Mental Health Benefits of Photography
When we think of a photographer we think of someone with a humongous camera usually in an awkward position attempting to get the perfect shot. This is the stereotype.
In reality, anyone can be a photographer. Mobile phone cameras have made the world of photography accessible to all and this is a blessing to society as we can now all document our life in pictures and treasure these every day moments. However, on the flipside, photography has encouraged a world of social media overload which I believe plays a huge role in the mental health crisis (particularly with the younger generations) that the world is currently facing along with the demands of busy lifestyles that we have all accepted as the norm. It’s time to make a change and take some time back for yourself, for your personal wellbeing and mental health and I believe photography can be a useful tool to do this.
Photography allows you to take time out and can be used as an alternate therapy to help people overcome anxiety, daily overwhelm and depression. Photography can have a positive effect on your wellbeing, boosting self-esteem, confidence, memory, decision making and acts by helping you to focus and calm the mind from the everyday hustle and bustle. The importance to take 15 minutes out from work and life is undervalued and it’s time that we all began to invest some time in ourselves. The risk is that if you don’t you may end up burnt out and disconnected from your true self. Photography is an easily accessible tool to all people. The use of the camera to focus on the present and creation of an image will de-stress, de-clutter and calm your mind and you will see the positive effects on your health and happiness.
I have discovered through my own photography that it has a profound effect on my mental wellbeing. This journey consciously began just over 18 months ago but looking back it began unconsciously many years before. I have always carried a camera from a young age and I have always enjoyed photography. Throughout my childhood I would spend hours photographing my surroundings, my pets and my home. I have spent the past nine years documenting my family life and our children growing up and I now find myself specialising in family photography as a career as I choose to focus my life around a job that I love and enjoy. I have used my camera as a tool to take time out and de-stress for many years but without knowing. I now have come to realise that my camera is my lifeline and a tool to calm my mind and ground me in the moment. I will naturally reach for my camera when I want to de-stress from the world and zone out from all other concerns. Photography has always offered me a place of refuge, a place to escape to when I feel anxious, overwhelmed, sad or lost.
I recall a holiday to Cornwall just after I got married where we spent a week in Crantock. My husband had brought me a new DSLR camera for Christmas and I spent two hours photographing the waves and our two dogs one December afternoon. The sea has always been one of my favourite places and I found the crashing of the waves mesmerising, soothing my mind and somewhat inspiring too. My camera acted at this time as a creative outlet to express my frustrations allowing me to accept where I was at that time and zone out. My husband and I had been trying for our first child and after one miscarriage I was feeling a little disheartened but still desperate to give the news and joy to my husband that we were expecting once again. The time with my camera encouraged me to listen to the sound of the waves and take notice of the feeling of the wind sweeping passed my ears and simply watch the waves crashing on the beach in front of my eyes. My camera focused my mind, and helped me to take notice of my surroundings and the sensations of nature around me allowing me to forget about my worries and gain clarity and a fresh perspective. Photography combined with nature was an amazing and powerful tool for me.
More recently life has continued to throw the unexpected our way and my camera has continued to weather this journey by my side. Through hard times, sad times, lonely times and anxious times my photography has developed and evolved and has offered a release of pressure and a way to bring me back to my true self. Photography grounds me in the moment and all other background noise dissipates. Photography has been a lifeline for me and I truly believe it can have a positive effect on the mental health of others too.
Photography is a natural form of mindfulness and encourages you to be present in the moment and take notice of your feelings and accept that however you feel at this point in time, it is ok. Photography enables your brain a time to flow, a time to create and a time for yourself to just be still in the moment. It focuses your mind on the activity of creation, allowing you time to just be, to feel the image you are creating by taking notice of little details and thinking of the reason behind why you are creating the image - how does it make you feel and what’s the story behind the image. This creation will ground you and clear your mind from any worries or troubles which in turn gives you clarity and helps when prioritising or decision making.
There is also the wonderful benefit that you are able to share your creation, be proud of your photos, accept your style and express yourself through your photos. Photography is not only a creative outlet to de-stress the brain but it also allows you to create, to explore and to share your individuality. Through photography you will also see a boost in confidence, a boost in your self esteem, a boost in resilience and feel a true connection to yourself as you look inward and re-discover your self identity. Everybody can benefit from using photography as a tool to connect to oneself and the environment.
I now spend my days primarily as a mum, wife, photographer, dog walker, and home maker and life is busy but I now know consciously that photography acts as a life skill for me and helps to calm my mind and gain clarity when I feel overwhelmed or I just need some head space. I know that the positive benefits of a walk with my camera are instant. I feel revitalised, alive, clear-headed, focussed and inspired by my surroundings. I find that by focussing on the present moment and the details within the image that I am creating I am able to declutter my mind, de-stress and prioritise my to do list and work so much more efficiently.
Photography is a way to take time when things get on top of you or you need a moment to escape the everyday stresses of life. You don’t have to be a photographer and there is no judgement and no right and wrong in the image that you create. When you need a moment, grab your coat, grab your phone or camera and take a walk. Wherever you are, whenever you feel that intense feeling of overwhelm just take 15 minutes to calm the mind. Photography is my escape from the world and I believe it can be a tool for everyone.
Come and join me and learn how to take time out and de-stress with the use of your camera. Any camera is welcome, phone cameras, digital cameras or the more advanced DSLR camera.
Photography is a proven form of mindfulness that helps with anxiety, depression and overwhelm and I believe that photography is a tool accessible to all ages and all people and it will positively boost your health and wellbeing. Why not give it a try?
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