The Fundamentals of Positive Distraction


Positive distraction

When someone says that they have a distraction in their life, is the first thought to mind that of an inconvenience that prevents you from getting to a desired goal, or could it maybe just be of the possibility of relief? Here at Art Force, we hope to acknowledge the latter. Relief is especially a tenable goal when we consider individuals afflicted with health concerns. From waiting rooms, to addiction centers, to artists’ studios, art can serve as a vehicle of positive distraction to a more fruitful environment. So you might be asking yourself, what is a “positive distraction” really? Well, we’ll discuss a few examples of where they are most apparent, but they can be defined as “an environmental feature that elicits positive feelings and holds attention without taxing or stressing the individual, thereby blocking worrisome thoughts.”

What Are different mediums used?

What do Kaleidoscopes and virtual reality software programs share in common? Both have been used as tools by physicians in order to alleviate the uncomfortable experience of patients visiting their offices. The former was used in a 1994 study which found that children aged 3.5 – 12 report less pain when “encouraged to use kalidescope,” and the latter has been used to create immersive visual animations, which have been shown to reduce neurological pain activity when used clinically. The truth is that there is still a lot of amazing experimentation in ways that patients can either be distracted in the process of moving through the healing process, as well as in self-expression mediums.

More conventional tools which health centers use to combat uncomfortable visitors are art though either physical representation or auditory representation. Art through paintings, sculptures, or serene music each add a calming element to any healthcare office that can transcends language and culture. Let’s also mention right away that you don’t need to worry, you don’t need to be a professional artist in order to receive the benefits of making art through positive distraction, nor an art historian to take it in. Art is a personal experience In order to receive the health benefits of art we need to recognize them either as environmental distractions from ailments, or as health tools for creation and expression through distraction.

The Industry as a whole

Medical professionals know today that a skilled surgeon or a uniquely gifted diagnostician isn’t the end-all solution our health front. We wish this was true, or a real life “Dr. House” might be the exact prototype that would save lives. Instead, decision makers in today’s healthcare environment choose to reflect care across all channels for patients. One meta-analysis on the mixture of art and healing even found that the true definition of health is “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being rather than merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Each day we glean new insights into best practices of healthcare, information can be shared to assist organizations to achieve the best practices possible, and this in turn flips itself on its head when we consider the new opportunity for patients to share information on their experience. Patient satisfaction can no longer be an afterthought. Whether the patients seek treatment for addiction or terminal illness, they may be coming into clinics with deep understandings of evidence-based art therapy which could aid them in their recovery. Even if your local hospital isn’t integrating expression based treatment programs, they in all likelihood should be aware of the need for positive distraction for their mission and for patient’s satisfaction.

Environmental Uses

Waiting room:

The process of positive distraction gets its start within one particular room, the patient’s waiting room, which has supported some of the most research on art integration. The findings are conclusive across the board; perceptions of the wait time within waiting rooms has an immense amount of more weight, than the waiting time in actuality. This of course leads many to ask, if the time itself does not matter, what affects the perception the most? Well, the truth is that the attractiveness of the physical environment is not only related to perceived waiting time, but also perceived care quality, level of anxiety, and quality of interaction with staff.

One area of surprise is the ability of positive distractions (displays) to distract healthcare clinic visitors with the temptation to “people watch” others in the room that may be experiencing a state of vulnerability because of an ailment. This may be caused from the decrease in restless behavior which art causes, allowing them to focus on a calming factor in their environment in cognitive introspection. This could also cause them to be aware of it in their periphery which allows visitors to have a moment of quiet distraction, in either case we are shown that it is likely to lead to a more tranquil environment with lower noise levels.

The Rooms Themselves:

Are all patient rooms within rooms equivocally the same? Many articles say they are not:

  • A 1984 study found that patients recovered from surgery more quickly with view of nature rather than a brick wall. This has led to a surge in the use of landscape artwork in clinical settings.
  • Patients in a UCSF study in 1992 discovered that burn victims report lower pain intensity when in the presence of presentations of scenic beauty.

The experience of a patient after intake into a clinic is to be surrounded by today’s most technologically advanced medical tools, in order to preserve health, and discharge as quickly as humanly possible. Yet these devices which cost many thousands of dollars of investment from hospitals also circulate thoughts of what put them in the medical facility. Yet the very best medical practices and tools coupled with a device of serenity allow the human perspective to take hold in the healing process.

Expression Uses

Positive distraction program

Art force has played a role in developing and partnering in programs which themselves independently serve as positive distractions. Our frontier program, entitled Wings, is a partnership with local and national artists who are living with health ailments, assisting in getting their art out to health care organizations, all the while supporting their life-restoring work. Each of the pieces we sell carries a story, of creation in conventional or unique ways, and a celebration of emotional expression rather than of confines of our health limitations.











Our offices have also curated a collection in partnership with The Creative Center at University Settlement to create Still Life, professional artistry of those living with illness. Examples of some of their work:

Artist: Aleta Wynn Yarrow

Aleta Wynn Yarrow

Artist: Donna Caulton

Donna Caulton

Artist: Donna Levinstone

Donna Levinstone