Meaningful Photos

Difficulty: Moderate | Frequency: 1x/day | Duration: 15 mins
(10 member ratings)

Time Required

15 minutes per day for one week to take the photos. One hour to do the writing exercise. While it is not necessary to take a photograph every day, assume that the photography will take you a total of 90 minutes over the course of a week, with an additional hour for the writing.

How to Do It

1. Over the next week, take photographs of things that make your life feel meaningful or full of purpose. These can be people, places, objects, pets. If you are not able to take photos of these things—like if they’re not nearby—you can take photos of souvenirs, reminders, websites, or even other photos. Try to take at least nine photographs.

2. At the end of the week: If you used a digital camera, upload your photos to a computer. If you used a non-digital camera, have your photos developed.

3. Then, once you have collected all of your photos and items, take time to look at and reflect on each one. For each photo or item, write down a response to the following question: “What does this photo represent, and why is it meaningful?”

Difficulty: Moderate | Frequency: 1x/day | Duration: 15 mins
(10 member ratings)

Why You Should Try It

Research suggests that finding greater meaning in life helps people cope with stress and improves their overall health and well-being—it’s what makes life feel worth living. But finding meaning in life can sometimes feel like an elusive task. In our day-to-day lives, it can be easy to lose sight of the big picture—we tend to focus more on the mundane than the deeply meaningful.

Yet research suggests that there are potential sources of meaning all around us, from the moments of connection we share with others, to the beauty of nature, to the work that we do and the things we create. This exercise helps you bring these meaningful things into focus—literally. By having you photograph, then write about, things that are meaningful to you, it encourages you to pay closer attention to the varied sources of meaning in your life, large and small, and reflect on why they are important to you.

Difficulty: Moderate | Frequency: 1x/day | Duration: 15 mins
(10 member ratings)

Evidence That It Works

Steger, M. F, Shim, Y., Barenz, J., & Shin, J. Y. (2013). Through the windows of the soul: A pilot study using photography to enhance meaning in lifeJournal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 3, 27-30.

College students were instructed to take 9-12 photographs of things that they felt made their life meaningful; one week later, they viewed and wrote about each photograph. They completed a battery of questionnaires before and after this exercise. Afterward, they reported feeling like they had more meaning in their lives, greater life satisfaction, and more positive emotion than they had beforehand.

Difficulty: Moderate | Frequency: 1x/day | Duration: 15 mins
(10 member ratings)

Why It Works

Taking time to recognize and appreciate sources of meaning through photography can help make them more tangible and serve as a reminder of what matters most to you. This greater sense of meaning can, in turn, inspire us to pursue important personal goals and give us a sense of strength and purpose when coping with stressful life events. The use of photography might also benefit people who are more visual than verbal—something for therapists, parents, or teachers to keep in mind as they approach conversations about meaning, purpose, and values in life

Difficulty: Moderate | Frequency: 1x/day | Duration: 15 mins
(10 member ratings)


Michael Steger, Ph.D., Colorado State University

Difficulty: Moderate | Frequency: 1x/day | Duration: 15 mins
(10 member ratings)

For More

Difficulty: Moderate | Frequency: 1x/day | Duration: 15 mins
(10 member ratings)

Completion Status

Comments & Reviews

  1. Sharon Frank
    Sharon Frank
    October 1, 2017

    I also take a lot of photos, and I enjoy looking back at them, but I've never given any thought to their meanings. Love, warmth, self reliance, pleasure, security, gratitude, stability, health, growth. These are my self-selected photos.

  2. Monica KhANNA
    Monica KhANNA
    September 19, 2017

    I am making a collage of this summer spent with friends. The project began with one single photograph but that did not satisfy our storytelling so I ended up surrounding it with 9 more photographs to fit in a single frame. Each time I add a piece to this project I am reliving the happy feeling of this summer.

  3. Monica KhANNA
    Monica KhANNA
    September 7, 2017

    I have always been click happy with my camera. I try to click photos daily of my children or events or a particular nature scenery. Whenever I revisit old photos the memories and the emotions connected with them come rushing back.

  4. Bert Dorazio
    Bert Dorazio
    September 6, 2016

    I reflect a lot during my daily runs. It's a great time to appreciate all the wonderful things I have in my life.

  5. MWL
    January 24, 2016

    Thank you so much for this exercice. I had great pleasure doing it and looking at the reslt in the end was very satisfactory. It takes more than an hour though to write the comments. I'll do it again in a few months!

  6. Heidi Geller
    Heidi Geller
    January 13, 2016

    I have a question? Can it have the same impact if you simply go through pics already taken and reflect on those or does have to be within the past few days/week?

  7. Fide De Viáncha
    Fide De Viáncha
    January 9, 2016

    Cuando veo las fotografías de los paseos vuelvo a vivir esos momentos agradables

  8. Hilda Hernandez
    Hilda Hernandez
    October 3, 2015

    I see was great enjoy work and all our team can smile, work together because all are agree about what we can do it

  9. Gaby Toloza
    Gaby Toloza
    September 15, 2015

    I use an app called Collect which is basically a journal app I can pick a picture from that day or any day and write a narrative about it. I just went back through the past 6 months and man was it powerful to see the images but also what I had to say about them. Will definitely use this practice and teach it to my daughter

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