It’s no secret that those who join the military are exposed to a great deal of stress during training and tours. When ignored, constant exposure to stress can snowball into something far more harmful, such as chronic health issues and mental health disorders. In fact, findings published in the journal Psychology and Aging reveal that military veterans are more likely to exhibit signs of depression and anxiety, especially those who were exposed to combat.
While nothing beats seeking advice from a therapist or counselor, creative hobbies can also enrich your life and reduce your stress. One great example you can try is photography. So, let’s discuss how photography can be a source of therapy and stress relief.
Photography induces a flow state
In positive psychology, a flow state of mind is when you feel total immersion and happiness in a particular activity. First introduced by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi to Western psychology, achieving a flow state is proven to relieve stress and boost your mood. Photography is one of those activities that can induce a flow state. If you fully immerse yourself in the craft, you can focus your mind on the things that bring light to your life and temporarily forget about your worries.
Photography helps you quiet your mind
Stress and anxiety can add to the noise in your mind and make it hard for you to focus on your day-to-day life. With photography, you can focus your mind on whatever’s in front of the viewfinder, effectively distracting you from whatever negative emotions and stressors that can trigger your anxiety. True enough, many organizations such as the Straz Center for Performing Arts and the Cincinnati Arts Association have been creating art therapy programs to help veterans heal from their emotional wounds. What’s more, you can use the momentary silence that you get when taking photos to view your experiences from different angles and gradually make peace with your trauma.
Photography allows you to appreciate the little things
Constant stress can make your life look bleak and dull. Through photography, you can take powerful photos that evoke positive emotions in you. Find subjects that make you happy — whether that’s your significant other or a pet — and take photos of them whenever you get the chance. In addition, learning photography also helps you appreciate the mundane and find beauty in everything — from natural sights to architectural wonders. By taking photos of subjects that trigger positive feelings in your mind, you can reduce your stress, uplift your mood, and become a happier person. Plus, you’ll have wonderful images to look back on when you need a boost in happiness.
How to get started with photography
Photography is a great hobby for creative army vets who want to help manage their stress and express themselves through art. Thankfully, it’s easy to get started with this hobby. For one, there’s a huge selection of photography resources online, from tips and tricks by Digital Photography School to beginner guides on YouTube. If you want something more structured and formal, you can enroll in beginner photography online courses that will even give you certifications upon completion.
You don’t need to have an expensive camera to start taking photos either, as there are several entry-level cameras that will let you take great quality photos. For example, you can get the compact but powerful Panasonic Lumix G100 for less than $600. What matters is that you start with a gadget that’s easy to use and can help you build your confidence as a photographer. Alternatively, you can start with your phone’s camera. Many mobile cameras like the Google Pixel 4a’s are just as capable of taking pristine shots that can compete with point-and-shoot cameras.
Taking up photography as a hobby can ease the stress of many veterans and help them adjust to civilian life. For more advice on how to cope with stress, do visit our post on tips to stay healthy when you are stressed.