What is the Mindful Museum?
Wellbeing is a skill that’s cultivated over time and with regular care.
For the past seven years, we’ve been incorporating mindfulness into our learning programmes and for different audiences. We’ve explored how this valuable skill can be used in the appreciation of art. It’s helped people to engage more fully with our permanent collection and our special exhibitions. Also, in encountering familiar works and art that’s entirely new to them, people have been able to reflect upon the importance of their own mental health.
Progress occurs only when people decide to make changes in their world beyond our learning studios.
The people we work with are invited to learn, develop and practise mindfulness within our gallery. Our learners include adult mental-health service users, primary school children, older people, newly qualified teachers, and the long-term unemployed. Through our projects and public workshops, we’ve been helping people to appreciate that mindfulness is both life-long and life-wide. But, more importantly, they’re encouraged to develop their mindfulness practice independently in their everyday lives.
People may choose to be mindful at home, in the garden, or at work, and many have told us of the joy the practice can bring them. People have also reported on the usefulness of bringing mindfulness awareness to their workplaces, as well as the value of practising it on a busy tram!
And so the process begins in the gallery, but it does not end there. The practice of letting thoughts come and go while looking at a painting, without getting caught up or carried away by them, can be transferred to real life situations.
Adults and communities
Our work with mental-health service users proved mindfulness is a much-needed tool when coping with difficult emotions and thoughts. It seems to give people something to draw upon when feeling overwhelmed by the events of their days. Mindfulness is an aid to recovery on the journey back to good mental health.
In our work with public sector workers, we’ve seen mindfulness help people respond to challenging changes, over which they feel they have little control.
Our drop-in lunchtime sessions have provided city workers with important nourishment, plus respite from the noise and overstimulation of the modern world. This gives them a moment away from the pressures of their working environments. Mindfulness can be a preventative measure, helping people learn to manage stress better, thereby protecting against the risk of developing mental health issues.
Similarly, our work with schools has shown that mindfulness can help children to build emotional resilience and self-worth, and therefore be more likely to accept and value themselves just the way they are. With a quarter of a million children accessing mental health services in England today, we believe mindfulness is a necessary skill for children and young people to learn in order to flourish and thrive as adults.
Older people have told us that mindfulness has helped them see life in a new way, and that they have become more aware of the curious, the strange and the beautiful. They’re enriched by the realisation that, irrespective of age, there’s still so much left to see and appreciate in the world – and they’re able to do this with a renewed sense of wonder.
As we have integrated mindfulness into our learning programmes, and developed a mindfulness-focussed public health and wellbeing programme, we would like to share our learning and experience with other museums and galleries. As The Mindful Museum, we’ll raise awareness of the clinical evidence behind the practice and its impact on health, creativity and learning. And, of course, we look forward to learning from others so we can continue to develop our own knowledge and understanding in the field.
A mindful city is a healthy, resilient city
Most importantly, we’ll continue to help people learn this skill so they can effect real and long-lasting change in their health and wellbeing. In other words, as The Mindful Museum, we will continue to invite the people of Manchester to be mindful, one painting at a time.
What our visitors say
Take notice: art and mindfulness
AT ITS BEST, IT REMINDS US THAT WE ARE GOOD ENOUGH AS WE ARE.
Art meets medicine
…EVEN THOUGH THE GALLERY SPACE WAS ALIVE WITH PEOPLE, THE ATMOSPHERE WAS TRANQUIL AND THEY WERE ABLE TO SWITCH OFF FROM THE OUTSIDE WORLD.
Mindful marks: the participant’s voice
FOR ME, THESE SESSIONS CONSISTENTLY HAVE A POSITIVE INFLUENCE ON MY STATE OF MIND.
The Art of Looking: exploring mindfulness with Year 6s and Van Dyck
…WHEN THE YEAR 6S MINDS’ BEGAN TO DRIFT, IT WAS A PHYSICAL THING. FIRST THE EYES WANDERING AROUND THE ROOM, THEN A TURN OF THE HEAD, SHORTLY FOLLOWED BY THE BODY, UNTIL THEY WERE TURNED AROUND LOOKING AT ME!