5 Ways Taking Selfies Has Improved My Mental Health
I recently got a new phone. I finally jumped ship from Apple and landed on the OnePlus 7T (I’m shamelessly plugging this phone because it’s easily the best phone I’ve ever had and costs roughly $400 less than the newest iPhone and Samsung Galaxy). The deciding factor was the reviews on the 7T’s camera. I don’t know enough about technology to list specific features (that’s not where I’m going with this anyway), so you’ll have to Google that if you’re interested.
Anyway, I was so enthralled with my camera upgrade, I decided to snap a couple of photos of myself (I am a Leo after all). Inspired by the different settings on the phone, I felt that a quick front-facing selfie of the upper half of my body wasn’t enough, so I invested in a small portable tripod and snapped some full-body photos (something I’ve actively avoided for years). As one does, I slapped these bad boys up on social media. This, in turn, established an almost daily ritual of taking a new, unique selfie. With what originally started as a small project to help me become more acclimated with my camera, became a daily occurrence in establishing the “tone” my day will take. With what started as a vanity project, I accidentally found an effective tool in self-care and self-awareness. Overall, this experience has helped soothe my anxiety about my self-image and the way I present myself to society. Here are a few reasons why I love this.
1. It’s a daily ritual that helps familiarize you with the concept of routine.
Whether your affliction is a severe mood disorder or some fairly mild anxiety, I believe a commitment to routine is the first step in maintaining a healthier grasp on your mental health. Establishing a routine is a crucial step in learning how to self-soothe. Self-soothing is direly important because we can’t count on our loved ones to always be present or able to support us. One of the goals I originally had in taking a daily picture was to increase my Instagram following, so I could better promote my work with Girl Precarious. This meant I had to commit to creating content every day or every other day. The routine of waking up, slapping on some makeup and picking a fun outfit to photograph myself in has become a daily routine I can rely on, no matter what else is going on in my life (or my head). This brings me to my next point …
2. It gets you up and out of bed.
I recognize not everyone will have a purpose (or interest) in taking a daily photo, but it has served as an obligation I must complete every day. Even if I don’t feel like getting out of bed (due to laziness or the approach of a genuine depressive episode), I tend to feel a little better after I’ve put some makeup on. After I take some photos and pick the one I like, I feel better about myself overall. Typically, getting this out of the way early in the day leaves me dressed, made up and ready to accomplish whatever else needs my attention.
I know that this sounds a little like I’m saying “just get up,” and that is rarely a helpful response to depression. But by establishing a daily goal or obligation, it becomes that much easier. For me, it’s taking a selfie. For someone else, it might be walking their dog or watering their plants. The point is, establish those obligations when you’re feeling good, and it will help hold you accountable when you aren’t feeling so great.
3. Taking a photo every day is a valuable creative outlet.
Since establishing this routine, I’ve had to actively avoid taking virtually the same picture over and over again. This has manifested in making more creative decisions with what I’m wearing. I also can’t take a picture in front of the same hedge or tree everyday, so it’s helped me adventure out into my neighborhood in search of more appealing backgrounds. I’ve learned how to switch up my facial expressions and body language as well, which doesn’t just produce more interesting photos, but has genuinely helped me come to terms with my body type. Through this project, I’ve achieved a newfound appreciation for the shape of my body and face. As someone who has struggled with severely dysmorphic thoughts in the past, this has been a wildly helpful tool in finding and accepting my own beauty. Not only do I get to factor in the setting and tone of the photo, but I’ve invested a couple bucks into some photo editing applications (I recommend Polarr) that bring my photos to another level of visual aesthetic.
4. My confidence has greatly increased since committing to the goal of taking a picture every day.
I’ve studied posing techniques for my body type, and actively practiced facial expressions in the mirror. This might sound silly, but when I can snap a photo of myself that I really love, it carries over into the rest of my day. I find I compare myself to others less frequently and feel more comfortable in my own skin, because taking my own pictures has helped me accept my own style and brand of beauty.
5. It generates an opportunity to practice accepting compliments and validation.
I optimistically believe we are entering an era where, when all else fails, it feels good to gas your friends up. With the world virtually falling apart around us by way of daily tragedy, global anxiety and political turmoil, it’s nice to just feel good about something. Whether that means you’re exposing yourself for feedback, or you’re providing positive feedback to your friends, it feels nice to just be … nice.
Original photo by author