Like many things, the day that practicing gratitude became a reality in my life was not a day where I set out to make it happen. Instead, I decided to take a photo at the turn of each hour one day. I did it because I was tired and bored and felt like I would rip my hair out if I didn’t do SOMETHING different. I was in the midst of a messy life with four kids, one of whom was only a couple of months old. I was craving creativity, a project, a way to exercise my mind. I liked to experiment with my camera so I decided a photo each hour was do-able.
I set my timer to alert me to each hour, on the hour. It was amazing how quickly time passed that day. When the timer went off, I would take a photo of the life going on around me. It was amusing to see how much of my time was spent nursing a baby; many of the photos were taken from my vantage point on the couch. As the day wore on, I became more excited to take the photo. I found myself more relaxed and patient than usual. As I took each pic and reviewed it on my camera, I found a strange feeling bubbling up… gratitude. Thankfulness for what I had been given. The contentment that I had enough. A deep peace with my life situation. And I finally understood all the hubbub about gratitude.
Sometimes, for people like me, who are easily overwhelmed and tend to overthink details, trying to be thankful for your entire life can be too much. With families and busy schedules and hungry babies, the wheels in my brain start to spin as I consider all the things I think I should be grateful for- and I miss what I AM grateful for. Daily tasks can crowd out the appreciation we have for the people for which we are performing these tasks.
I suspect that because I’m a visual person, photos are a great way for me to count my blessings. Narrowing my focus in the viewfinder of my camera helps me see what is so easy to miss with my own eyes. Since that one day, I’ve never repeated the every-hour photo exercise, but it made an indelible mark on my life. It changed my whole perspective and gave me hope. Hope that I wasn’t some degenerate who couldn’t even find peace through a gratitude journal or trying to count 1000 blessings. If you’ve tried those methods without it “working”- keep trying. Find your own way. You will get it too.
Life can change simply by changing the lens through which you look at it. Joy, contentment, peace; it’s available to anyone. That is why cultivating gratitude has been proven to be such an effective way to improve your life. You are changing the lens through which you perceive your reality. When looking through the lens of gratitude, we are able to notice our beauty in life. When we document the things for which we are thankful we are CREATING a cycle of beautiful life -> beautiful art. It is self-perpetuating.
If you want to join me in doing a one day, every hour photo challenge on Instagram, use the hashtag #lensofgratitude. I’d love to see what you’re thankful for!