Taking imaginary pictures

I just completed a 7 day course on gratitude in the Calm app. Today’s last session was spent encouraging the listener to take time to notice the little things in life and to take moments throughout the day to appreciate even the smallest of our world’s wonders.

I’m taken back to a story I heard recently of a college art instructor assigning an experiment with his students of capturing moments in life as though they’d want to take a picture of it if they had their camera. He asked them to take a walk without bringing along any electronic devices and look around. In their mind’s eye, he asked they “capture” moments as though they did have their camera. A picture so that they could go back later and reflect on it or maybe even recreate it in their own drawings.

As the story was told, the narrator asked that we try to envision going for a walk in a familiar place. Look around, observe things. Look at the trees, the birds, or children playing. Pretend you have your camera and take pictures of things that pop up.

I am a fan of The Office and the episode of Jim and Pam’s wedding where Pam says one of her aunts told her to take mental pictures throughout the day so she’d better remember them is one of my all time favorite scenes. She would mimic taking a picture with her hand, clicking moments throughout their special day. Moments that she may forget if she hadn’t taken a mental picture and noticing the small memories and ones that likely wouldn’t have been taken by the photographer.

The day I listened to the experiment with the students, I went to work and I found myself being more aware of these little things. Even while at work, I tried to take mental pictures of people or items at work. Things I never would’ve dreamed I thought were worth remembering. As I went to see an inpatient, I ran into one of my favorite hospitalists who I rarely see anymore. I’ve worked with him for 11 years and because I’m mostly on the outpatient side, I’ll go years without seeing him. He was standing about 20 feet from me and had to do a double take to make sure it was me. That moment, that look of recognition and that look of satisfaction of seeing an old friend was so picture worthy. I mentally took a snapshot of the look on his face and every time I think of the look on his face, it makes me smile.

As I’m approaching the holiday season for the first time without drinking, I’m reminding myself to take those mental snapshots of the small things that make this season so magical. Alcohol has always been a part of my holidays, so for this year I’m going to concentrate on images of the joy it brings, because there is so much more if I just pay attention. 📷


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