Photographs are such a joy, and I don’t know about you, but I’m much more focused on taking photographs now that cameras and phones have evolved to make taking photos so much easier. I used to begrudge the time that I spent on photos, but now I realize the role they can play in happiness.
1. Photos remind us of the people, places, and activities we love. Many people keep photos in their homes, in their office, or in their wallet, and happy families tend to display large numbers of photos at home. In Happier at Home, I write about my “shrine to my family” made of photographs.
2. Photos help us remember the past. One of the best ways to make yourself happy in the present is to recall happy times from the past. Photos are a great memory-prompt, and because we tend to take photos of happy occasions, they weight our memories to the good.
3. Photos can save space while preserving memories. Through a friend, I heard about a fantastic service, Plum Print, “the simple solution for storing and preserving kids’ artwork.” I mailed in a giant, awkward pile of my younger daughter’s artwork and school work from her early days, and Plum Print transformed it into a lovely hardback book. That’s the final product, in the picture. My daughter’s work looks great, she’s thrilled with her “book,” and I have a slim, tidy record of everything she made for several years. I saved a few of the actual pieces, then threw away the rest. A friend was shocked that I tossed any of it, but I have a record of it, I kept the best pieces, and I’ve found that mementos work best when they’re carefully culled and displayed. (Disclosure: I got my Plum Print book for free.)
4. A photo of something can sometimes replace the thing itself. After my friend’s beloved father died, she wanted to keep his enormous desk, as a memento–but she really didn’t have space for it. She took a photo of it, and then was able to let go of the desk. Strangely, too, a photograph of something can be more beautiful than the thing itself. Consider Edward Weston’s photographs of peppers.
5. Photographs allow you to curate things you love. Taking a picture is a way to “claim” something. On Pinterest, I love to add things to my From the Ministry of Happiness board. It’s a way to make a collection without having to buy or cope with anything.
6. Taking photos fosters creativity. My delightful friend Maria Giacchino, who does my videos, takes and posts one photograph each day. The images are beautiful, and the need to find the day’s photo keeps her engaged with the world in a creative way.
7. Taking photographs can act as a diary. I’m always trying to figure out ways to keep hold of memories. My one-sentence journal, for instance. I try to use photographs to record the little moments that are so precious but also so easily forgotten. One thing I wish I could tell my younger self: take photos of everyday life, not special occasions; later, that’s what will be interesting to you.
A version of this article originally appeared on Gretchen Rubin’s website.