Tak­ing each day one photo at a time.

Stephanie Gil­man snaps to at­ten­tion.

ELLE (Canada) - - News - By Stephanie Gil­man

I re­cently read about a young woman who, suf­fer­ing from de­pres­sion, be­gan doc­u­ment­ing things she was grate­ful for to bring more hap­pi­ness into her life. I am search­ing for hap­pi­ness and mean­ing in my own life and oc­ca­sion­ally ex­pe­ri­ence mo­ments of self-pity and despair, so this idea res­onated with me. Sev­eral weeks ago, I found my­self hav­ing one of those mo­ments. I was in a change room try­ing on dresses for an up­com­ing event. A task that used to be sim­ple and even en­joy­able had now be­come a form of tor­ture, as I looked for a dress that could ac­com­mo­date my mis­shapen chest: My im­plants are firm and un­even and do not move like real breasts, which makes it ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to fit into clothes that I used to wear with ease.

I tried on dress after dress, at­tempt­ing to force the zip­per over my pro­trud­ing side boob, frus­trated that ev­ery­thing was too loose on one side and too tight on the other. Flus­tered and fum­ing, I looked in the mir­ror and, tears burn­ing my eyes, cursed my mis­for­tune. I felt ugly, de­formed and very sorry for my­self.

This seemed like as good a time as any to be­gin my own grat­i­tude project. Would forc­ing my­self to fo­cus on what’s good in my life—in­stead of what isn’t—lead me to a greater sense of hap­pi­ness?

The kind folks at Fu­ji­film pro­vided me with an In­stax Mini 8 cam­era so I could pho­to­graph my grate­ful mo­ments. I started snap­ping, at­tempt­ing to find some­thing each day that I was thank­ful for.

Some pho­tos were less pro­found than oth­ers, like a quiet mo­ment to my­self or a meal I was about to en­joy. Oth­ers held greater sig­nif­i­cance, like be­ing grate­ful for the 60th birth­day of my fa­ther, who didn’t know if he’d live to see his 20th birth­day after be­ing di­ag­nosed with a rare form of can­cer at age 16 (and again in his 50s). Some days, it was dif­fi­cult to find some­thing to pho­to­graph. And I be­gan to re­al­ize that fleet­ing mo­ments—some­one hold­ing a door open for me, a friendly smile from a stranger—can’t al­ways be cap­tured in a photo. In those in­stances, I de­cided to just be in the mo­ment, ap­pre­ci­ate it and keep it all to my­self.

At the end of the month, I won­dered if my grat­i­tude ex­per­i­ment had changed me in any way or if all I’d done was take some pic­tures of ran­dom things in my life. But as I be­gan to com­pile them and write the sto­ries be­hind them in a scrap­book, I no­ticed some­thing: I felt happy. I went through all the snap­shots and saw that, big or small, there was much to be grate­ful for, even over a rel­a­tively short pe­riod of time—so many things I might have missed had I not been train­ing my­self to see them. I re­al­ized that the im­mense grat­i­tude I ex­pe­ri­enced after fin­ish­ing my treat­ment for can­cer—the joy I felt to sim­ply be alive h

and wake up ev­ery morn­ing—had been slip­ping away from me as I fell back into the typ­i­cal frus­tra­tions and chal­lenges of every­day life. But look­ing through all th­ese pho­tos, I was re­minded of how ex­tremely im­por­tant and ful­fill­ing it is to just stop for a minute and be grate­ful.

The last photo I took was of my printer, which, mo­ments be­fore, had in­ex­pli­ca­bly jammed and stopped work­ing. As my tem­per flared and I an­grily shook the printer, I sat back, re­flected and thought, “I am so grate­ful that, right now, my big­gest prob­lem is a bro­ken printer.” Com­pared to can­cer, almost ev­ery­thing else seems so un­be­liev­ably in­con­se­quen­tial. I am grate­ful that I have that per­spec­tive. But here is a se­cret: You don’t need to wait un­til you’re faced with a life-threat­en­ing dis­ease to ex­pe­ri­ence grat­i­tude and en­joy life. You can start right now. And, in fact, you should start right now be­cause there is so much to ap­pre­ci­ate in this world and so much time wasted not do­ing so. Be­ing grate­ful might even be the key to your hap­pi­ness. Or, at the very least, it will stop you from smash­ing your printer to bits, which, in my case, is still some­thing worth cel­e­brat­ing. ■

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