Alton P. Hobbs Jr., consultant, and amateur photographer has firsthand experience with the benefits photography can have for your mental health. It’s a creative outlet, a way to express yourself, and an exercise in building your confidence and self-esteem, says Hobbs. When learned and practiced mindfully, photography can help you build a whole new perspective.
While you can certainly take photos in the comfort of your own home, that’s a familiar landscape that starts to get boring fast, says Alton P. Hobbs Jr.. As you learn how different frame rates, lighting, and camera settings can influence and improve your photos, you start itching to test them out somewhere else.
You start seeking out new settings – the zoo, the woods, a field, a little alleyway, or an empty street – places you likely would never have seen or sought out without the impetus of a camera. And as you walk or drive and look for these new scenes to shoot, your mind is watching the world around you with a more critical and artistic eye. You don’t just see dirty sidewalks, you see interesting patterns and lighting. Instead of a tree, you see how the light filters through the leaves. “It gives you a new appreciation for the world, and it lets you escape the constant ‘me, me, me’ of your thoughts,” says Alton P. Hobbs Jr.
As you’re walking in all these new places, you receive serotonin from the new experiences, and the exercise releases dopamine. Both of these feel-good chemicals create a sense of well-being and combat the symptoms of anxiety and depression. This suppresses the production of stress hormones like cortisol which can make you feel tired, drained, and encourage oversleeping and overeating.
Photography is also a creative outlet that allows you to play, says Alton P. Hobbs Jr. Different angles, new light, silly subject matter…you get to decide what feels good and looks good when you’re the one taking the pictures. It’s an expression of self and a chance to feel the simple, child-like joy of playing for the fun of it. Something that’s missing in most of our day-to-day lives.
Try different genres, different locations, different times and lighting situations, different subject matter… all that new will inspire more creativity and allow you to experience the thrill of discovery and self-expression that comes with creating art.