Mindful Photography: What It Teaches Us About Appreciating Our Surroundings

mindful photography

Can photography teach us how to be more mindful and appreciative of our daily surroundings?

According to psychologists, “mindful photography” can be a healthy exercise to practice every now and then. The simple goal is to carry a camera (or a phone with a camera) for a whole day. Then throughout the day try to identify 5 different things you appreciate and take a picture of them.

The objects you choose to photograph can be anything: people, food, places, animals, nature, or a favorite book. The only thing that matters is that they represent something you appreciate in your life.

According to research (PDF), this “mindful photography” exercise has been shown to boost positive emotions and improve well-being. It helps you focus more on the positive things in your life, then take an actual step back to appreciate them by taking a moment to snap a photo.

Of course, we often take pictures of things we love and appreciate in the first place, so all photography can be considered a type of mindfulness exercise or gratitude exercise.

There have been multiple times when I’ve been in a really bad mood and I used photography as a therapeutic tool. I would just take a camera to a local park, or beach, or cemetery to find interesting things to take pictures of.

For me, photography was just a good reason to get out of the house, go exploring, and focus more on the things that were right in front of me.

Continue reading

Please Kick Me: How We Project “Weakness” and Risk Turning Ourselves Into Victims

kick me

When an evil and hurtful person chooses a victim, they are often looking for signs of weakness and vulnerability.

Of course this doesn’t justify their hurtful actions, but it can help us explain them and perhaps prevent them in the future.

To be clear, a victim never deserves the bad things that happen to them. If I happen to leave my car unlocked in a busy parking lot, that doesn’t mean I deserved to have my stuff stolen anymore than if I had my car locked.

The bad deed is always the responsibility of the bad actor. They chose their bad actions – it’s their fault that it happened, not yours. And it’s their guilt that they have to deal with.

However, one simple and uncomfortable truth is: bad people exist. They always will, even if they are a small minority of people. And if they see an opportunity to take advantage of someone, they are going to take it.

A car that is unlocked is more likely to be broken into than a car that is locked. It’s one less hurdle for the evil person to overcome to succeed at their bad deed. It’s a weakness – and some are willing to take advantage of it. That’s why car locks exist in the first place, right?

Evil and predatory people are constantly trying to scope out our weaknesses. In one interesting study, it was shown that street criminals can often choose their victims simply based on how they walk. If a person has a slouched posture, looks down at the ground, and walks sluggishly, a criminal is more likely to see that person as weak and submissive.

Often we aren’t even aware of these weaknesses when we are projecting them. And that can be a dangerous thing, because we don’t realize the ways we are making ourselves vulnerable.

Continue reading

Reframing Your Dark Side: Embracing Your Shadow Is Key to Genuine Mental Health

One of the major themes of this site is that “all emotions serve a valuable function in our lives.” This includes not just the positive, “feel good” aspects of our mind but also the negative, “feel bad” aspects of our mind.

So when I discovered this new psychology book called The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Embracing Your Whole Self Drives Success and Fulfillment, I knew I had to check it out and write about it here.

While psychologists Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener specialize in “Positive Psychology,” they also realize that being positive 100% of the time isn’t what a healthy mind is all about – plus it’s impossible to achieve even if you wanted to.

The simple truth is our minds have evolved to experience negative emotions because they are sometimes very adaptive. They help us navigate our lives in a smarter and more effective way.

This is why it’s often counterproductive to think of emotions as solely “positive” or “negative,” but instead to ask yourself, “Am I responding to this emotion in a constructive or destructive way?”

Because you might experience an intense negative emotion like fear, or anger, or guilt, but it can ultimately drive you to change your behavior and become a better person at the end of the day.

How you respond to your emotions is more important than the specific content of your emotions – and that’s what true “emotional intelligence” is about.

Continue reading

More Than Love at First Sight: We Grow to Love People for Their Quirks

love at first sight

One of the oldest questions in psychology is, “What causes two people to fall in love?”

In general, there are many different factors that can influence whether or not we are attracted to someone, but social psychologists and evolutionary psychologists have discovered some of the key reasons.

Physical attractiveness is one of the most obvious factors. We tend to like those who we find good-looking. For example many studies have shown that “facial symmetry” is often a strong indicator of universal attractiveness, because it signals that a person is healthy and has good genes. Other important physical attributes include height, weight, and body shape.

Another important factor is the “similarity attraction effect,” which states that we are often attracted to those who are similar to us in some way. This can include similarities in hobbies, interests, cultural background, ethnicity, religion, politics, socioeconomic status, and physical appearance (which is why many couples can often look similar to one another).

When we think about “love at first sight,” it is often influenced by these snap judgments of a person based on these characteristics. It happens quickly. We don’t think about it rationally or consciously, we just see a person and feel a certain way about them automatically.

“Love at first sight” isn’t in our control – it’s a spark that happens instantly. It’s an intuitive, gut reaction that happens below the surface of our awareness.

However, what most people (especially young adults) don’t understand about love is that this initial spark of attraction never lasts forever.

If you spend your whole life chasing that “love at first sight” feeling and then trying to keep that initial spark alive forever, you’ll often find yourself disappointed when that spark eventually wears off and you need to find something with more substance.

Continue reading

Why Asking “What’s My Duty?” Is More Important Than “What’s My Passion?”


When you first become interested in learning more about “happiness” or “success,” it’s easy to fall for the whole “follow your passion” mantra that has become so popular these days.

“Discover your passion. Do what you love. Follow your dreams.”

Everyone seems to repeat these clichés in one form or another. We share inspirational quotes on social media like Facebook and Twitter, especially many teenagers and young adults who grow up telling themselves, “I’ll just do what I really want to in my life (and screw everyone else).”

To be honest, these ideas have always resonated with me to some degree. A part of it is my rebellious nature and willingness to break norms in society. Another part of it is I’ve always been interested in “big ideas” and achieving “big things” with my life.

These sentiments have their value. However, over time I’ve become less obsessed with the idea of “following your passion,” and I definitely don’t think it’s something everyone needs to do to be happy or live a satisfying life.

For many, the idea of “following your passion” is just not realistic or practical.

People have jobs, families, and bills to pay – obviously they can’t just drop everything on a whim and follow their newfound interest in fencing, or painting, or coin-collecting, or whatever. As you get older, “follow your passion” becomes less and less useful advice.

Instead of asking, “What’s my passion?” – a much better question to ask yourself is, “What’s my duty?”

Continue reading