May 16, 2023
In today's fast-paced world, we often forget to stop and appreciate the little things around us. Taking up photography can help us slow down, be more present, and even improve our mental health.
Research suggests that photography can have a positive impact on our well-being by promoting mindfulness, gratitude, and happiness, as well as improving memory and providing a sense of community.
Read on to discover the mental health benefits of photography and how you can start incorporating it into your daily routine.
A 2018 study by two British researchers of eight people who took a photo and posted it online every day found that the practice improved the participants’ well-being. One reason was that it forced them to take a moment every day to be mindful.
Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of yourself and your surroundings in the present moment without judging your thoughts or emotions. The process of looking for something to photograph and then capturing with your camera enables you to focus on the present moment, much like meditation does.
That’s especially true of mindful photography, which focuses less on producing a great picture — although it can help you do that — and more on “expressing yourself, being immersed in the moment and having fun.”
In addition to making the practice of taking pictures more enjoyable, mindful photography can improve your mood. Two U.S. researchers who asked their students to engage in mindful photography and discuss their photos in class found that the process increased the students’ happiness.
Like mindfulness, gratitude can boost your well-being.
One way to practice gratitude is to create a gratitude album in your phone’s photo app and add an image to it daily. The images don’t have to be great photos — in fact, they don’t have to be photos at all; just things that give you joy.
But making yourself take photos of things for which you’re grateful can have a positive effect in and of itself. For one thing, it requires you to be mindful of your surroundings. Beyond that, it makes you look for things that make you grateful. That can help you recognize how many of them there are and focus on them rather than on negative things.
Additionally, sharing photos of things that make you grateful can enhance your sense of community. And seeing your friends’ positive photos also can improve your mood.
Photography can help your mental health in other ways as well.
For example, it can motivate you to move, which can make you feel good. Going for a walk around your neighborhood for photo inspiration also provides exercise. And you may see something in the distance you want to photograph and turn your leisurely stroll into more of a hike.
If you enjoy taking photos, doing so gives you something to look forward to. That alone can improve your mood.
One worry you may have about turning into a shutterbug is that taking photos can detract from whatever else it is that you’re doing. A 2016 study, however, found that it can actually help you enjoy your activities.
The study involved a series of nine experiments in which individuals were asked to participate in an activity, such as taking a bus tour or eating in a food court. Some were instructed to take photos during the activity. Some were told not to take them.
After taking part in the activity, the individuals completed a survey about how much they enjoyed it. In almost every case, the people who took photographs during the activity reported they enjoyed it more than the people who didn’t.
In all, even if you devote just a little time to photography, it can help your mental health. And you might even get some amazing pictures out of it!