By Kristen Sohlman, HBA, RP
We all experience and cope with mental or emotional struggles at one time or another throughout our lives. This can include stress from school or work, anxiety, depression, or grief and loss. Sometimes it can help to take the time to refocus ourselves and gain perspective on what is happening within our lives. There may be one useful tool in your pocket right now…a camera!
There is much evidence-based research that forms of creativity and art therapy can be valuable tools for emotional wellbeing. Photography is a tool that you can try without being professionally trained, and for some, they find it so rewarding that they continue to develop their skills. Today there are many options for photography including the internal camera on cellphones, automatic point and shoot cameras, digital SLRs, and the like. It is easier than ever to take photos, and through the simple of action of taking a photo, you are taking a moment to stop and be present in the moment and to look at the environment through a new lens or perspective. It is during this moment that can result in changing your day from a negative one to a positive one, or at least, momentarily distracting and calming you from whatever stresses you may be experiencing within your life.
Here are some simple ideas that may help get your creativity flowing:
Take the time to observe before you shoot. Take a minute to be present in the moment. Look all around you. What do you notice? What do you see? Then look a little closer. By doing this you are not only being mindful of the present moment, but you may also start to see art in the ordinary.
Close your eyes. For some who are taking photos, this may sound counterintuitive. However, by focusing on what you hear and smell, you may discover new subjects to photograph all around you whether this is the aromatic smell of cedar or a flower, a bee buzzing or a bird on the fence, or maybe even a dog playing in the distance.
Pick a colour or a shape. Look around for that colour or shape. By picking a colour that you may want to see in your own home, you may be able to print out any good photos and hang them on your walls at home. Be sure to surround yourself with art that makes you feel good or makes you feel inspired, as this will help you to create more!
Carry a prop. Take an item 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 interesting.
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.
Stop and breathe. Take deep, slow, and paced breathes while taking photos. If you feel stuck or stressed, put your camera down and concentrate on just breathing for 30 seconds. Look around you and start again from a fresh and balanced place. You may even see things that you missed just moments before.
By picking up your camera and using any or all of these simple tools and techniques, you are not only being present and creative, but you are actually practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness reduces stress, as well as anxious and depressive feelings, and promotes positive mental health and well-being. It helps leave you balanced and ready to take on the rest of your day.
So, go on…relax, observe, and photograph your way to a better day!
Hark, D. (2013). How taking photos can improve your mental health. Huffington Post. [Web blog] Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/danielle-hark/photography-mindfulness_b_2926347.html
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