Did you ever see the movie, Up? If not, I suggest you stop reading immediately and go watch it.
Ok, you loved it, right?? I was obsessed with it for most of 2009 and some of 2010 … and maybe a little bit still. There is an unforgettable photo montage scene at the beginning of the movie that chronicles the main character’s life with his wife throughout their years together. The music is magnificent, and the entire scene is just soooo cinematic and moving. Once I was able to get the sobbing under control (get a grip, it’s a cartoon!!), it made me desperately want to have a similarly charming nostalgic catalog of all the ordinary moments in my own life with my husband. These days, everyone from Oprah to WikiHow is espousing the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal, so I figured: why not make it a photo gratitude journal?? A few years ago, I did just that and watching it as a slideshow every New Year’s Eve is even more amazing than watching that beautiful scene in the movie. Wanna try? Here’s how it works …
This is a project my husband and I do together, but obviously it can be equally rewarding performed as a solo venture. Every day, we take photos of whatever is going on in our lives (tip: it doesn’t have to be anything super-exciting). Every night, we choose one image that best represents the vibe of the day. Sometimes it’s a visit with friends or family, sometimes it’s our dog, sometimes it’s us in our pajamas on the couch. Those Hawaiian sunsets are magical, but lazy Sundays spent catching up on magazines and eating popcorn for every meal work just as well (sometimes even better!). We keep them safe and organized in a shared iCloud Photo album where we can easily drop them into iMovie and set them to music to watch them as a pretty slideshow at the end of the year. We choose songs that really spoke to us and/or we had on repeat for months at a time over the past year. We also look back at the previous year’s photo every day. It’s fun to see what we were up to one year ago, two years ago, etc., and to see what’s changed (and what hasn’t!).
So, what’s the payoff? Turns out putting in this tiny little bit of daily effort has enriched our lives in ways we could never have imagined when we started. First, the obvious — gratitude. Looking back over the past year, and years, reminds us how truly wonderful our life is and how lucky we are to have each other and our friends and family. The journal also serves as motivation to snap random ordinary moments and camera-shy people who don’t always volunteer to pose for a portrait. My dad passed away last year, and we were left with so many beautiful photos we would never have taken otherwise — of us with him, smiling and laughing and simply being. Priceless. It is also a great reminder to be gentle with ourselves. Looking back, we can see periods that were very busy/stressful/difficult and recognize that we could have gone a bit easier on ourselves. It helps us remember to do that going forward.
I envision the list of rewards growing longer with each passing year. How fun it will be to look back 20 years from now and see our cars, where we lived, what technology we were using, who we were spending our time with, our hair, our clothes … I wish I had a photo journal for every year of my life!
Ready to start your own photo journal? You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Go on, watch your beautiful life unfold. You’ll be so glad you did.