Developing Resilience

“Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress…..It means bouncing back from difficult experiences.”

American Psychological Association

Resilience is what gives people the ability to cope with change, loss and difficulty. It is the mental reservoir of strength that you are able to call on in times of need to carry you through without falling apart. Psychologists believe that resilient individuals are better able to handle such adversity and rebuild their lives after a catastrophe.

Dealing with change or loss is an inevitable part of life. At some point, everyone experiences varying degrees of setbacks. Some of these challenges might be relatively minor (not getting the job you wanted), while others are disastrous on a much larger scale (death of a loved one, major health crisis, end of a major relationship, pandemic). How you deal with these challenges can play a significant role in not only the outcome, but also the long-term psychological consequences.

Your life flows against a backdrop of continual change. There is nothing that remains constant or static. A few of these changes are instant; with others the speed of change is so slow that you can convince yourself that all is as it has always been. You know that there are distinct stages of life, yet often it is difficult to live harmoniously through each stage. Instead of embracing or adjusting to the challenges within each stage of life you may gallop through the early stages, with one eye the next. Then, beset by early indications of your mortality, you cling to the middle stages, believing you are still young, refusing to accept the inevitable. I know, I’ve done it. And look what a mess I got into!

What force impels us? What is it that blinds us to reality? The answer is both simple and complex. It is your mind’s habitual thinking. That is the simple bit: knowing what it is. Responding differently to change, rather than reacting in your characteristic manner is the challenging bit. This is where resilience can help. Some of us may be more naturally resilient than others but we can all develop greater reserves of resilience.

How can you develop resilience through photography?

This pandemic life is unprecedented in our lifetime. The volume and nature of the changes we are experiencing are unexpected, unwanted and so very difficult to live though. I have been shielding for nearly a year and I have used photography to help me through some of the more challenging thoughts, feelings and experiences. I believe that photography can help you too. Specifically, I believe that photography can help you to develop the resilience to cope with these massive changes. So, I am putting together an online course to do just that. It will revolve around the five pillars of resilience that I have outlined below.

Five Pillars of Resilience

Self-awareness and self-care
Taking time to readjust to changing circumstances is essential for taking care of yourself. Meditation and Mindfulness are great for developing your mind’s ability to focus on one thing at a time. Through mindful practices you can then develop clearer awareness of how you really are, and from that authentic position move towards accepting how you feel and how your life is.

Photography is a mindful practice that encourages you to focus on the present, to see clearly how things are. It also provides an opportunity to create photos that reflect what you are thinking, feeling or experiencing.

Problem Solving
Learning to accept what you cannot control or influence is a powerful problem solving skill. Photography provides you with ways to develop this skill. When you are out creating photos, you have to notice how things really are; weather, light, subjects and so on. Then you adapt to the conditions – how it really is – and change your camera settings and maybe your ideas about what photos you might create. You are problem solving by paying attention to how things really are.

Using your mind to understand and accept what you cannot control in photography, helps you to do the same in other areas of your life. This activity burns new neural pathways. As Donald Hebb said, “Cells that fire together wire together.” So, the more you do this, the more the new way of thinking becomes available to use in other areas of your life.

Positive Outlook
Reframing how your world actually is, is one of the best ways to shift from a negative to a more positive view of any situation. Fortunately, photographers reframe all the time. You may explore a subject through different frames until you find the most effective photograph. You may take a wide-angle view, or use a macro for a close-up. You may look at a subject from different angles to find the most effective version that communicates your core idea. You reframe all the time.

Looking at your life and developing a more positive outlook can be difficult when external changes have re-shaped your world in a way that you do not like or find uncomfortable. There are emotional skills that you can develop through specific photography activities that can support you to develop a positive outlook. These emotional skills include adaptability, perseverance, resourcefulness, gratitude and generosity. All of the photo tasks and activities on this course will develop these skills.

Meaning and Purpose
Photography can provide you with a passion and purpose. You can learn new skills, develop existing ones and create photos that you really love. Following interesting and challenging photography activities can provide motivation to get up and out into the big wide world, to take part in some physical activity and to interact with nature. Recent research has proven that creating and posting one photo a day supports your well-being. This type of photo activity can be a springboard to developing all of the resilience skills mentioned here.

Each of the photography activities on this course will include these six features:

  1. Creativity – Improving your seeing skills, learning and developing your photography skills and creating photos that you love.
  2. Being in the great outdoors.
  3. Gentle physical exercise.
  4. Development of emotional skills that support your development of greater resilience.
  5. Mindfulness – through a Mindful Photography Practice.
  6. Social interaction by sharing your favourite photo, thoughts and comments.

Social Support
Having strong social networks provides you with people who share things in common with you, who understand about you and what you are experiencing, and care about how you are. There are many ways that these networks develop; you will have several family and friendship groups that you belong to. Each of these may provide different types of support.
Photography can also provide you with social support. Following a course with a group of people with a common goal, especially when that common goal is developing resilience through photography can really help you through challenging times.

Developing Resilience through Photography Course

I am offering a FREE online course from 1st April 2021 which will help you to develop resilience through photography. This course will help you to not only develop resilience, but will also improve your photography skills. The course will take account of the five pillars of resilience as discussed above, and is suitable for all levels of photographer and all types of digital cameras including smartphones.

The course will be delivered online and will include a private online community group where you can share your photos and comments. This will be a secure group which only allows access to students following the course and myself. The course will also offer interactive videos, downloadable resources and mindful photography activities. The activities and posting your photos and comments to the group are what will support your development of resilience.

This course will be free, to support you at this challenging time. There will also be the opportunity to support others finding life challenging at the moment by making a donation to a national mental health charity. Let me know if you are interested and I will let you know when the course is open for enrollment.

More news soon!


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