Cotswold Mindful Photography

Last month was Men’s Mental Health Awareness month and I wanted to do something for the male friends in my life, that didn’t involve me growing a moustache! So I decided I would invite them out for a 1:1 Photography for Wellbeing Walk. Photography for Wellbeing is my passion, so it has been wonderful to share it with others. They each really enjoyed our outings (even in the rain!). 

As if this year hasn’t been difficult enough, as humans, we are already predisposed to think negatively to varying degrees but this isn’t necessarily our fault. If we strolled around admiring the scenery back in our hunter gatherer days, we would have most probably been eaten by a sabre toothed tiger! 

Our brains are designed to look for the negatives so that we can react in times of danger. The Amygdala (lizard brain), the oldest part of the brain, is responsible for our fight, flight or freeze response. This response raises our heart rate, blood pressure, and puts us on high alert ready for action. Trouble is, we no longer live on the plains of the Serengeti, where we needed cortisol and adrenaline to help us escape from sabre toothed tigers. However, we are still having the same fight, flight, freeze response when we are triggered by stress in our busy, hectic lives.

Photography for Wellbeing is just one tool that can really help us restore balance to help keep this negativity bias in check.

How does it work? 

The camera acts as a tool to set our intention to pay attention. To drop out of autopilot and become present to the world around us. 

There is a space for curiosity that exists within all of us. When we become curious about our surroundings, without trying to change it, interesting things happen. We notice things we don’t usually notice. We get inspired (or even a bit excited!) and find ourselves appreciating things that we maybe had never noticed before. 

This week I held a 2 hour Photography for Wellbeing Walk in Cheltenham. After we’d made our acquintances at our pre-arranged spot next to the Hare and Minatour, my companion, armed with her mobile phone camera, old me how she’d been looking around and wondering what on earth there was to see in Cheltenham – mainly due to the fact that she usually preferred to spend time in nature. I was so looking forward to showing her this familiar town, in a completely new way.

We started with a short grounding practice to help us leave behind the days ‘luggage’ and drop into the present moment. After we’d prepared for the morning’s activities, we headed off towards the High Street. 

Well I have to tell you, don’t expect two people on a Photography Walk for Wellbeing to get anywhere fast! Before we’d moved even a few metres, my companion had already spotted something that she was curious to explore further. We even had a few people stopping and looking at what we were looking at. They smiled, we smiled and pointed and it was fun to share our experiences.

On our Photography for Wellbeing morning, we shared some of the fundamental ingredients that make humans happy. Connection, joy, curiosity, warm-heartedness and laughter, all whilst living in the present moment if just for a while. If you could bottle it – you’d be very rich! These wonderful parts of our human experience can be cultivated and enhanced through practices such as Photography for Wellbeing and other Mindfulness Practices.

To find beauty, even in the mundane – is a powerful skill. 

There is clarity in seeing what others can’t see. There is peace in finding grace and harmony in places others overlook. Part of this practice helps cultivate feelings of wellbeing and waking up and living in harmony with ourselves and the world around us.

Sandra Harper

Cotswold Mindfulness 

MindfulnessUK Accredited Teacher.

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