Mindfulness has a strong association with meditative benefits, however we can employ mindfulness in a host of situations beyond simply trying to feel happier and calmer. It can help us to understand feelings of anger, frustration, sadness, grief, resentment, envy, fear, anxiety, excitement and joy.

For those feelings which are too uncomfortable or challenging to approach in real life, art creates a safe space for us to explore them. By combining it with mindfulness we can be reflective over our inner thoughts, feelings and behaviors to gain a better understanding of them.


Welcome to Mindful Moments, here you will find various exercises to try while looking at art. We hope they will give you some ideas to start with and later create your own practices from. 

General mindfulness practices will benefit most people initially, and over time you’ll begin to realise what is most effective for your mind. You may find yourself developing exercises that are tailored specifically for the way you like to think.

Some of the exercises combine breathing and meditation techniques prior to viewing any art, while others jump straight into the artwork. By preparing ourselves beforehand, we can induce a calm state of mind, leading to a stronger effect from the art.

Without preparation we have the chance to measure how much of an impact an artwork alone has on us. Art itself can be very meditative by nature, and equally as effective in achieving peace as any other method. We recommend trying a variety of combinations, to see what works best for you.

We hope you find this page helpful and the exercises light-hearted and easy to approach.

We’ve included some inspiration for works from the City’s Collection to accompany each exercise, but use what works best for you, art at home, sculpture or objects are also perfect to help create your own Mindful Moment.

View highlights from our collection

You can discover more artworks from the City’s collection here at ArtUK

Explore our collection on the Art UK website


Adding a Dimension observes the layers and mechanics behind an artwork, to explore the artist and to expand our own perspective.

By focusing on textures, shapes and materials, experiencing art becomes more immersive. We use both the logical and creative sides of the brain, in trying to deduce how an artist created their work and in then imagining their state of mind as they were creating it.

This exercise can be useful for people who feel like they cannot understand art, or for those who want a deeper understanding of how to create art themselves.

View the exercise here

In this exercise we use the hands to explore artwork and experience art from a different perspective.

This exercise is useful in increasing sensitivity to touch and can be very relaxing for people who feel excessively visually stimulated.
It can be an effective way to feel grounded and calm. Handfulness requires an artwork that has a solid shape, such as a sculpture or figurine, though it can work with many everyday objects and works best with something that has lots of variety in form and texture.

For this exercise we look at a portrait, to explore the influence of others on our mood and the perceptions we have about others.

Our everyday interactions with people can be more stimulating than we might realise and the image of a person represented in artwork can have a similar effect. It could be a subtle look or an obvious emotion. 
This exercise is useful in understanding our responses to the presence of others and can be particularly helpful for people who find interactions overwhelming or to being others on a consistent basis challenging.

In this exercise we look at a piece of artwork whilst inducing a meditative state, to explore feeling, mood and tone within art, observing the effect it has on us.

By focusing on our own breathing, we are less absorbed by the details in an artwork and instead allow its general feeling to come through. For many people, daily life involves lots of visual stimulation; by entering a calm state of mind we can notice the influence our surroundings are having on our mood. 
This exercise can be particularly useful for people who find themselves wrapped up in details, who feel disconnected to their emotions or who rarely find moments to be peaceful.

To explore the effect of imagination on our state of mind, we look at a piece of artwork and create a story from it. The artwork that we are drawn to can tell us about our desires, whilst our imagination might unearth hidden thoughts and feelings.

Imagination itself is also very useful in relaxing the body and mind, with this exercise being particularly useful for people who always feel alert and stressed by their surroundings, to create some temporary retreat.It can be done more than once, gaining a different experience with each artwork.

In Observant vs Immersive, we look at the same artwork twice, from two opposing perspectives, to explore the differences in how we feel and what we experience depending on where we’re standing. This offers insight into ourselves and upon life in general.


View the exercise here

The One Point of Focus exercise uses details within artworks to practice attentiveness and focus, by choosing a small point to concentrate on.

By narrowing our focus, we experience increasing layers of detail within an artwork, which often evokes a different type of appreciation.
This can be useful for people who find it difficult to focus on one thing. It is also useful for those who become overwhelmed by big tasks, when noticing that each artwork is composed of many small actions or layers.

Articulating with Art explores our current thoughts and feelings, by looking over a selection of artworks and choosing one which resonates the most.

By evoking an intuitive choice, we gain an initial sense of our current mind state. By then observing the features of this artwork, we can further understand whether there is something in the art which captures how we presently feel.
This exercise can be useful for those who struggle with articulating or expressing through words. It can help us recognise either how we currently are, how we want to be or how we don’t want to be, based on our responses to the artwork.

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