Mindful photography: a great way to improve your workplace wellbeing

Sounds a bit random doesn’t it? Mindful photography? And workplace wellbeing? How on earth can one impact the other?!

Well that’s what I’m going to show you.

But first…

What is mindfulness?

According to mindful.org it is: “The basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

And I don’t know about you but I’m all for less overwhelm. It’s one of the things that seems to blight us all when it comes to work.

And how does mindful photography help?

Well, it’s simply one way to be mindful and reduce your overwhelm. A tool in your box if you like.

Last year I went on a mindful photography retreat at Launde Abbey. And by fully immersing myself in this creative activity, with no pressure to perform, I returned to work feeling refreshed and refocused.

And you don’t need a full blown retreat to do it. Just take whatever camera you have, wherever you are and take some pictures.

Here’s how you can do it…

Focus completely on the photography

Firstly aim to focus completely on what you’re doing. That could be the mechanics of taking a photograph (e.g. what buttons to press, what settings to use), composing your picture (e.g. choosing your subject, how you want to frame it) or purely noticing what’s going on around you in more detail than normal and finding new things to photograph. Whatever you choose to focus on, if you’re totally engaged with it you’ll find everything else drifts away. Life hassles and work worries – what are they?!

Easier said than done, right?

But if you make a conscious decision to focus on your photography this will help massively. When your thoughts return to something you’d rather forget, just accept it’s happened and try not to judge yourself. Don’t beat yourself up about it because you’ll only feel worse. And the more you learn to refocus on what you’re doing in the moment, the less your thoughts will wander.

So, how do you refocus?

Use all your senses to immerse yourself in the process

At Launde, we were encouraged to slow down so we’d notice more. To use all our senses to engage with the world around us. And believe me, when you do this on purpose there’s a lot to see.

Here’s my experience of sitting with the bees…

As I ambled slowly past the pond a patch of purple-blue flowers caught my eye. And in the quiet afternoon the buzzing of the bees was all I could hear as I made myself comfortable on the grass. I was mesmerised by their fluffy bodies bumbling lazily from bloom to bloom, gorging on the sweet nectar. And I couldn’t take my eyes away. Even to press the button on my camera!

But so what? I’d successfully distanced myself from everything but the sounds, sights, and smells of the moment. I enjoyed the feel of the summer breeze as it danced across my face, the sound of humming intermingled with softly swishing reeds by the pond and the occasional plash of a fish jumping in the water. The heady scent of freshly cut grass where I sat swept through my nostrils – fragrant on that very warm day.   

When I remembered my camera I was able to get in so close with the zoom. And I could see individual hairs on the bees, grains of pollen on their legs ready to fertilise next year’s flowers. Wow! Nature was doing it’s thing and I could see it all. Not just on a TV screen or even in my imagination. But right there! In front of my nose!

Thoughts of normal life and work had vanished. I was free!

You can do mindful photography anywhere, with any camera

To get going with mindful photography you must be purposeful and allocate time for it. But then just grab whatever camera you have and go wherever you want. Although I recommend getting outside if you can – because being in nature is good for you and will help boost your productivity when you’re back at work.

And you don’t need to be a good photographer either – it’s all about the process, not the resulting pictures. The point is to enjoy what you’re doing and have a break from the rest of life. The feel-good factor you’ll get from being totally absorbed in the activity is incredibly freeing. And without the pressure to perform you’ll find your worries float away – so you’ll return to work feeling refreshed.

What are you waiting for? Happy snapping 😊

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