What things bring a joyful smile to your heart or stir gentle tears of gratitude? For me, a child’s innocent laughter, heartfelt words of a sincere prayer, the aroma of freshly cut alfalfa hay, the tickle of an ocean breeze on my face or a cleansing sunrise can calm my spirit and fill me with hope and thanksgiving.
Sometimes, a painting or photograph brings peace, beckoning me to look closer, to study it, feel it, and look at it again and again. Rembrandt’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son” and Rockwell’s “Saying Grace” are two such paintings, as is Ansel Adam’s “Moonrise Over Hernandez.”
This has been a tough year for me: shoulder surgery, a stroke, a bout with COVID-19 and the loss of several friends. But I am an optimist and choose to see light even in the darkest of times. Often, this requires a deliberate choice of what I choose to point my camera at or allow to enter my heart. Photography plays an important role in my visual nutrition. Studies have shown witnessing good, beautiful things—such as scenes of nature or people doing good for others—can help us maintain a positive and healthy outlook on life.
When a friend of mine was dying of cancer many years ago, I made him a large print of a scene I had photographed. He said he looked at the image of the valley with layers of rolling hills often while lying in bed. He told me it helped calm him and brought him peace.
With this in mind, I offer you a Christmas card—a picture that reminds me of the good and lovely things in our amazing world. I don’t deny the evil, the darkness about us. But my own mental health encourages me to choose carefully what I read, photograph, or watch on television or movies lest I get swept into a river of negativity and hopelessness.
Gratitude—being thankful for everything—lives at the heart of any mental health journey. I wish everyone a merry Christmas and a blessed new year!
Are there photographs that lift your spirit, calm your soul and offer hope? Consider having a large print made and post it where you can see it. Being reminded of things that are good and lovely will help calm your anxious spirit on the challenging days that always come.
Email your best image (just one, please) with caption information, including an explanation of how it affects you, to GPH@pur.coop. We may share submissions on our website and social media channels.