New study finds that taking one picture a day can have a pretty surprising health benefit
Back when photography was first invented, it was only the richest and fanciest members of society who got to enjoy it. Now, fast-forward almost two centuries, just about everyone is carrying a camera-equipped smartphone with them wherever they go. And, boy, do we know how to use them.
We take snaps of our pets, our kids, our friends; we upload shots of our food to Instagram and nights out to Facebook; and you can bet that, at any sort of festival or concert, the crowd will be lit up by a sea of phone screens. We still hold on to the most precious memories as we did in the old days, of course, by printing out our favourite pictures and using apps such as Popsa to create nifty little photo books - but the ease with which we can capture any moment means we have a lot to choose from.
As it turns out, though, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, as taking one picture every day can actually have a surprising health benefit.
In a study conducted by Lancaster University and the University of Sheffield, Dr. Liz Brewster and Dr. Andrew Cox monitored the behaviour of participants using a website that encouraged users to share one picture a day for two months.What they found was that taking a photo every day actually improved users' wellbeing by promoting self-care, community interaction, and a chance to reflect and reminisce on their activities.
"My job was a very highly stressful role... There were some days when I’d almost not stopped to breathe ... And just the thought: oh wait a moment, no, I’ll stop and take a photograph of this insect sitting on my computer or something," said one study participant. "Just taking a moment is very salutary I think."
Other participants noted that the conscious act of taking a photograph encouraged them to pursue new experiences and step out of their comfort zones.
"It encourages me out of the house sometimes when I could just sit on my backside with a cup of tea," another person commented. "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."
What's more, people who had been feeling a little low found that having so many pictures of their memories helped them to hold on to happier times. One participant noted:
"I’m ever feeling down or something it’s nice to be able to scroll back and see good memories. You know, the photos I’ve taken will have a positive memory attached to it even if it's anything as simple as I had a really lovely half an hour for lunch sitting outside and was feeling really relaxed."
There are plenty of other proven benefits to photography, too.
One study has shown that encouraging patients with dementia to interact with photographs can have an unprecedented impact on their cognitive ability. People who were usually unable to speak more than a few words were suddenly able to construct coherent sentences and talk for several minutes about certain subjects captured in photographs.
This "photographic treatment", as it is known, shows that pictures have an impact on the most fundamental regions of our brains, and that interacting with photos stimulates neural activity.
Similarly, a recent story concerning a four-year-old boy with autism indicated that photography helped him interact in a way that he couldn't previously. Again, this shows that - far from being a trivial activity - taking pictures can actually have a healthy and meaningful impact on a person's wellbeing.
As the new year approaches, then, why not make it your goal to take one special picture a day? Or, if you already have a lot of meaningful photos clogging up your phone, why not collate them using Popsa in order to share them with the people closest to you?
You never know, it could just make you that little bit happier.