If you’ve been feeling a bit off lately, consider picking up a “photo a day” habit. A new study titled “The daily digital practice as a form of self-care: Using photography for everyday well-being” has been published in the journal Health. Co-authored by the University of Sheffield’s Dr. Andrew Cox and Lancaster University’s Dr. Liz Brewster, the study examined the habits and feelings of 33 participants who had committed to taking and sharing one photo every day.
The pair found that the act provided a multi-faceted boost to general wellbeing, even though it wasn’t necessarily the participant’s motivation for beginning the project. Committing to doing something every day offered needed structure for some participants who had had a life change or otherwise lived a less structured existence, such as retirees.
Engaging in a photo-a-day project also caused participants to get out more often and seek novelty, acts that can easily fall by the wayside in today’s society. In our digital world where one can comfortably exist indoors without the need to step foot outside beyond transportation from work to home to store and so on, a project where one must produce share-worthy content daily can motivate to get vital fresh air and sunlight in the search for something to shoot. The camera in-hand also lends a sense of belonging to some.
“It encourages me out of the house sometimes when I could just sit on my backside with a cup of tea. I’ll think maybe I’ll take a walk down on to the seafront and before I know it I’m two miles along the coast. And that could be something that I wouldn’t do if I hadn’t an object. When I go out for a walk I like to have an object in mind and I’ve always got the camera. It’s like having a dog, you know, you don’t look odd if you’ve got a camera or a dog.” – Participant 04
For its part, the act of sharing the photos helps to foster a sense of community and connection, as interaction about the images inevitably occurs. Though, one participant also noted that it’s important not to let the seeking of “likes” take over and sap the joy from the experience.
What’s more, participants found themselves engaging in the lauded therapeutic technique of “mindfulness” without trying. Daily photography of life unfolding around participants caused them to “stop and smell the roses,” so to speak. When looking for small details worthy of sharing becomes a habit, people are more apt to live in the moment and pay closer attention to a single instant.
In short, a photo-a-day project was found to build positive habits, promote mindfulness, and add a sense of purpose and community and, as such, is a legitimate act of self-care. If you or someone you know could use these things (and honestly, who couldn’t) give it a try! If you’d like to read the whole study, you can find it here.