How to carve out more time for art in 2020

Published 12 December 2019

Visiting museums and galleries can help improve our wellbeing – here are five tips on how to make art part of your everyday this year.

How often do you answer the simple question ‘how are you?’ with ‘busy’?

Our modern lives are leaving us feeling increasingly stressed and short of time. And the busier we get, the more stressed we feel – something that's been termed a 21st-century epidemic.

But our concept of time is a funny thing. Studies show that actually the total amount of time people are engaged in paid work has not increased in Europe or North America in recent decades, and harassed parents who feel guilty that they don’t spend enough time with their children are actually much more hands-on than previous generations.

‘What has changed is the amount of unpaid “work” we take on,’ explains professor Jonathan Gershuny, co-director of the Centre for Time Use Research at the University of Oxford.

‘We don’t walk 50 yards to the corner shop anymore, we drive 20 minutes to the supermarket and walk around that for another 20 minutes. Those activities build up and eat away at our time.’

An 'always on' culture

In addition, we’re deluged with information that we feel we need to process and participate in.

At our current pace, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created each day – and it’s increasing all the time. There’s always another email we could answer, a Facebook post to like, an Instagram feed to scroll through.

It means that in our permanently connected, never-bored world, horrifyingly we now spend the equivalent of an entire day online every week, checking our phones every 12 minutes.

It’s something that’s having a serious effect on our wellbeing, from sleep to stress: a study found that those who use social media for more than 30 minutes a day have increased levels of anxiety.

Finding time for you

So, what can we do about it? Well, recent research found that more than 60% of us have visited a museum or gallery to de-stress.

While only six per cent of people go more than once a month, and many cite ‘busyness’ as a reason not to go, professor Paul Dolan, expert on human behaviour and happiness, insists we can carve out the time. ‘Most of us have it; we just don’t find it,’ he says.

Gershuny agrees: ‘It’s really important to stay busy,’ he says. But it’s important to be the right kind of busy – and to plan it in.

‘You have to schedule in leisure time, that’s what allows you to do it. It also heightens your enjoyment. If you have too much leisure you don’t value it as highly. Scarcity is what makes it precious.’

How to make art part of your everyday

Dolan suggests that taking as little as 30 minutes a day for something we enjoy can improve our sense of wellbeing.

That might sound easier said than done, but when a focus group who went to museums fewer than three to four times a year were challenged to go regularly during a four-week period, they reported slotting in trips on lunch hours, before meeting friends or on the way to other plans.

Paul has five recommendations to help you find more time for what makes you happy.

Five tips to help you make more time for art in 2020:

1. Make a public commitment.

Telling someone what you plan to do greatly increases the chance of you seeing it through.

2. Go with someone else.

Knowing that someone is coming with you can give you reassurance, as well as less of a reason to cancel at the last minute!

3. Make a proper plan.

It takes a series of small steps to complete a marathon, so break the bigger goal into smaller pieces: What day will you go? What time will you go? How will you get there? How long will you stay? Who will you go with? What will you see?

4. Prepare for obstacles.

No plan is without its challenges, but if you prepare for any obstacles you might face you are less likely to fall at the first hurdle or find a reason not to continue. What if it is raining? Will you still go if your friend cancels? How much will it cost? How will you get there if the bus isn't running?

5. Capture the moment.

Just as we’re not good at predicting how we might feel about an experience, we’re equally bad at remembering how much we enjoyed something. As soon as you get back, capture your thoughts and feelings about the experience as a reminder of what you enjoyed and as something to reflect back on.

Unwind with art in 2020. See more with a National Art Pass.

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