You know what I did about a year ago? I drafted a blog post pursuing the idea of using photography as a type of therapy. I never got around to fleshing out that draft, but given our current state of affairs, now seems like maybe a good time to bust this one out.
Can photography be therapeutic as a sort of mindfulness activity where you’re focused on things in the immediate present? Or does looking at your world through a lens remove you too much from the moment?
Focus On Healing
Looking back through my photos over the years, I started to lament the passing of time and good memories, and also how I used to enjoy photography a lot – I was so into it! I’m sad that I’ve lost some of that enjoyment, the passion of the hobby. The few times I seldom focus on photography, I really enjoy it. The embers get fanned into flames again, but for a short time. It makes me consider re-focusing on photography as a more full-time hobby.
I find in photography a tangible way to “get out of my head” and get into nature, the great outdoors. The camera is a tool that causes me to look and see what’s around me. It makes me study a scene, the subject, the lighting, the shadows, the little details. I think you could say it makes me mindful of the moment.
The camera is like a mindfulness tool. It sharpens my eyes while also giving me another eye through which to see the world. Yes, to some degree, I think photographing a moment removes me from it. But then again, I’m still involved with the moment. Instead of an active participant, I’m an observer. And I’d say I’m an active, not a passive, observer. Rather than being in the moment, I’m around or about the moment. I’m seeing it from a different angle, in a more mindful mode.
This mindfulness via camera seems to me like it could help deflect worry because by focusing on external objects – like a flower – I’m not dwelling, brooding, or ruminating on internal concerns.
Let me interject a caveat here about generalized anxiety disorder, which is an order of magnitude worse than worry. While I think a hobby, especially photography due to its inherent trait of observing the world outside of you, can be a good way to decrease worry, I don’t think pursuing a hobby is a cure for an anxiety disorder. Having suffered seasons of terrible anxiety and panic attacks myself, seeing a counselor, taking medications, etc, I empathize with those who suffer likewise. Each person is different, and mental health issues are complex. I can’t blanket cure such issues with a camera. Hope that makes sense.
Having been through debilitating anxiety episodes, I’m all too familiar with worry. For me, among the many aids that carried me through my anxious seasons, I think photography is a nice means to interact with nature and lessen the tendency and severity of worry.
My hope is that this seed of an idea finds fertile ground. Maybe a test or study could be undertaken that offers photo-walks, for example, as a way to introduce people to a potential means of enjoying life more rather than worrying about it. I’m using Rich Mullins’ words here, “There’s so much beauty around us for just two eyes to see. Everywhere I go, I’m looking.”
Can photography be a form of therapy for some people? I think so. Just being outside in nature is helpful. The camera is a way to focus on nature even more (pun not intended by happily embraced).
What do you think?