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American author Thomas Merton once said: “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” Indeed, enjoying art is one of the purest and most universal ways to “lose yourself” – it’s easy to forget about your problems for a little while when you’re singing along to your favorite song or watching an edge-of-your seat movie. At the same time, whether or not you consider yourself an “artist”, making art can be a valuable means of self-discovery and emotional healing – hence the invention of “art therapy.”

Depending on who you ask, the definition of “art” is quite broad and can include anything from beat-boxing to finger painting. Thus, you are probably already exposed to plenty of it in your daily life. However, if you never take the time to appreciate or participate in art, then you’re missing out on a lot. Follow these simple tips to incorporate more art into your days for a richer, fuller life.

1. Take up an old hobby

Is there an artistic hobby that you gave up on years ago, either because you felt like you weren’t very good at it, or because your life became “too busy” to practice it? Ditch the excuses and give it another go! If you’ve practiced it in the past, it shouldn’t be that difficult to get back into the swing of it, even if you learned the fundamentals decades ago. Furthermore, everyone can find at least a couple minutes of down-time each day to write, paint, draw, sing, play the harmonica, or whatever artistic pursuit interests you. Don’t be afraid of making “bad art” – there’s no such thing! The process itself, and the rich benefits it brings to your life, are what’s important.

2. Take pictures of interesting things

Taking a picture allows us to focus all our attention on the present moment and preserve it forever – which is a pretty amazing thing, if you think about it! Moreover, photography is a highly accessible art form. While, of course, not everyone knows how to use advanced photography techniques, anyone can take a snapshot. And with the rapid progression of technology in recent years, just about everyone has a decent camera in their cell phone – you can even buy a basic digital camera for under $50. Don’t think you have anything to take pictures of? Think again! Go on a walk on your lunch break and take pictures. Take pictures of your kids playing. Sometimes you won’t even realize anything notable is happening in the shot until you examine the picture you’ve taken later. You’d be surprised at just how many interesting/beautiful things are going on in your world if you only take the time to look for them!

3. Get lost in a good book

Books are another type of art that we often claim we “don’t have enough time” for. Or, maybe you never enjoyed reading in school, so you’ve never gotten into the habit of reading for pleasure. Most people, however, actually like to read if they just have material that appeals to them. Think about all the time you already spend reading in your daily life, whether it’s reading advice blogs like this one or scrolling through Facebook. Also consider that some of your favorite movies are probably based on books. Everyone loves a good, juicy story, and reading a book is a lot more rewarding than vegging in front of the TV or reading people’s boring status updates on Facebook. So give it a try!

4. Go to an independent movie theater

Movies are art, too. However, with big “blockbuster” movies, the plots are increasingly hollow and contrived. Even with dazzling special effects or a gushy love story, you can start to feel like you already know the ending to every big-budget movie about 20 minutes in. The blatant product placement that’s now commonplace in blockbuster movies, or the commercials you’re forced to endure when you watch a movie on TV, can also be distracting. For a change of pace, try going to an independent and theater, or renting an indie/foreign film. Oftentimes, these movies are a little more challenging to interpret, but as with books vs. movies, the payoff can be that much greater. Even if you don’t love the movie, you’ll get a different perspective by watching a challenging film – which is good for the brain!

5. Find art events in your community

Again, art is everywhere, if you only take the time to look for it. Even in very small towns, there is usually some sort of artistic community. Try checking out a local art-walk, seeing a play at a community theater, attending a free concert in the park, or going to a new exhibit at a local art museum. Odds are, you’ll find at least one piece in the exhibit or aspect of the performance that speaks to you. Even better, you’ll be able to appreciate and interpret art in a social context – which is another uniquely rewarding experience.

6. Get some new tunes

With its soothing, uplifting, and inspiring qualities, music is just about the best medicine there is. And as with photography, music-related technology has also made amazing advances in recent decades, such that we now have instant access music on our stereo, computer, mp3 player, TV … and the list goes on. But maybe you’ve gotten burnt out on Top 40 music, or you find yourself listening to the same five albums again and again because you haven’t updated your music collection in years. If either of these is the case, it’s time to expand your musical horizons! The Internet makes it easy to find even the most obscure artists and genres and to purchase/download songs at relatively affordable prices. Listening to a free, streaming radio service is another way to expose yourself to new music and discover artists that you like.

7. Enjoy art online

If you think about it, we live in the best day-and-age when it comes to art. With the availability of high-speed Internet in most households, libraries, schools and public places, never before has art been so accessible to the average person. Vast online galleries of fine art are yours for the viewing with the click of a mouse. Hear a beautiful song on the radio and you can be downloading it in seconds. Find local art events happening in your community right now with a quick Google search. You can even learn how to paint with watercolors or play the guitar by watching free, instructional videos online. The power of the Internet eliminates the last of your excuses for not enjoying art. You’re now thisclose to a richer, art-enhanced life. So what are you waiting for?

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