Random Acts of Photography

It has been well established that there are both psychological and physiological benefits to kindness. An interesting side note are the studies that have shown who experiences those benefits. It turns out that three people benefit from acts of kindness: the person offering the kindness, the person receiving the kindness and the bystander who witnesses the kindness, all of whom experience increased production of serotonin!

With this in mind, I launched “random acts of photography” – an ongoing effort to give away photographs that I’ve taken to people, almost all of whom are strangers, who have universally responded with delighted surprise and gratitude. Most recently, a woman said to me, “Your photographs transport me. When I look at them, I am no longer thinking about or feeling like I am in my own surroundings. I feel like I am actually there.”

I started thinking about this statement, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the “stay at home” isolation with which so many people are contending. As I delved more deeply into the connection between photography and mental health, I read about the concept of “nature immersion” or what the Japanese call “Forest Bathing” – which is the experience of well-being when one is physically present in nature.

But, I wondered, what about the benefits of looking at images versus actually being there?

I am happy to report that there is a body of research showing that “virtual nature” can generate similar positive effects!

A global study that included 6 countries and a review of more than 150 scientific studies, conducted by the University of Berkeley, concluded that looking at the beautiful content depicted in the video series Planet Earth II “inspired significant increases in feelings of awe, contentedness, joy, amusement and curiosity…and also acted to reduce feelings of tiredness, anger and stress.” Many other studies have shown that looking at still images of nature (as compared to video) also increase feelings of peacefulness, relaxation, familiarity and comfort.

It is my hope that this photograph I took of the Grand Teton Mountains, reflected in Jackson Lake and framed by the river rock in the foreground, evokes the same feelings of gratitude, serenity and reverence that I felt when I was taking it and that I continue to feel every time I look at the image. Here’s to being transported to beautiful places…until we can all enjoy them in person again.

T.L. Wilson

T.L. Wilson (formerly Terry Wise) has lived through a myriad of personal and professional lives, each of which has led her to the same place, with the same purpose: to provide hope and inspiration to others. Terry is the author of Waking Up: Climbing Through the Darkness, a book that offers a road map to emotional health to people who are faced with a diversity of life’s challenges (grief, depression, suicidality). Terry served on the boards of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the American Association of Suicidology and spent a decade delivering keynote speeches in every state in the United States. After happily re-marrying in 2010, Terry wrote a novel, Viewer Indiscretion, penned under the name T.L. Wilson. Terry’s most recent endeavor as a photographer is to capture and share the beauty of the world around us through a different lens—a camera lens. It is her belief that recovery from mental health challenges is achieved incrementally and it is her hope that each image will provide doses of joy to the eye and warmth to the heart. Her mission is to make the world a better place one book at a time, one word at a time and now…one photograph at a time. To view more images, please visit www.ChangingFocusPhotography.com