- This article is part of our coverage for Mental Health Awareness Week 2023
Last year I bought a compact camera for £900 instead of the latest iPhone and wrote about why I love the camera. Since, at the time of writing, this week is Mental Health Awareness Week, I want to unpack one of the reasons I made that choice – focusing on creativity.
A smartphone can take great photos – even my aging Google Pixel that I still haven’t replaced is a great camera – but there’s something more important than technical ability and the quality of the photos you make , and that’s the effect of creativity on your mental health.
It is widely researched and recognized as such Excessive smartphone use has a negative impact on mental health (opens in new tab)and that’s the opposite practicing creativity can give your mental health a big boost (opens in new tab). It’s worth recognizing that while being creative and being in nature won’t completely cure debilitating mental health conditions, it can provide some much-needed benefits in boosting mood and relieving mild to moderate symptoms. .
But where does using your phone’s camera as a creative tool fit into this image? Let’s take a walk to find out.
Phone, check. Camera, check. Key, check. And I was out the door for a walk in the local area and in the woods not far from my house. I try to get away from the computer and focus myself on nature, and even more, take some photos along the way.
Go outside, take it easy, enjoy the details. These are positive steps for me energy level and mental health (opens in new tab). Soon my surroundings encouraged me to stop, pick up the camera and make a picture. A tree hangs over the edge, framing a field with sheep lazily chewing their cud.
It feels good to use the camera, to breathe in the world around me.
Then I felt the vibration in my pocket. Is it a WhatsApp message? I took a quick look – just a news alert – and put the phone away.
But then I thought how great it would be to take this photo with my phone. Add it to an Instagram story. And so the phone returned.
Honestly, the phone probably did a good job of capturing this particular scene as my proper camera – certainly for viewing on a smartphone, anyway – probably better, in fact, in processing which is automatically applied to the acquisition.
However, any peace I had just drained away. I’m wired, connected. My calendar, messages, news alerts, and Facebook and Instagram notifications are all there in my pocket. And if I’m honest, I started tracking this walk on Strava, well, just because.
I grew up without a phone, got my first at 19 (while slightly jealous of my friend who had a shiny Nokia 3310), and now I can’t remember life without one. My phone is always there. And that vibration is a reminder that I’m connected to something. Serotonin used to come from other sources than phone vibration.
I’m back home, breathing fresh air, thousands of steps, and many photos later. The time is OK. Much better than a dropped-crumbs-on-a-keyboard kind of lunch, but I guess there’s more to eat.
Leave your phone behind
It’s noon again, and it’s buzzing outside. Camera, check. Key, check. Phone…yes it will come along for the ride too, but this time in airplane mode.
I walk the same way. No vibration, and I’m enjoying it. I use the camera to take pictures, and I use the phone to do the same. However, there is no uploading of stories, and no notifications. But somehow, there’s still a feeling that I don’t want every time I use the phone to take a snap. What is this?
I decided whether airplane mode was active or not, the very presence of my phone had a negative effect on my mood. This is what it represents; productivity, connectivity, and flooding. Even in silence it was there shouting “Hey look at me!”
Next time, I’ll leave the phone behind.
Focus on creativity
Camera, check. Key, check. This time, the phone was left on the side.
I followed the same walking route as last time, but what follows can only be described as a burst of creativity, and a longer-lasting boost to my mood. It sure feels good to get out, create with a camera, connect with my surroundings and nurture my creative eye.
I can also take good pictures with my phone, but it represents so much more. When I pull out a camera, there’s only one thing to do: create. And that is its beauty, its limited and focused beauty. That is why a dedicated camera cannot be replaced by a phone.
I have combined my years of experience in this article to make a point.
You may or may not label yourself as creative, but everyone creates, we just use different tools. For photography, I encourage your tool to be a dedicated camera – if you don’t own one we’ve put together best cameras for beginners – instead of a phone.
And don’t just turn off your phone, leave it and walk out the door.
We’re covering Mental Health Awareness Week on TechRadar. You can visit Mental Health Awareness Week 2023 in the UK or Mental Health America in the US to learn more and discover where you can find mental health support.