Why Do Beautiful Things Make Us Happy?

I am quite possibly the world’s least artistic human. I lack any ability to draw or create something vaguely aesthetically pleasing. Luckily, it hasn’t held me back in life and I’ve been able to, I hope, craft beauty through words. Yet despite being as artistic as a twig, I can still appreciate and get pleasure from beautiful artwork. Why? What is it about beautiful things which makes us happy?


Of course, art is incredibly subjective so everyone reading this will have a different opinion on what art is enjoyable for them. You may like a particular art movement such as the Impressionists or Cubism. You may be drawn to pieces which convey a powerful message. You may get pleasure from certain painting subjects or colour compositions. Every one of us sees beauty differently. Therefore, we choose to decorate our homes in a variety of ways but, regardless of taste, most people do go through this ritual of buying artwork to hang in their homes. Why?


In the absence of our individual ability to create beautiful art, the majority of us must resort to purchasing the work of a legitimate artist to decorate our homes. This is an almost ritualistic part of moving house and growing up; gathering art to hang on our previously bare walls. This act of decoration is important because it is a way for us to express our individual creativity, our tastes and also a chance to bring our personality into the dwelling. The majority of artwork found in homes is also beautiful (in the eye of the beholder, at least). Few families choose to hang bloody or violent images. Our homes are places for calm, serene and happy art.


Research into human beings’ innate draw to beautiful objects has identified a biological link. When we see something attractive (artwork, scenery, another person), a part of our brain which controls hand movement is triggered. Our brains tell us to reach for things we see as beautiful. We are biologically compelled to seek beauty. But, once again, why?


Extensive studies are slowly getting closer to the answer. There are a number of theories which propose why humans are attracted to attractiveness. In people, beauty can be seen to symbolise health; consider it a survival of the fittest concept. Humans instinctively want to reproduce with others who are ‘healthy’ (read ‘beautiful’) so their children will be healthy. But our draw to beauty goes beyond other people. We are also attracted to beautiful places, artwork, even music. And this is linked to the science of design.


We are living through a revolution in the science of design. Researchers are now digging deeper than ever before to understand every aspect of a design concept. For example, we associate different colours with different emotions and states of mind; these colours are then used for specific products as a result. Hospitals have discovered that patients who have a view of a landscape outside their window tend to recover faster. Students who can see countryside from their classrooms learn better. And workers who can just see the outdoors may get tasks done up to 7% faster than people in windowless offices.


Further research shows we can get these same benefits from artwork as well. Irrespective of our tastes, regardless of what we choose to hang on our walls, having something which personally pleases us has a wide range of health and wellness benefits. Very simply, art makes us happy. Some of us may enjoy traditional landscape images, others may like portraits, more still may be fans of modern art installations. Our personal taste doesn’t matter; what matters is our exposure to artwork which we consider ‘beautiful’.


You may feel romanticised by the Renaissance painters, soothed by the Impressionist artists, delightfully confused by cubism pieces, invigorated by iconic Pop Art. Human emotions are innately connected to every aspect of our lives. So if you like and get pleasure from a piece of art, buy it and feel a little flutter of happiness every time you walk through the door to your home.