THE BLOG

Take a Picture, It'll Last Longer

08/10/2013 08:59 EDT | Updated 10/10/2013 05:12 EDT

PROJECT Dianna I have always been a people watcher.  As a young child, visiting the city from Northern Manitoba, some of my strong positive memories are from riding the City Bus on the way down town to go to the dentist.  Okay, the dentist was not the "positive" part of the day at all; but people watching was.  I marveled at all the different-looking people, I made up stories about their lives and about how they were feeling, and I am pretty sure I was in a full-on stare from time to time.

If you are at all like me -- and at times have inadvertently stared at someone else -- you likely heard the remark "Take A Picture, It'll Last Longer."  It's pretty common in the early teen demographic (or at least it was when I was young).  Maybe you even said it yourself, in an attempt to point out to someone else that their eyes were lingering just a little too long.

Well, guess what! That experience and saying now has a whole new -- and positive -- connotation.  Rather than being a flippant/defensive/aggressive remark about stopping a behavior, the field of Positive Psychology is giving it a whole new "positive" meaning.

According to Susan Scutti of Medical Daily, taking a picture can increase your wellness, positivity, and overall mental health. "Although any experience of truly seeing requires an awareness of the present moment in which we forget ourselves, mindful photography suggests letting go of goals, expectations, techniques, and anxieties in order to more fully experience life.  Mindful photography is a state of awareness that allows you to focus on the photographic process, not just pushing the shutter button. The researchers believe mindful photography fits naturally into lessons on gratitude and happiness-increasing strategies..."

Last year I started taking pictures of people at their workplace.  The photos I have collected are of people who smile, who offer great service, and who seem to be completely engaged (happy) in their work.  I wanted to notice this, and I have.  What's interesting is, others have noticed too.  Above is a photo of Dianna.  She works at the Sobey's store in my neighbourhood.  Dianna is super-friendly, constantly wears a smile, and extends a kind word or gesture to her customers whenever she can.  

When I asked her permission, I told Dianna that I was taking photos of happy people at work, and that I'd show them in my presentations and share them in my blog.  She was thrilled and said she was happy to pose.  Since I took this picture, I notice Dianna more...and she also seems to have a little more 'spring' in her step as she goes about her work.  I think we have both benefited form this small photograph.  Take a picture, it'll last longer.

In her July 16 post, Scutti continues: "In all variations of mindful photography, the researchers suggest that participants emphasize thinking about the things in life that bring happiness or joy as they take photographs of their everyday life. As the activity of mindful photography is designed to focus specifically on positive emotions, it is also unconstrained, with participants finding their own subject matter.

To support their conclusions, the researchers cited studies that found those who reminisce about positive emotional experiences report increases in the percent of time they felt happy. As the activity of mindful photography is all about lingering over the beauty in life, it naturally encourages a person to reminisce and savor the positives in their experience."

I was moved recently by a video I saw by Soul Pancake.  It was about gratitude, long established as the quickest route to increasing happiness.  Although it is not about taking photos, it is about reminiscing, lingering and savoring what's good in your life. Check it out.

So, what do you want to focus on?  What do you want to 'last longer'?  What brings positive emotion to you?  Then, start taking photos.  You might even be interested in a 365 Project and document a year in your life by taking a photo every day.  When you google 'take a photo a day' you'll get a huge assortment of examples.   Stephanie Staples  of Your Life Unlimited started looking for Love Everywhere in this project started almost a year ago.  She readily admits it has changed her life for the better.  (And, undoubtedly other lives too.)  What project comes to mind for you?  Get started today.

As always, I love to hear from you.  If you take a photo of an awesome person 'at work', send it my way (tell them what the purpose is...you might just inspire them to start their own project).  Having their first name and the name of where they work will help me to share it meaningfully.  And, when you start your own project, let me know and I'll share it here.