I have suffered with depression and anxiety on and off for the past 5 years or so and have recently started noticing the benefits of photography to help myself cope with the symptoms of depression and other mental health related illness. I find that photography as a hobby helps me to become more mindful.
Mindfulness, the practice of focusing on the present moment and the world around you, has been recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a treatment and prevention for mental health illnesses, including depression. Instead of being caught up in your own thoughts, worrying about things that may never happen in the future, or dwelling on things that happened in the past which cannot be changed, taking a mindful approach to life helps to focus on the here and now.
We live life at such a fast pace. We are in a world where email communication is instant, online shopping orders can arrive the same day and we can travel to other countries within a matter of hours. Because of this we’re all juggling too much at once, on a constant treadmill and never really slow down. It’s no wonder we often feel stressed and anxious.
For me, photography is all about slowing things down and focusing on the present moment. I watch the scene unfolding in front of me. I spot and appreciate the little details in everyday life. I sense the world happening around me; taking in the sights, the smells and the feelings. And these are all actions mindfulness teaches us to take.
One evening, after a pretty stressful day cooped up in the office, I went home and couldn’t escape my thoughts and worries about work. I headed to the nearest National Trust downs and took a wander along the chalk hills, camera and tripod in hand to capture the sunset. Noticing the lay of the land while trying to figure out the best vantage point for my photos and observing the change in colouring of the sky as the sun went down, as I was soaking up the quiet breezy summer’s evening, helped to calm my mind and focus on the moment.
If landscape photography isn’t your cup of tea, this technique can be applied to most photography styles. Recently I headed to London and wandered around some areas I had yet to discover; Little Venice and Notting Hill, with the aim of leaving all my worries and negative thoughts behind and focus on taking some street and lifestyle photos. I captured people living their life, interesting architecture, colour, and little details which usually go unnoticed. I set out with the intention of distracting myself from my negative thoughts, but this also helped me to appreciate how amazing the world is and how much joy there is in life, too.
If you are battling stress, anxiety or depression I would recommend grabbing a camera and heading out to take some photos. Even if you think you are a rubbish photographer, this is not about the images you take, but the experience it brings.
MUCH LOVE, SAMARA XX