We live in a fast-paced and increasingly impersonal world that houses millions of people grappling with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Many people are overworked, stressed out, and exhausted, in dire need of social connection, support, and healthy self-expression.
While it’s true that therapy and medication are essential tools for treating mental illness, it’s also worth noting that they can be complemented by a number of alternative therapies and hobbies. Take art as an example. Research shows that participating in art as well as consuming it can alleviate anxiety, depression, and stress while improving mood. Photography, in particular, can be a powerful tool for self-expression and building connections with like-minded people.
An exercise in self-expression and mindfulness
All art is a form of self-expression, and photography is no exception. It’s a way to express thoughts and feelings that words sometimes may not be able to convey properly. When you frame a shot, you’re not just capturing an image – you’re showing others what you find interesting, beautiful, or intriguing enough to want to capture it and, in a way, immortalize it. This act of self-expression can be incredibly liberating and healing.
Photography can also be a way to practice mindfulness. For example, if you struggle with anxiety, you can choose to grab your camera and head outside instead of bottling it up. As you focus on the details of a flower or the symmetry of a building, you will immerse yourself in the present and actually live in the moment instead of thinking about it.
By focusing on the things you wish to capture, you’ll filter out the noise of your worries and replace it with the beauty you see. This is called mindfulness, and it can help reduce your anxiety and depression.
While capturing moments through photography is therapeutic in itself, sharing those images online can be equally beneficial for your mental health. Platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr, and others provide a great opportunity to connect with other people who appreciate your perspective and relate to your experiences.
This can be immensely helpful if you lack emotional and social support in your everyday life. Let’s say you’ve witnessed a beautiful sunset, but you don’t have many (if any) people to share this experience with. The next best thing? Capturing the most beautiful moments and sharing them online.
You can also enhance your digital images using AI image enhancers to make them bolder, sharper, and more unique so they stand out. Adding a caption that shares your thoughts and feelings is also a good idea as it’s another way to express yourself. If you also use the right tags, you’re almost guaranteed to receive likes, comments, and even messages from people who resonate with you.
While digital, these interactions can still provide a sense of validation and support that can be invaluable when dealing with anxiety or depression, as they remind you that you’re not alone in your struggles.
Finding supportive communities
While we’re on the subject of sharing your photos, photography can also help you discover like-minded people who share your passion for photography and other hobbies.
On platforms like Instagram, hashtags can be your best friends. For example, if you’re into nature photography, you can use hashtags like #NatureLovers or #OutdoorPhotography to draw in like-minded folks. Engage with their posts, leave thoughtful comments, and start conversations. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can build a supportive network of friends who genuinely care about your well-being!
Setting boundaries for your well-Being
While sharing your photography online can be therapeutic and immensely rewarding, it’s also important to establish boundaries for your mental well-being. Remember, social media can be a double-edged sword, with potential triggers that can affect your mental health negatively.
For example, regularly scrolling through perfectly curated feeds filled with seemingly flawless images can lead to feelings of inadequacy or comparison, which can exacerbate existing mental health issues.
No one is immune to this, including people who know this is an unrealistic representation of life and art. To counter this, remind yourself often that what you see online is just a curated version of reality.
At the same time, embrace the imperfections in your own work, knowing that they reflect your unique journey. Other like-minded individuals are also bound to appreciate a more realistic approach to social media.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.