Updated: Jul 19
By Dr. Phang Cheng Kar (M.D.).
Mindfulness practice can be simple and fun. One of the ways is through Mindful Photography, whereby we cultivate mindful and curious attention while taking photos. A recent scientific study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Diehl, Zauberman, & Barasch, 2016) shows that taking photos can enhance positive experience as it increases engagement.
The Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has recently developed and tested a 5-week mindful photography curriculum for school teachers and students.
Based on the feedback from the participants, mindful photography is an engaging and useful way to cultivate mindfulness and positive emotions.
How to apply mindfulness in photography for happiness?
1. Slow down and smell the roses.
When we're not in a hurry, we'll notice more the beauty of the present moment experience. Happiness can be accessed right here, right now; only if we can slow down and appreciate the things around us with a 'stroboscopic effect.'
2. Silent distraction and calm the mind. When we're in distress, we don't see things clearly. Even if we do, things usually appear unpleasant or annoying. Try to calm the mind, for example, by taking several slow, deep, and mindful breaths. You might want to try the mind-in-a-jar method to calm the mind. With a calm mind, beauty naturally unfolds here-and-now.
3. Experience the world with a child-like curiosity (beginner's mind).
As you're taking photos, try to be playful, curious, and excited like a child. See if you can communicate playfully with the objects, "Hi Flower, smile and say 'peace.' Post for me, please. Thank You." Relate to the objects with an attitude of M.I.Y.A.O.W. (Mmmh, Interesting, Yes, Aahhh, Ohhh, Wow) to generate a sense of curiosity.
Sometimes, by not giving a name to an object (e.g., flower), it's more fun. We get to silent the mind from preconceived ideas of a flower, and fully experience it as a flower. Shiiiiii...When we connect to the present moment in this way, ordinary things become much more interesting - extraordinary.
4. Smile to and appreciate what you intend to capture with your camera. Our moment with the object is a unique experience. There will not be another moment with the same feeling; even it's with the same object. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Make love to the present moment with gratitude and a sense of impermanence. It's an impermanent moment, and that makes it more precious. Smile and cherish the moment.
5. Scan for thoughts, memories, and feelings that arise with the images.
As you're capturing the images, take in the positive and let go the negative. Learn from the negative experience and let them go like clouds passing through the sky. Focus on the positive experience and immerse yourself in the positive feeling. Be uplifted by the positive energy and spread the positivity by sharing the photos with your friends.
6. Savor and reminisce the positive memories and feelings associated with the photos. Don't just take and keep the images; look at and feel them repeatedly. Store them in a place that is easily accessible, e.g., Instagram with #mindfulgymphoto. When we're feeling depressed, we can look at the images to remind ourselves of the blessings in our lives, to feel better. A happy photo can help to trigger the memories of other positive experience. That's how we recycle, amplify, and prolong the happy moments in life, captured in the mindful photos.
7. Share the photos with a positive and meaningful message.
When we tag the pictures with something inspiring to share with others, we're watering the good seeds in ourselves and others. We touch people's lives, and the world is a better place to live. Every moment, in every way, we become healthier and happier, through the practice of Mindful Photography. Yeahoo.
Smile - Say "Peace," "PC," or "Pizza."