It wasn’t that I wasn’t happy anymore, it was just that the buzz had worn off.
I had heard that gratitude was a sure fire way to happiness. That paying attention to things that we’re grateful for would set us on the path to contentment and bliss.
So I decided to give it a try.
I put down my DSLR, and picked up my brand spanking new iPhone (which I received very gratefully as a birthday present) and started taking photographs every day of things in my life I felt grateful for.
The first two days I was on a gratitude high. I took hundreds of photos, edited a few I liked with a newly downloaded app, and posted them on Facebook to share with my friends and family. I just couldn’t believe how lucky I was. So much to be grateful for! You should have seen me. I was grinning all day.
Happiness was coming out of my pores!
Day three I had a gratitude come down. It wasn’t that I wasn’t happy anymore, it was just that the buzz had worn off. The gratitude I experienced was a softer, more gentle experience. Subtler somehow.
From then on, the gratitude experience gradually picked up again. Despite a week of constant rain, very little sunshine (enough to knock the glow off anyone’s happiness), and my children’s play dates being cancelled because everyone we know seemed to be sick, I still felt grateful. And happy.
Over time, I began to get the sneaking suspicion that gratitude was contagious. When I photographed friends, and told them it was because I was grateful to have them in my life, you should have seen the smiles.
And the gratitude they threw back at me was breathtaking!
My friend told me her partner had seen my Facebook posts and had started noticing the small things he was grateful for in their lives. She sounded grateful.
And so, what started out as a seven day experiment, turned into a month of photographing and blogging about gratitude every single day (well, almost every day—one doesn’t want to go over the top with these things!).
When I starting sharing my gratitude photographs on my blog, I made the decision not to include photographs of my close friends and family. I’m new to blogging, and still feeling a little vulnerable about sharing the faces of those I’m closest to. I’m still working out my online boundaries. So even though this is really what I was most grateful for, I didn’t share that part of my life with the world.
At first I felt like I was leaving something out, that I wasn’t really being true to myself and my portrayal of gratitude. However, over time I realized that instead of this being a limitation, it pushed me to notice the little things I’m grateful for. It opened up a whole new world of gratitude, and turned the practice of photographing gratitude into a mindfulness meditation.
Yes—I’m grateful for my glorious husband, my wonderful children and my lovely lovely friends and family, but I’m also grateful for the feel of the sun on my skin, new flowers in the garden, a peak at the moon in the afternoon, the special stones my son collects for me and the sound, smell, feel and sight of the beach (oh yes, the beach!).
I am so grateful for the opportunity to take photographs every single day, and to have a place to share them.
I’m so so grateful for all the ways the experiment connected me to other people and connected me to all the beautiful, lovely, heartfelt things in my life—things that may have gone unnoticed if I hadn’t been seeking them out through my lens. And really, I’m grateful that I listened to my heart about my reluctance to share the faces of those I’m most grateful for, and in doing so, discovered a deeper gratitude and another (very fun) way to meditate.
Oh yes, there really is something to this gratitude thing. Would you like to give it a try?
I had such a wonderful response from friends, family and the online community that I’ve decided to create a space where we can experiment with gratitude together.
November will be capturing gratitude month, and I’d love you to join me. Take photographs for a month of things that you’re grateful for, share them online and see what happens.
Will capturing gratitude make you happier?
Dr. Lauren Tober is a yogi, clinical psychologist and photographer. She teaches in Byron Bay, Australia, and online at www.laurentober.com. Visit www.capturinggratitude.com to join me and to download a free gratitude meditation.
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