Looking at nature or at something beautiful activates the prefrontal cortex, which controls our emotional responses to stress, among other functions. The prefrontal cortex is associated with being calm and being connected. When we look at something beautiful, we feel confident, safe, and cheerful, as stress is reduced, oxytocin is released, and the nervous system is calmed. Moreover, being in contact with beauty stimulates the right hemisphere of the brain, which is involved in creative activities, making us more inclined towards serenity and wellbeing.
Recent studies show that visiting a museum stimulates the pleasure centers in the brain. In some cases, it even lowers blood pressure. Today’s scientific findings support the theory that aesthetic experiences—visiting a museum, listening to music, going to the theater, reading—can have benefits for your body. Thus, they are not just forms of entertainment or ways to spend your free time: they can have a positive impact on your emotional and physical health.
Anselm Kiefer, The Renowned Orders of the Night (Die berühmten Orden der Nacht, 1997)