You know the old adage: A picture is worth a 1,000 words. But did you know it’s also worth a boost in personal happiness? That’s according to new research that suggests taking and posting a photo each day to social media can improve your well-being.
A new study published in the journal Health found that people who share a photo a day, such as the millions of Instagram users taking part in the #365 challenge, experience overall better moods. So all those #momlife pics you’re snapping with your kids could be boosting your mood.
Researchers from Lancaster University and the University of Sheffield discovered that taking and posting a daily photo provided social media users with a means for self-care, interaction with a like-minded community, and an opportunity to remember good times. It also gave users the chance to explore and become aware of the world around them, according to the study.
“My job was a very highly stressful role,” one person surveyed says. “There were some days when I’d almost not stopped to breathe, you know what I mean… And just the thought, ‘Oh wait a moment, no. I’ll stop and take a photograph of this insect sitting on my computer or something. Just taking a moment is very salutary, I think.”
For mamas who’ve spent the day chasing toddlers, loading laundry, and dealing with all the other chaos of the day-to-day parenting, taking a moment to capture one of the more beautiful moments of parenting is worth it—actually, it might not even have to be a beautiful pic to have mood-boosting power. Another respondent adds, “It could be a rubbish photograph but if somebody commented on it, it made it worthwhile.”
But social media does have its downsides, too. Previous research has shown that using Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and other similar platforms can also have a negative impact on your well-being, self-esteem, confidence and sense of self, especially for people who compare their lives to those of others.
For example, an American Journal of Preventive Medicine study published in July found that millennials who use social media often are twice as likely to report feeling socially isolated, and another published in 2012 by the Gothenburg Research Institute, discovered that women, in particular, who use Facebook tended to feel less confident and happy. Research published in PLOS One a year later showed that the more time people spent scrolling through Facebook, the worse they felt later on.
Still, it’s worth noting that the Lancaster University study isn’t the only one to suggest social media has its benefits. A pair of marketing researchers asserted in a 2012 paper that online platforms can give people a place to express their feelings, receive support and recover from pain and trauma.
In the end, social media is a gift and a curse. As the Lancaster University study shows, platforms like Instagram can help mamas feel connected and closer to other people when they’re stuck inside of the house, cleaning up vomit stains and spilled bottles of milk. At the same time, when you’re endlessly scrolling through posts late at night, or comparing yourself to other users who have vastly different lives than your own, social media can spoil your mood—and your self-esteem.
Mamas, when using social media, remember to be mindful of the pitfalls and, instead, celebrate the positive aspects it brings to your lives. How can you do that? By focusing on making content rather than being consumed by it. After all, there’s nothing better than unleashing your creativity—even if it’s just taking a photo of a clear blue sky or your baby’s cute little shoes—and having that to look back on.
As one study participant put it: “[If] I’m ever feeling down or something, it’s nice to be able to scroll back and see good memories.”