Evidence 01

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Reading time: 5 minutes
Is there any evidence for the basis of this as an activity?

The term “Evidence Based” is bandied around so much in regards to mental health these days, so let’s leap on that bandwagon too!

It may be interesting for you to know that many mental health practices are actually based on outdated & incorrect information that is well over fifteen years old! The data which I present here is only a few years old & there is always much more coming to light in regards of the arts & the multitude of mental health benefits that it offers in so many ways.

ABSTRACT: This study examined the affective and cognitive benefits of taking photographs of one’s everyday surroundings. Thirty-eight undergraduate participants were randomly assigned to either take photographs in a mindful, creative way; take photographs in a neutral, factual way; or do a count-your-blessings writing exercise, an activity that is known to reliably increase mood. Planned contrasts revealed that those taking mindful, creative photographs were, on average, in a significantly better mood and were significantly more appreciative and motivated than those taking neutral photographs. There were no significant differences between either photography condition and the writing activity. These results suggest that, when done thoughtfully, photography can be an effective way of improving mood and appreciation of everyday life.

Jaime L. Kurtz

The results of Jaime L. Kurtz’ study indicate that photography when undertaken ‘Mindfully’ alters the operators mood substantially and for the better! Something that I and many other photographers can attest to having occurred in our lives.

To be Mindful in the creation of a photograph, one must establish what they want to capture, why they want to capture that, what they are trying to convey, how to frame it, what to focus upon, how much and which parts to have in focus throughout the scene, how it will be exposed, etc… Many things are decided upon when creating a photographic picture, and it is this deep level of focus and concentration in combination with an instinctive searching and observing of ones surroundings that leads one to the easy to access experience of Mindfulness in photography.

DISCUSSION: The present study had two primary aims. First, it sought to examine the affective impact of photography, both with a positive and a neutral emphasis. Second, it compared the effect of photography to that of an empirically-supported happiness-increasing strategy: counting one’s blessings in a writing exercise. Results revealed that those who were taking photographs while looking for meaning and beauty found the activity more pleasant and absorbing and also reported significantly higher mood and higher levels of appreciation and motivation than those who were asked to take more neutral, informative photographs. In other words, the way a person engages in photography seems critical.

Results suggest that both mindful photography and counting one’s blessings seem to be similarly effective at enhancing appreciation. One might argue that the photography exercise takes more time and effort than writing, which can be done anywhere, at any time. However, these results suggest otherwise. The mindful photo condition was not only rated as the most pleasant and absorbing activity, but was also the least challenging. While these results are not significant, they do suggest that those who were asked to take pictures were not particularly overburdened, and those in the mindful photo condition actually enjoyed the activity.

To my knowledge, this is the first study to examine the psychological benefits of photography. Future studies could further address questions of implementation. Positive interventions are more effective when a certain “fit” exists between the person and the activity, such that it feels authentic and enjoyable. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that not everyone would enjoy and benefit from mindful photography. In addition, the current manipulation was somewhat minimal, with participants taking three photographs of each topic, twice a week for two weeks. With the practically limitless memory capacity of digital cameras, a person hoping to implement this strategy could easily take these findings to the extreme, such that they are so busy taking photographs that they cease to be fully present in and appreciative of the moment. As with most happiness-increasing strategies, the appropriate “dosage” needs to be considered.

Jaime L. Kurtz

Very interesting observations were gathered from this study.

That Mindful Photography is as effective as counting one’s blessings in a writing exercise is quite the surprise! That both of these activities lead to increased appreciation is good news indeed. That Mindful Photography was also the easiest accessible and least challenging as compared to thankful writing was also a pleasant surprise.

I am glad that Jaime L. Kurtz wrote the warning that there can be too much of a good thing in the final paragraph. I have personally found that around the two hour mark is the magic time limit with photography when focusing intently through Mindfulness.

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There's More!

Evidence 03

A Psychologist shares insight into Mindful Photography

Evidence 02

A photographer reflects on their experiences of Mindfulness.