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Museums are great for a lot of reasons — you can immerse yourself in a local history, learn a thing (or 50) in the span of an afternoon and see some of the world’s greatest artworks. But there’s another reason that’s caught the attention of doctors in Canada: a trip to the museum may be a cure for mental and physical illnesses.

According to Quartz, doctors in Montreal are now prescribing free art museum visits to patients suffering from a variety of illnesses ranging from diabetes to depression.

In an interview with the Montreal Gazette, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts director Nathalie Bondil said that “culture will be what physical activity was for health in the 20th century.”

And Bondil has certainly worked hard to realize that prognostication. The museum has created a community studio called The Art Hive, which is focused on uniting therapy and art in the same space. The Art Hive will also be working on research with local physicians to help measure the benefits art and visits to art museums can have on patients.

A more formal partnership with Médecins Francophones du Canada — a group of French-speaking doctors in Canada — is encouraging physicians to actually prescribe art to their patients. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is giving participating doctors 50 free visits to prescribe every year, and each of these prescriptions will include entry for two adults and two children. The hope is that the additional passes can act as preventative care for those visiting with the patient.

“There’s more and more scientific proof that art therapy is good for your physical health,” said Dr. Hélène Boyer, vice-president of Médecins Francophones du Canada, in an interview with the Montreal Gazette. “It increases our level of cortisol and our level of serotonin. We secrete hormones when we visit a museum and these hormones are responsible for our well-being. People tend to think this is only good for mental health issues. That it’s for people who’re depressed or who have psychological problems. But that’s not the case. It’s good for patients with diabetes, for patients in palliative care [and] for people with chronic illness.”

Fortunately, you don’t have to be a Canadian with a doctor prescribing art museum visits to give this a try on your own. Simply find a local museum you’ve always wanted to see and commit to visiting on your next free day. If anything, you’ll get to see something new — and you may even walk away feeling instantly energized and refreshed.

Featured photo by Antenna/Unsplash.

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