’m ready, I’m willing--I’m ready to do some work. Give me something to work on.'”

Museums improve well-being similar to playing a sport

People value the worth of museum visits at more than $5,000, according to a study from the London School of Economics. Participating in sporting events, in comparison, was valued around $2,500.

Interestingly--for men especially--museum attendance benefits the body where physical activity cannot. Koenraad Cuypers, a research fellow at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, found that for patients with physical and psychological limitations to intense activity, a passive cultural activity--like perusing a museum or taking in a theatre production--offered the same tension-relieving benefits as exercise. You won’t get six-pack abs from wandering the Met, but you might feel as refreshed as you do after a good run.

Museums boost the economy

They employ more than 400,000 people nationwide and contribute $21 billion to the economy each year, according to a study by the American Alliance of Museums. Arts and culture make up 3.2% of the nation's economy, generating billions more in indirect visitor spending in their communities. Nonprofit organizations as a whole support 4.1 million full-time jobs, and over $135 billion in economic activity. Developing communities especially stand to benefit.

That’s all well and good on the national scale--but what does that mean for your business? Consider your local city’s museums as friends and partners: Donating to a museum is a win-win situation for your company and the museum that would love your help. The PR opportunities of showing support for a cultural organization are just waiting to be uncovered. Check out the Official Museum Directory’s 15,000 listings for one that fits with your business’ mission.

Hat Tip: Freelancers Union

[Image: Flickr user Raymond "Dmitri" Beljan]

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