Guest Post by Carmen Buck.
I lived with a negative, grumpy, smelly being in my home for years. Yes, that’s right, I had a pre-teen son. It was early summer of 1999 in beautiful southern New Mexico. Everything I offered was ‘boring’ unless it involved a baseball. Then I spotted my black and silver camera on the counter with extra rolls of film beckoning me to head to the mountains. His response, ‘I hate it when we go on trips, and you just take pictures. You get excited about the littlest things!’ He was right, but this time I coaxed him to the car and promptly set out to buy him his own little camera. I hoped to help him see the world through a different lens.
The previously boring cows, goats and the rolling hills got him so excited that he begged to see more. He snapped away, and he was HAPPY! He couldn’t wait to get them developed. Interestingly, the immediate gratification was the act of taking the picture, and not the end result. He then took pictures of his friends and his dogs. He probably even snapped a picture of me doing a little happy dance. He had a new sense of gratitude for his world that was no longer dull and boring.
Let’s talk about happiness and gratitude
- Happiness is a choice.
- Happiness is not automatic for all of us. It must be pursued.
- Unhappiness has a home in our healing, and the key is to learn how to get past it.
- Looking for something that elicits gratitude helps us to feel happiness because it trains the brain to scan in a positive way versus something to stress out about. One to two minutes a day in gratitude is enough to change our neural pathways. Twenty one days of practice lends to a new habit or pattern. (Gielan, M, 2015)
According to Stoddard in Choosing Happiness, “Choosing happiness for ourselves and wishing to spread joy to others is the healthiest, wisest, and most noble way to live our lives. I believe we can spread our inner light far and wide in a troubled world.”
Our own happiness is healing for those around us!
Happiness is contagious! Unhappiness is contagious as well, so why not choose happiness? Here is one simple approach using photography as a route to happiness through gratitude.
- Let the pursuit of gratitude be your intention for this practice. There is a high correlation between feeling grateful and feeling happy.
- Turn on your camera of choice. A cell phone camera works perfectly. Professionals use their cell phones at times. Here’s a fun quiz- one was taken with a cell phone and one was taken with a professional camera. Which one is cell phone? (Hint: no photoshop was done.) By the way, I was grateful for the beautiful reflection. I love reflections.
- Choose a place to look around. It can be inside or outside. Go where you are guided.
- Look at your surroundings through your lens. Snap images of things you are grateful for. You might see your children, the dishwasher, orange and yellow leaves and so on. Snap 3 pictures that represent gratitude for you. Shoot from above, below, and the side. Notice how changes in light create a whole new look. If you are like me, you’ll get excited to see this.
- Continue to be inspired daily for 21 days. If you take 2 minutes or 2 hours you’ll still reap the benefits.
- Consider journaling about your experience. Compare from start to end. Are you more apt to see the positive? Perhaps your problems won’t weigh as much.
There are many wonderful resources in books, journal and magazine articles, and my blog about the healing benefits of photography. Photography can be a usually healing experience. I consider myself a photographer-nurse. Photography and nursing have so much in common!
What are your experiences with photography and happiness or gratitude? Leave a comment below!
DuBose, J. (2013) Effortless Beauty. Photography as an Expression of Eye,Mind, and Heart.
Gielan, M (2015) Broadcasting Happiness
Hoffmann, T.A. (2014) Photography as Meditation. Tap Into Your Source of Creativity.
Karr, A and Wood, M. (2011) The Practice of Contemplative Photography. Seeing the World with Fresh Eyes.
Phillips, J. (2000) God is at Eye Level. Photography as a Healing Art.
Stoddard, A. (2002) Choosing Happiness.
About the Author: Carmen Buck is a nurse practitioner, author, speaker and photographer specializing in family (especially those including the elderly), Lifestyle Photography, Event Photography and Personal Branding Head Shots including hybrid video. Her current photography/essay project is a book called Love Still Lives Here with love filled stories of families caring for their loved ones with dementia. Expected publication is Winter 2017. She speaks on a variety of topics including photography as a healing art, eldercare, dementia care and holistic nursing.