5 gratitude seeking photography practices

It’s November 5th 2009.

While everyone is wrapped up in their 30 days of gratitude I’m wrapped up in what feels like a lifetime of grief.

Going through the motions at work, I click away at the mouse working through countless hours of report card edits, earbuds inserted to drown out human contact.

The lyrics on the radio were all it took for disaster to strike.

Ouch I have lost myself again
Lost myself and I am nowhere to be found,
Yeah I think that I might break
I’ve lost myself again and I feel unsafe

Be my friend
Hold me, wrap me up
Unfold me
I am small and needy
Warm me up
And breathe me


Back then the fear and longing was so strong I didn’t know what to do with it. There were no feelings of gratitude. I wasn’t feeling anything.


I whittled away into a mess of heaving sobs, tears, and hiccups not knowing what else to do with myself. I was crying, but not feeling a thing. Seemingly crying for no reason but with all the reason in the world.

My baby had died 2 months ago.

A friend who was working by my side came to soothe me, but even her hugs and kind words couldn’t bring me the one thing I wanted more than anything in the world.

To be a mother.

To a living baby.

As she tries to calm me, the principal walks in to ask a question.

“Oh fuck,” my perfectionist conscience screams.

He hears my muffled sobs, glances in my direction, turns red, embarrassed. He leaves.

I sob more.

It’s a no good, terribly rotten bad day and I’m embarrassed by my lack of control in the office. I shouldn’t be crying a work.

I call my husband, my calmer, in tears. He’ll help.

“Maybe you should go see some one,” he says. “Like a professional.”

I spiral downwards even more.

Defeated and unable to control my emotions, I pack up early and on my drive watch how the grey sky whips brown leaves up and around in brisk movements.

I feel like the sky. Floating. Falling. Spiraling out of control.


Arriving home I grab a coat and head out into the cold air. I want to feel again. Especially the fullness of my grief, the cold dark dampness of my heart.

I grab my camera and head outside into the cold, the wind, the dark.

I snap photos of dead leaves, dead branches, dead flowers. I’m dead inside, it’s all I can see.

I arrive home feeling better.

I upload my images and edit them into black and white, the true feelings of my heart, and all of a sudden something shifts. The branches stand out in such a way that the image is hauntingly beautiful.

I keep going, texturizing the image a bit more with an overlay of hearts.

I smile.

For the first time since we lost her.


Each November, this reel plays vividly in my mind. The way grief and heartache can render us powerless. How it strips away gratitude and thankfulness, and leaves us bitter and cold and unfeeling.

Gratitude is easier for me to come by these days, but the reminder of it’s absence still weighs close on my heart.

If you’re in this hard place today, I want you to know you’re not alone.

And that feeling doesn’t have to last forever.

Today I’m bringing you my 5 favorite gratitude practices from behind the lens of a camera. I hope that no matter where you are on life’s journey, that these idea can bring you a bit of peace, light, love, and happiness as we journey through this November.

1) Day In The Life

This is a great project to work on with your mobile phone. Pick a time each hour that you’d like a to take photo, for an entire day. Perhaps every :00, or the :30, or if you’re feeling silly every :17.  Set an hourly alarm and for each hour that you’re awake you’ll need to stop what you’re doing that that time and snap. No matter where you are or what you’re doing. Just snap. Sometimes a project like this is all it takes to encourage you to get off the couch and go on a nature walk, play a board game with your kids, try a new recipe, etc…since you know the experience will be documented. Go get to it!


2) Happy Thoughts

Make a gratitude list. I suggest numbering from 1-10, but you could write as many or a few things as you’d like. Even in our lowest points we can still find SOMETHING that makes me happy. Back during that horrible November, my Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks were sometimes the only thing getting me through the day. Snap a photo of the things on your list, print them and hang them, make them your computer wallpaper, or your cover photo on Facebook. These ‘happy thoughts’ will serve as little love notes to yourself when you’re feeling down.

3) Word Hunt

When I’m feeling particularly ungrateful I like to pick one word mantras to help self-soothe me during these rough patches. Calm. Peace. Inspire. Light. Shine. But have you ever thought about expressing a word in a picture? Can you go on a walk around your home or neighborhood and find the letters that make your special one word mantra? It can be a challenge, but one that gets us up and moving. Plus it’s one that can make a beautiful work of art for your home if you succeed.

mosaic3961ab3243594c1fc93f805b3fcc982989f9f2f94) Color Inspiration

When you’re feeling down is there a color that brings you a bit of comfort or happiness? Why not photograph all the places you find that color. Just like your happy thoughts, this would be a great one to print or display somewhere you’ll likely see it to bring you a bit of peace.

5) 100 Steps

When all else fails and I simply don’t have the energy for colors, happy thoughts, or words this is my go to practice. I choose a starting point (my front door, my bedroom, the swings at the local park) and I walk 100 steps. I count it out in my head and keep on going till I get all the way there. At 100, I stop. Unable to move I force myself to photograph. I must find beauty in that place, wherever I’ve been led. It’s the perfect mirror for our mood, because no matter wherever I we be in life there is always a way to shift our perspective and make something beautiful in what may feel like a mess.


Which of these practices is speaking to you today? Which of these might you try this week? Pin this post and then tell me about it in the comments.