“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”
~ Pablo Picasso
What would you say if I told you photography can help your mental health? Would you not believe me? Art has always done good for the soul and what speaks to the soul is good for the mind and body. Photography is no different, growing in popularity as an art medium that is good for mental health.
The benefits of photography on mental health have been proven to be advantageous, improving well-being, promoting positive feelings, connecting photographers to their surroundings, encouraging the creation of beautiful things, and inspiring exploration and wonder. Let’s take a closer look at how photography can help your mental health.
Seeing the World and Staying Present
Photography is an art of observation. It is a bending and control of light. An attention to details and moments in time. In this diligence to solely focus on capturing a moment in time, at a sometimes a hundredth of a second, the photographer is emersed in the present and unwittingly participating in mindful activity which can boost mental health by arriving at a peaceful state.
Photographers see the world by the size of their lenses. By staying present and seeing the world as it is using their senses without judgment, they are observing their environment, seeing what surrounds them, and connecting with their environment. Sometimes we forget how important surroundings and environment are in relation to our mental health.
While doing the inner work and mind work is important, external influences can be just as important and one of the most immediate ways to change your feelings. So how can you see the world and stay present through photography? You really can do it with any genre—outside the home. Observing life through street photography. Making new animal friends through wildlife photography. As long as you’re outside observing life now, you can see the world and stay present.
Creating Something Beautiful
The process of creating art can be a whirlwind of emotions, among those, freeing, calming and cathartic. Art is inherently beautiful when creating for a good. Simply creating can be centering. Creating with the intent to create something beautiful (or even without it) gives you the opportunity to see beauty wherever you look or even be surprised by it. Paying attention to the ordinary and making it extraordinary allows you to create something beautiful wherever you are.
Whether you’re building a photographic composition or waiting for an image to reveal itself, you’re being mindful. You’re in a moment of creation. Having a task comes with structure and incentive and this can lead to a release of any negative emotions. After finishing one photography project, you might find the momentum to keep creating and a motivational push to get out and share your work.
Supporting Positive Feelings and Alleviating Negative Ones
Overall, photography can support positive feelings and alleviate negative ones, having an encouraging impact on your mental health. It is an excellent creative outlet. Photography has been shown to have a positive effect on well-being, helping boost self-esteem, confidence, memory, and decision-making.
Photography can have a long-lasting positive impact. It is powerful as a tool of creation and instrument to process and facilitate emotions. The benefits to body and soul can be profound. You can reduce stress, anxiety, and cortisol levels by picking up a camera; encourage healing through nature photography and powerful images; process trauma; get introspective; enhance your self-worth and so much more.
Inspiring Exploration and Wonder
Photography can inspire exploration and create a sense of wonder. This desire for exploration and wonder helps the photographer use a different perspective when seeing the world and situations. I like to think of it as a quest for beauty because the longing for exploration and wonder comes from a sense of amazement in seeing beauty in the world. Inherently it is a search for good and this can do wonders for mental health.
Just like life, photography is all about perspective and angles. When using photography to help your mental health, you can reframe the world you’re in simply by changing how you see things and, in turn, how you think about things. This can lighten the mind. You are in control of how you see the world and that helps you get centered when things are out of your control.
While living the life of a hermit and withdrawing from society may sound heavenly right now, the truth is that everyone needs some form of connection. This does not mean you have to get out and talk to people every day. Indirect connection is just as important as direct connection, being able to empathize through another’s art and speak what cannot be said at the time.
You may not be able to meet every artist whose work you love or meet those who relate to your own work, but the unspoken bond and relatability as audience and artist, and vice versa, is integral for creating some form of connection that propels you forward with promise.
When things don’t make sense, it is difficult to communicate, and you feel the need to isolate yourself, turning to photography can help you regain your center, find the words to speak, and connect with the people and environment surrounding you.