With the COVID-19 health pandemic still an ever present news story, the concern for mental well-being has also been getting a lot of attention of late. As people around the world have experienced shut downs, isolation from family members, financial losses, or job losses, we have come to realize the true importance of mental health. Persons who have good mental health are able to deal with the stressors associated with the on-going crisis better than their peers who have not taken care of their mental well-being. Even when COVID-19 is resolved, there is still a world full of stress, anxiety, and media-filled screen time in our lives.
How do we take care of our mental health, and how does this tie into photography?
Well, first let’s just look at the arts in general.
In 2010 a team analyzed more than 100 separate scientific studies related to art and mental health. The results overwhelmingly demonstrated that art of all kinds are good for your psychological health. The art world is filled with positive life experiences which lower cortisol (the stress hormone), calming effects that give one peace of mind and improved self-esteem, and encounters that allow the participant a new perspective.
Art (whether as viewer or creator) allows areas on the right side of the brain to activate. As creativity flows through these areas, the change in brain wave patterns can actually increase serotonin levels (sometimes called the “happy chemical”), thereby changing the person’s outlook on life or even how they experience life. Art can give one feelings of energy, focus, and what some call “being in the zone” where you become immersed in the moment (forgetting time and yourself). Others might say this experience is akin to meditation or a peaceful state of “zen.”
Ok, enough neuroscience… so what about photography? Should you pick up a camera?
Photography is an act of “play.” As a photographer, you play with light, angles, composition, genres, and subjects. Even if someday you want to become a professional photographer, there are no right or wrong ways to take a photo and you can enjoy the child-like sensation of enjoying every minute of it!
I am thankful that artistic inclinations run in my family. My mother is a watercolor painter (see her artwork on Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/DGraceStudio ). My sister is professional cellist (see her website to listen: https://jenncello.com/ ). My maternal grandmother was a painter, an actress and singer, and a musician.
Now, singing and musical instruments are not my forte’ and neither is picking up a paintbrush, but thanks to their inspiration, I get to paint with light, which is what photography means. Its ancient Greek roots are photo = light and graph = draw/write.
So I spend my days “painting or drawing with light” and I must say I do think it helps my mental health. It is an engaging form of self-expression that elevates my mood every time I pick up a camera! But don’t just take my word for it…
Studies have shown that photography has positive effects on confidence, mood, memory, overall self-esteem, and even helps with decision making. It calms the mind and helps you enjoy the world around you instead of always being caught up in its fast pace.
Nature photography is one of the best genres for relaxing and improving your mental state (as long as you stay away from bee hives and snakes, that is). Did you know that 15-20 minutes a day outside not only provides you with all of your vitamin K, but also is the equivalent of taking an anti-depressant, AND can extend your life expectancy (because you are moving around).
There are many different photography genres, so don’t limit yourself to nature or landscapes. The important thing is to pick a type or subject that inspires you. It should be something that you love or have a passion for. This could be the stars at night, your kids, or even bugs.
So pick up your camera (or smartphone) and start snapping your way to all of its positive effects -- decreased stress, improved well-being, and increased happiness! :)
Image by gamagapix from Pixabay
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