This is a guest post from team member Melanie Ritchie.

I scrapbook, therefore I am. The meaning of my life unfolds as I flip the pages of my albums. For a long time, I thought I loved scrapbooking just because of pretty papers. I thought the outcome was to have a record of my experiences. Now I know my love of the hobby goes much deeper. Scrapbooking is not just about the papers, the glitter, the photos, or the stories. It’s not even all about the completed project.

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Scrapbooking is also about the process. Making layouts makes me feel good. I become totally focused on my task. My mind gets lost in the creative challenge of choosing my words and composing a layout. That takes time. Time where my mind can wander, reflect, and process both the topic of the layout I’m working on and on issues I’m facing in my life. I work through my problems as I’m creating. Scrapbooking is an effective form of therapy.

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Scrapbooking is also an act of meditation. I’m focusing on the events in my life. I’m acknowledging the moment. Life is full of fleeting moments constantly coming and going. It is very hard to stop and just take it all in. As a scrapbooker, I’ve noticed I’ve become more interested in stopping to observe my life as it is happening. I’ve learned how to “stop and smell the roses”, whether it’s enjoying a smile on my child’s face, stopping to write down something funny that was said, or grabbing my camera because I just saw the oddest looking squirrel ever.

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I’ve become more attuned to really “seeing” what is around me: The way light falls in the afternoon; the frost on leaves during a morning walk; or the way my son whispers the alphabet under his breath as he watches TV. I’m more aware of details that bring beauty and joy into my life. When I place these captured moments on a layout, I’m practicing gratitude. I’m able to look at my experiences and be thankful for them. Life can be hard and exhausting even for the luckiest of people. I can allow myself to get dragged down by negativity. These little captured moments give me a reality check I often need. For that I am grateful. Life can be very good.

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On occasion, I consciously choose to do a layout about something very difficult in my life. I want to document the story but also I’m hopeful that I will glean some understanding and maybe a little closure through creating a layout. I cover topics such as: grief over loss of a loved one, the past, loss of childhood friends, anger at world issues, bullying, anxiety, and depression. I usually cry at some point while making the layout, but feel much lighter and healthier when the page is complete. I don’t seek out difficult topics but when a negative emotion is repeatedly tugging at my soul, it is time to figure out why I am so affected, and to put it all down on paper. Exposing the soul can be liberating.

Editor’s Note: Do you use scrapbooking as a form of therapy? Share your experience in the comments.