Finding peace behind the lens

Finding peace behind the lens

Finding peace behind the lens

According to the World Health Organization, one in four people in the world will be affected by a mental or neurological disorder at some point in their lives. Mental disorders are among the leading causes of ill health and disability worldwide, and the social stigma and discrimination are preventing nearly two-thirds of all affected people from seeking treatment. Whether or not one is suffering from these invisible afflictions, a passion for photography can act as a balm to deal with the anxieties and stresses of daily life.

Photography is an art form that enables self-expression, and thus empowers photographers to know themselves and their mental states better. For those struggling to say something or express an emotion, taking a picture that conveys that meaning is deeply satisfying.

The beauty of using photography as a means of therapy is that you don't need to go to art school. Anyone can take photos, and even short courses can improve your skills and add to your innate creative abilities. Here are some steps to take that will help make your photography more therapeutic:

World through the lens

Looking at the world as a photographer - constantly looking for the perfect shot to capture - allows you to view the world in a more objective and thoughtful manner. Start seeing art in the ordinary sights around you. Look at a scene and imagine describing it in detail, like the soft streams of orange light coming in through the window. Finding meaning and beauty in the world around you can be a vital first step in healing.

Search for specifics

Choose a colour or a shape that appeals to you, and then search for that colour or shape in your surroundings. Finding a splash of red or a circular window can lead to interesting and eclectic snaps, and it helps keep you occupied and offers a great distraction when your worries threaten to become overwhelming. Surrounding yourself with your own art can help you feel good and productive.

Get 'propped' up

Carrying an object with you - especially one that you find comforting or calming - and photographing it in different locations can give you fascinating pictures. The unexpectedness of the object in a new environment - in a park, or on some steps in an office - can lead to beautiful images. Taking different pictures of the object at different times of the day, in different lighting, and from different angles and perspectives can make for an interesting collection.

Not the end, but the means

The focus of these sessions shouldn't be the pictures you end up taking, but how the process of taking those pictures makes you feel. Ensure that you don't feel disappointed or upset at the pictures you take, but that you recognise that they are part of a process of healing and building you up. Make it a point to mentally record how you feel once you've clicked the button and taken the picture, and identify the emotions you connect with that particular picture.

Just pause

In moments of distress, anxiety can overcome your mind and leave you in a panic-stricken state. Closing your eyes, breathing deeply, and then picking up a camera and taking the first picture that appeals to you can be an incredibly useful way to push back against negative emotions. Doing this gives your mind space and time to recover long enough to react in a more measured fashion to whatever stresses are afflicting you at that point.

(The author is co-founder and CEO, Toehold)

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