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How to ground yourself with a Mindful Photography Walk

Fancy trying out some mindful photography? You're in the right place. I hope this guide will help you to make the most of your walks, wellbeing and taking photographs of things that you've never noticed before.


According to the NHS , studies show that mindfulness can help with anxiety, stress and depression. They also state that; "reminding yourself to take notice of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and the world around you is the first steps to mindfulness".


"Mindfulness-based therapies are recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)"

NHS 2023


Mindful photography in short is taking notice of the world around you. To take notice and to really see those little glimmers of magic, whether it be noticing droplets of rain on leaves, the warm sun on your face or listening to the birds singing from the tree tops.


Most people use their camera phone when taking pictures, and some may feel they need time away from their phone whilst going on a walk to clear their head. If thats the case, simply but your phone in aeroplane mode so you cant be distracted by emails, texts or calls.


Practicing mindfulness takes time. The pressure of trying to do doing everything l talk about below could seem a bit overwhelming. So if you're doing this for the first time, keep your camera in your pocket and take the pressure off by just practicing being mindful. The more you practice, the easier it gets.


The really important bit.

This isn't a photography class. We aren't learning how to take eye catching, beautiful photographs. We are using photography as a medium to help ground ourselves and be in the present moment. I'm a portrait photographer, so photographing landscapes felt a bit daunting to me at first. But then one day I realised that these photographs were just for me, not the Tate Gallery, so what does it matter what they look like? Your photographs are for you, see them as your very own visual journal. They are a reflection of that particular day, the memories they hold, how we felt and how we feel when we look back at them.


Walking

As well as boosting your physical health walking can also help boost your mood. Walking can also ease stress and lessen anxiety.


Why take photographs?

I used to find it quite hard to concentrate on trying to be mindful, because I found it hard to switch off; that little voice in my head often becomes more of a big one when I start to try to clear my head and concentrate on my surroundings. So I used the camera as an additional tool to help quieten my mind. When I'm looking for things to photograph, I'm grounding myself without even realising it. Because I'm using all my senses to find things around me that catch my eye.


Fields of Gold 2022


One day in spring last year I drove past this beautiful field of flowers and knew instantly I needed to go back and photograph them. There was something about it that I felt instantly drawn to. It was mid-afternoon a few days later when I drove back over with my camera. Once these crops are in full bloom there isn't much time to photograph them, so I knew I had to get back there sooner rather than later.


The field is on a country lane in Cheshire and is surrounded by other fields. As I headed towards it, the first thing that I noticed was how quiet it was. That day had been beautiful and sunny, and now the sun was slowly starting to set. The natural light made everything feel soft and warm. There were blue, white and subtle pink tones in the sky. The field has a path that leads round it that you can walk around, but on this day I decided to just stand quietly and take in everything that was happening around me. There is a little path that takes you to a point where you are surrounded by the crops, I have no idea how long I stood there for, watching the plants dance in the soft breeze, listening to the odd car drive by, birds flying overhead chirping, singing to their hearts content. I felt so calm, mesmerised by the dancing yellow flowers. The warm gentle breeze wrapped itself around me as I started to photograph.


If yellow is the colour of happiness, then this field confirmed this to be true. That day I wanted to take a photograph that encapsulated everything I was feeling whilst standing in that field. I knelt down slightly to take the pictures, so I was completely surrounded by the yellow flowers. I wanted to create a photograph that projected a feeling of comfort, protection, warmth and stillness. A sign that the cold winter months are finally behind us, as the summer months dance their way towards to us.



How to get started on your own mindful photography walk.


Find a safe, familiar place to walk. You don't have to go walking up mountains or find the most beautiful spot in England. It's amazing what you'll find right on your doorstep! Remember this is not a photography challenge. You could even take a walk around your garden. When you leave the house/car give yourself as long as you need to relax, then when you're ready, start to concentrate on your breathing. You don't need to start with deep breaths, breathing in your nose and out your mouth or anything like that. Simply just be aware of your breathing, chest movements, and how the air feels when you breathe it in and out.


Next is where we tap into our senses. Even when Im walking I used to find that my brain would run at 100mph. "This needs doing", or, "oh don't forget you've got to put that in your diary", "I wonder what to have for dinner" etc. Remember that this time is for you, to switch off from all of those daily thoughts, (it's really difficult, I know, but with practice it does get easier) and just relax.


Blossoms in the Garden, taken in late spring 2022


The senses


As you probably already know, our 5 senses are Sight, Sound, Touch, Taste and Feel.


Here's are some tips on how to tap into those senses that will help you to become aware of everything thats around you. Its time to come out of your mind, and into your body.


So we've started with breathing, a nice steady breath, feeling relaxed as we walk. The next thing is to listen.


Sound

Listen to all the sounds around you, birds singing, dogs, barking. You may hear people laughing or talking. Maybe it's your footsteps as you walk. Crunching leaves under your feet? Make a mental note of everything you hear. If your mind starts wandering back to those 'I've got to do' thoughts, thats okay, just gently bring it back to the task at hand.


Sight

An easy one I hear you say. But, I don't want you to just look at what's in front of you...I want you to really see. If it's a sunny day, look for the light bouncing off the leaves on the trees, the shadows it creates on buildings, or if youre in the forest how it illiminates parts of the trees and how the shadows hide others. Look at the colours, greens, browns. As it's now coming into Spring, have you noticed any spring flowers starting to peep though?


Touch

What can you feel? This could be the wind through your hair, if it's a windy day you may feel the cold on your face or in your ears.(Time to put a hat on). The clothes on your skin, how do they feel on you as you walk? You may even feel some aches as you tap into your body. Crunch an old leaf up in your hand, how does it feel? If you're feeling brave, run your hand down a tree bark, is it smooth? Bumpy? Think about how long it's stood there for, what it's seen, experienced in its life.


Light and shadows in the forest


Look at the different shades of greens on the trees, the shapes of the leaves. Are there any birds around? What are they doing? Look at any cloud formations. What do you see? The more you look, the more you'll find. How do the plants move in the wind?


It's like being let in on a secret that was always been staring right at you, you just never saw it. Stop from time to time and look closely at the flowers, have you noticed any bees yet?


Busy Bee in Spring


Taste

What can you taste? You may have a drink or snack in hand, or it may be the faint taste of toothpaste after you cleaned your teeth in the morning. Chewing gum? How does it taste in your mouth? Maybe walking with a flask of coffee is part of your walk. When I walk up hills, part of my ritual is to take a flask of coffee for when we reach the top. To sit and take in the beautiful views with a coffee is the best thing ever.


Smell

What can you smell? The washing powder from your clothes, your perfume, the crisp air? Maybe a farmer has been muck spreading and the air smells like you want to turn round and go home?!


Using all these senses, one at a time will help you to really home-in on what is around you.


It may feel like a lot whilst you're reading, but to condense it down, just remember the 5 senses:


Sight

Sound

Taste

Smell

Touch


By concentrating all these things you are becoming aware of yourself in the present moment. You're clearing your mind of all the daily chatter and going into your body. Becoming grounded. Take a deep breath if you need to, or even take a few! Once you become aware of your surroundings you'll see things you've never noticed before, and thats when the bonus feature comes in...taking the photographs. Capturing what you see, hear, touch, feel and taste.


You may walk past a lake and notice how the light sparkles on the water. You may notice spring leaves and flowers coming into bloom. You may notice your coffee cup as you walk, and think about how that coffee plays an essential part of your daily routine. It may be dogs chasing each other in the sun. Whatever you see that resonates with you, photograph it.


Wildflowers by the roadside. Taken in early spring 2022


Slow down

We live in an age where almost everything we do is instant, Online shopping is completed in a click of a button. Ordering a film or takeaway? Click. Digital cameras are great, but it's so easy to become snap happy as I like to refer it as. Mindfulness is about slowing down, taking our time and enjoying the present moment. You don't need to take 500 photographs whilst you're out on your walk. You could try limiting yourself to 5 taking photographs, or look for a theme whilst you're out walking. This could be specific colours, shapes, animals or flowers. Or, simply just photograph the things you've never noticed before.


Peek-a-boo!


Lastly, and most importantly, enjoy this time. Look back at your photographs and remind yourself of what you captured. How it makes you feel, what resonates with you when you look back at them and how felt when you took them.


If you would like to find out more about mindful photography, or tried it yourself after reading this blog let me know! Id love to hear if it helped you, and what photographs you captured. Send your story to nicolapass@icloud.com


Want to find out a bit more about mindfulness and mental wellbeing? Click on the links below.


NHS - Mindfulness:


Get your free mind plan:


5 Steps to Mental Wellbeing:



Thanks for stopping by,


NP x





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