Taking photos improves your mental health

Everyone deals with mental or emotional struggles at one time or another in our lives. The world isn’t what it used to be. Stress from work, anxiety or a mental illness are common so it helps to take time to refocus and gain perspective. One tool I use to reach a more mindful state may be right now in your pocket – your camera phone.

It has been proven time and again that creative art therapy is a valuable tool for our emotional wellbeing and creating art increases our awareness of self and others. This in turn promotes personal development, increase coping skills and enhances cognitive functions. Photography is one such tool that you can utilise without going to art school or being professionally trained (although of course, it’s better to learn more about photography as knowing the ins and out will greatly enhance your understanding of this genre and contribute to better photo-taking).

Nowadays technology provides easy-to-use options including a whole variety of automatic modes on compact cameras, dSLRs (digital single-lens reflex cameras), and even camera phones and tablets. This can easily get chaotic if you’re shooting 10 frames per second! Now anyone can take photos – and just by taking a photo, you can freeze a moment to stop and look at your world through a new lens. This moment can be the moment that changes your day from a negative to a positive — or at least gives you a momentary pause you may need. That’s where the photography mindfulness is at work.

Here are a few simple ways to slowing the whole process down:

Learn to Observe first. Look all around you, wherever you may be, from your bedroom to your office to a metro station. Use descriptive words as you notice the things around you — soft pink light of sunrise coming through the blinds, snake-like black and white shadows across the floor. It may seem dramatic, but this is a good way to start seeing art in the ordinary.

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Walk around. Explore your environment with your camera or phone. This can be a stroll around your garden, your neighbourhood, or the block around your office at lunchtime. Notice and capture the small things — dew on a leaf (one of my favourites), cracks on a sidewalk, or repetition of a fence pickets. Anything can be beautiful when viewed in the right light.

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Close your eyes, use your senses. This one may sound counterintuitive, but by focusing on what you hear and smell, you can discover new subjects to photograph all around you – sound of gentle waves, buzzing bees, or children laughing in the distance.

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Pick a colour or shape. And look around specifically for that colour. Perhaps select a colour that is prominent in your living space, so you can print out any good photos and hang them on your walls. Surrounding yourself with your art can help you feel good and inspire you to create more (check out this fab Pantone-inspired project by my collaborator Oakandink)

Find or carry a prop. Find or carry a prop with you, especially something you find calming or comforting, and photograph it in different locations and ways. Remember to vary the angle and lighting of your shots to keep them fresh and not repetitive.

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Don’t focus on the finished product. While it’s nice to end up with photos you can appreciate and feel proud of, it is actually the process of taking the photo and not the result that is therapeutic.

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Have a day without your phone. If you feel stuck or stressed, put your phone camera aside and concentrate solely on living and experiencing the world around you. You’ll be able to start again from better, more balanced place. You may start seeing things differently.

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By picking up a camera and using any or all of these simple tools and techniques, you are not only being present and creative, but you are actively practicing photography mindfulness, which reduces stress and helps you feel balanced and ready to take on the rest of your world.  So go on… slow down, observe, and photograph your world smarter!

For more on emotional wellness, click on my fav blog here.