Editor’s Note: Grace Ueng is the founder of Savvy Growth, a noted leadership coaching and management consulting firm, and an expert on wellbeing and performance science. Grace writes a regular column on happiness & leadership for WRAL TechWire.

Spending the weekend with my sister’s family to see Yunchan Lim, the youngest winner ever of the Van Cliburn competition, perform with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, I was reminded of a column which ran nearly a year ago.  I’ve updated this oldie but goodie to share with you today!

Old tech fun for new generation

At dinner before the concert, my nephew was excited to show his sister the champagne colored Olympus Mju II camera he recently purchased in Japan.  We older people at the table laughed as his “new” fun was an old fashioned film camera we had used at his age!

Olympus Mju II camera

Olympus Mju II camera

Giving brings benefits

I enjoy purchasing gifts that I think the receiver will delight in owning.  Researchers have found that performing generous acts activates the part of the brain that increases personal happiness.

Being generous with your time, energy or money creates a “warm glow” and positive affect. This is why the more involved a volunteer becomes with a cause, the more fervently they believe in the mission making them want to contribute more.

For my niece’s birthday last year,  I asked her mom what she would like as a gift. My sister suggested buying her a psychology book.  Very practical, I thought, given my niece, at that time a freshman, was considering majoring in psychology.

I then asked my niece what she would like, and she thought about it and shared an idea – a Fujifilm disposable camera!

Fujifilm disposable camera

Fujifilm disposable camera

Creating memories in ‘slow motion’

I thought it a bit unusual since she has an iPhone that can take amazing pictures instantly…

Ever curious, I decided to research why she might have interest in a disposable camera as a birthday present, and found that it is a trend among her age group to take photos the way we did at their age.  The “slow motion” way, where you have to wait and where one shot has to suffice since the camera and film are in limited quantity given there is a definite cost for each shot.

One thing I really like about this trend is that it goes against the pressure of social media since digital pics are taken in multitude, the best shot selected, then often edited to perfection, and then posted, to make the memory “real!”  A disposable camera captures “rawer” moments.

In the older era of capturing memories, there were usually a few weeks of finishing the roll of film, then dropping the cartridge in the mail, to then wait days for the film to be delivered to the queue for processing at the photo lab, before making the journey back to your mailbox.

I remember the anticipation, as a young girl,  of checking my mailbox to see if my finished photos were in the stack of mail and if indeed there were, eagerly opening up the envelope to shuffle through the stack of photos.

Then going through them many times to oow and awww before selecting which might make the final cut into the memory album, and perhaps even enlarge or get reprints for friends.

When the old way may be better

I was fascinated to learn that young people are now showing an interest in going back in time.  Happy with my findings, I ordered my niece several disposable cameras in hopes that they would help her delight in capturing future college memories.

I believe this trend can help take away anxiety and body-image issues and societal pressures of teenagers and rather capture pictures for her to remember, instead of painting an ideal picture for everyone on the internet.

I have a big concern for the mental health of our young people. In 2021, the U.S. Health & Human Services cited 49.5% of adolescents having had a mental health disorder at some point in their lives.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that nearly 20% of high school students reported serious thoughts about suicide in the past year, and 9% reporting a suicide attempt.  These are troubling statistics.

Psychology at Penn

My niece has an interest in positive psychology and is at perhaps the best place to study this field, the University of Pennsylvania, where the likes of Marty Seligman and Angela Duckworth teach and do research.  Last year, she took Professor Duckworth’s Grit Lab course. I am a big fan of Angela’s and have commented on her work: Grit.

My niece is now in the class The Science of Wellbeing with the father of positive psychology, Marty Seligman. It’s extra cool, because when I wrote this column originally and said:

To my niece – if you are reading this, to make your Mom happy, please pick out a book from Savvy’s Favorite Positive Psychology & Business Resources, and I will send it to you!

She responded with her choice: Flourish, by Martin Seligman.

After seeing my niece, and now my nephew, brighten up over old fashioned cameras, I am starting to study what next to purchase, perhaps a Polaroid.

Playing with these oldies but goodies activates positive memories, thereby improving wellbeing!

About Grace Ueng

A management consultant, leadership coach and human performance expert with Savvy Growth, Grace has been covered in The Wall Street Journal, Inc., and MIT Technology Review.  Leaders call her when seeking a strategic review of their business, when going through a pivot point, or when they’d like to have a thinking partner to hold them accountable to stretch goals.

Her company offers workshops to improve team effectiveness: Savvy’s Seven: What You Will Learn.

Join her Happiness & Leadership community to be more productive leader: click here