Daily photos can improve well-being with community interaction, self-care and ‘the potential for reminiscence,’ a recent study found
Feel better in a snap.
Taking a daily photo and posting it online can boost well-being, according to a recent study from the U.K.’s Lancaster University and University of Sheffield. This improvement in well-being comes from community interaction, self-care and “the potential for reminiscence,” the study authors wrote in the journal Health.
“Taking a photograph links with other offline activities, such as walking and observing, that encourage a mindful engagement with the world,” added researchers Liz Brewster and Andrew Cox.
The authors decided to look into photo-a-day as a “digital daily practice” — i.e., performing a daily task and sharing it with an online community of folks doing the same, as with a 365-day photo project or the National Novel Writing Month challenge — and see how people might use it to increase their well-being. (“Well-being” was broadly defined here as a “conceptual tool that highlights what is understood by the individual … in relation to their social context, experiences and functioning.”)
Using interviews, observations and descriptive statistics, the researchers studied eight participants ranging in age from about 20 to 60 — documenting what photos they took, the text they added and how they interacted with the photo-a-day website cohort over two months. Participants also gave a phone interview afterward.
Photo-a-day was renewing and refreshing and served as self-care, the study found; participants got more exercise, engaged with their environment and derived “a sense of purpose, competence and achievement.”
“It’s really good to be able to take that five minutes every day to do something slightly creative, which I enjoy doing and I think is good for well-being. It’s positive in that it gives me something to look for,” Participant No. 1 said. “I think that’s very good for someone’s well-being.”
“(My job) was a very highly stressful role … Oh, God. There were some days when I’d almost not stopped to breathe, you know what I mean,” added Participant No. 5. “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. Just taking a moment is very salutary I think.”
The exercise also fostered community-building — helping participants cope with loneliness, connect with friends and family and meet new people. One recently retired participant even found it helped replace some of “banter” they missed from the workplace.
“You have that experience of sharing your day with other people and hearing other people’s news,” Participant No. 2 said. “When you’re not doing that anymore either you’re retired or you’re working in a solitary environment then you don’t have that experience. And perhaps (photo-a-day) offers that … Because I’m having conversations with people that I would perhaps have had in the workplace.”
Participants also found well-being benefits in “reminiscence and reflection,” the authors said, with one writing that it helped him reflect on a personal crisis.
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