How photography helps take my mind off my pain from dystonia

February 5, 2023

I have lived with dystonia (a neurological movement disorder) and chronic pain for over 20 years. The very active life prior to dystonia is night and day compared to the forced sedentary current version of myself. Due to the pain and involuntary muscle contractions I live with, I have had to make changes to my activities. One of my favorites is photography.

I love to tap into my creative side and photography does that for me. By no means am I a great photographer. I am a novice at best, but I have been able to capture some good shots here and there. Thankfully I have YouTube videos to guide me along and some forgiving technology to make things look better than the guy shooting the pictures.

The photos I enjoy taking most are sunsets, wildlife, and the beach. Nature is the perfect canvas for capturing beautiful images. It also provides me with the grounding I need to keep my symptoms in better check because being out in nature is where I find peace and serenity. Nature is my refuge and helps take my mind off my pain, and being able to capture those moments with my camera makes life more enjoyable.

Over the past five years, I have replaced almost every store-bought piece of artwork on my walls with my own prints, bringing the outdoors inside so I can enjoy them all the time.

In a word, photography helps me practice mindfulness. To me, a very simple definition of mindfulness is “paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment.” When I am out in nature, I am acutely aware of my surroundings. I get lost in a very comforting space, seeking out my next creative shot, making photography an excellent tool for me to practice this very helpful discipline.

It makes me feel good to see what my mind creates. I can barely draw a stick figure with my hands. I can see what I want to draw in my mind but there’s a disconnect down to my hand. This is different with photography. I see what I want to take a picture of, and it usually comes out the way I planned. This is a very gratifying feeling. I don’t get too many gratifying feelings living with chronic pain and dystonia.

As I said, I am just a novice and don’t plan to become an expert. It’s not about that for me. It’s about getting lost in the subject that I am capturing with the camera. It’s about feeling more grounded and at peace and at one with myself and my surroundings. It’s about taming that fight/flight/freeze stress response that is created by chronic pain that I live with every day.

The more I can tap into my creative side, the more I can produce the feel-good hormones so the rest of my day is more enjoyable.

Photography has become much more than a hobby. It has become a form of self-care.  I hope you are able to find some things that provide you with as much joy as photography does for me.

Tom Seaman is a Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness, and the author of 2 books: Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey and Beyond Pain and Suffering: Adapting to Adversity and Life Challenges. He is also a motivational speaker, chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, health blogger, volunteer for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) as a support group leader, and is a member and volunteer writer for Chronic Illness Bloggers NetworkThe Mighty, and Patient Worthy. To learn more about Tom, get a copy of his books (also on Amazon), or schedule a free life coaching consult, visit Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram.


14 responses to “How photography helps take my mind off my pain from dystonia”

  1. Kelly Crawford says:

    oops ; to continue; as I was saying, you do a beautiful job. You don’t seem like a beginner to me. Birds are a favorite of mine. Back in the day there was more to do with a camera ( which was the fun of it) but thankful to technology anyone can enjoy the fun of photography. YouTube is a great way to learn the fundamentals. I might add; looking at beautiful photos can be soothing as well. Luv it.

    • Tom Seaman says:

      I really appreciate that! Hopefully as time goes on I will get better. I have lots of creative ideas I want to try. Like you, I also enjoy looking at pictures. I have so many of my own around the house to help me relax.

  2. Kelly Crawford says:

    I quite enjoy your photos. love nature also. And it seems to me

  3. Carolyn Dinger says:

    Enjoyed the pictures and your writing.

  4. Amanda mckeown says:

    I bought a good c camera to try and help improve my photography but the strap bothered my neck muscles and the camera was so heavy . Well to me due to weakness in my hands.. so stick to my mo Ile phone.. I absolutely love this blog. As I feel the same so much about my dystoniaand photography.. it allows me to relive my adventures . Over n over . As brain fog and my balance most days. I stuggle going out on my own.. nature is a great healer and it’s something about being by the ocean that helps my dystonia so much.. I love your butterfly photo.. its so truly beautiful.. will look forward to see more of your work. Thanks you for sharing always Tom

    • Tom Seaman says:

      Hi Amanda- The strap bothers my neck as well so I try to go without. Thankfully this camera is not too heavy, but holding my arms up for too long bothers me. I am really happy you enjoy the pictures. Hopefully I can share more good ones. I live by the ocean which is very healing, so I can relate so much to what you said. I hope you get to see it soon!
      Thank you again!

  5. Glemda says:

    You have quickly developed into a very goo photographer!! I love those nature photographs! My pain does not ease up enough to concentrate long enough to do much. But some of my misery is restless leg syndrome which is out of control. Maybe if I could lose myself in something for a shirt period of time it would still help! You are doing some great work! So excited for you! Continue to share your work!!

    • Tom Seaman says:

      Thank you Glenda. I am hoping to learn more about taking better pictures and have some across so very helpful people to guide me along the way. I get excited when I see something that might be a fun picture to capture. I am sorry your symptoms don’t ease up for long. Mine don’t either. For example, I had a headache and some other pains in my neck and back, along with some allergies today. I then spotted a robin in the grass and spent about 5 minutes getting out the camera and taking a shot. I maybe felt some mild relief for 10 minutes, if that, but those 10 minutes felt better. Even with pain, when I am experiencing joy, it makes the moment more enjoyable, so to answer your question, I think doing anything that eases discomfort is very important and helpful.

  6. Joan J says:

    Photography is also one of my favorite hobbies! I’m far from a pro but it is definitely something I enjoy, especially being outside. Thanks for reminding me of how stepping outside my door to capture a beautiful hummingbird at the feeder or a stunning sunset can provide much pleasure instead of focusing (no pun intended) on my pain. 😊

    • Tom Seaman says:

      I think it is something to love whether we are good or not. Like you mentioned, it’s a lot about being outdoors and in that peaceful environment. I hope you see some hummingbirds soon 🙂

  7. Randena says:

    This is a great idea. Nature and the arts are so very healing. I have found it is a way to put pain on the back burner. The mindfulness is priceless. The success lies in the fact that you are enjoying the self care you are engaged in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Please sign up for my FREE newsletter
and blog to receive healthy living
strategies and stay up to date on
the latest news and releases.