In a recent piece, I wrote, “Writing is how we learn about ourselves. It is how we come to understand ourselves.” Another powerful way we can explore the complexities within is through images. Photography. Drawing. Painting.

Sometimes, these activities can feel more freeing than writing. Sometimes, it’s more freeing to pick up a bunch of crayons and color the image inside your mind. Sometimes, it’s more freeing to snap photos of uplifting things.

As Cathy Malchiodi, Ph.D, noted, “When words are not enough, we turn to images and symbols to tell our stories. And in telling our stories through art, we find pathways to wellness, recovery and transformation.”

The key is not to focus on your artistic abilities or lack thereof, which can stop you from creating. In other words, it doesn’t matter if the last time you sketched something was in grade school. It doesn’t matter that your knowledge of cameras is, well, non-existent. These are simply other ways we can express, and discover, ourselves.

Below are one-word prompts you can explore by drawing an image that comes to mind, or taking a picture with your smartphone. For instance, you might explore the word “joy.” What does joy look like? What does it smell like? What does it sound like? What does it taste like? Maybe you sketch the people, places, activities and things that bring you joy. Or maybe you snap photos instead. Maybe you take photos of the sunset and the sweetest ice cream sundae you’ve ever had. Or maybe you take a video of your daughters dancing and the waves crashing onto the shore.

  • love
  • grief
  • shame
  • anger
  • surprise
  • delight
  • sadness
  • surreal
  • relaxation
  • anxiety
  • favorites
  • keepsakes
  • soul
  • whimsy
  • silence
  • mistakes
  • nature
  • self-care
  • faith
  • growth
  • truth
  • books
  • gifts
  • longing
  • lemon
  • failure
  • self-trust
  • laughter
  • your body
  • mundane
  • summer
  • darkness
  • hope
  • table
  • stillness
  • poetry

Again, it doesn’t matter how skilled you are at drawing or taking pictures. What matters are the images that arise. What matters is the self-reflection, the self-discovery. What matters is creating a bridge between your mind and your heart.

Photo by Annie Spratt.