The story of SeeingHappy is the story of two passions meeting in the chaos of Covid: Photography and Positive Psychology.
Photography was always my creative outlet and this became more and more important during Covid: it was the chance to escape the worry, escape the endless battle for supplies, and escape the mounting isolation that we were all feeling. I could escape into photography, look at inspirational images, take a walk and see the beauty that nature provided. I could lose myself in taking the shot and then edit to my satisfaction.
I am a huge believer in the power of art and the humanities to increase our well-being.
I am a huge believer in positive psychology and its ability to transform lives – positive psychology’s mission is to increase well-being in the world and the science shows us the way: positivity increases hope, resilience, and creativity and decreases anxiety and depression.
For me and for many people photography builds PERMA, the basic building blocks of well-being – it is joyful, it increases mindfulness and flow, it builds relationships, meaning and accomplishment.
So far so good, but I was used to traveling and taking photos in exotic places. Covid put an end to all that and instead taught me to look at what was right in front of me. It taught me to celebrate what I saw: small moments of happiness everyday. It soon became apparent that what I turned my camera on really mattered; I needed to see uplifting images. Positive psychology has a number of exercises shown to increase well-being and I discovered that if I generally followed that path I was much happier; I took photos of moments that touched me, people connecting, things I was grateful for, acts of kindness, awe, beauty and so on. I learned that in spite of the limits under which we were living, there was plenty to be grateful for, many kindnesses and acts or heroism to watch, many moments to take comfort in. And even to find hope in the small possibilities that I saw.
I wondered about photography’s ability to increase well-being through taking scientifically validated exercises from positive psychology, exercises shown to increase well-being, and using them to turn attention and focus (literally) on what makes us happy — “hunt the good”, “three blessings”, “savoring”, “mindfulness”, “gratitude”, “kindness”, “gift of time”, and “strengths”.
As Covid hit I found myself attending weekly photo lunches. We looked at each other’s photos, bonded, and helped inspire each other in all sorts of ways. The science tells us that sharing and feeling connected increases our sense of belonging, our meaning and purpose, and ultimately our well-being. All of us in our photo lunches knew the benefits first hand.
Many strands began to come together: photography, positive psychology exercises and a sharing community. SeeingHappy was born.
I put together a team of great people wholly dedicated to the vision and we created a nonprofit. We want to increase personal well-being through photography using positive psychology. We want to connect people around the globe because we believe that friends make the world a better place – we start to care about each other.. We don’t make war on our friends. We believe in the power of personal connections.
Finally, we want to produce communal pieces of art that showcase the positive emotions we all share and that make us more hopeful, resilient, and happy regardless of our age, orientation or ethnicity.
To learn more go to:
- The Positive Psychology Center at The University of Pennsylvania: https://ppc.sas.upenn.edu
- The Authentic Happiness website: https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu
- What do daily reports add to the picture? Results from a photography intervention designed to increase positive emotion: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17439760.2020.1789697
- SnapAppy: A positive psychology intervention using smartphone photography to improve emotional well-being: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1574119221000377
- Happiness promotion: Using mindful photography to increase positive emotion and appreciation. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2012-22248-021
- Does savoring increase happiness? A daily diary study: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17439760.2012.671345