Tag Archives: Thankfulness

Raising Optimistic Kids

MonkeFamilyAs I parent, I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on making sure my children are getting a good education. I check to see that they are keeping up academically, that their school is challenging enough for them, and that they are getting a well-rounded education. I read aloud to them so that they learn to love reading themselves.

Many of my conversations with other parents revolve around academics: what our children are or are not learning in school, how good their teachers are, and, now that my oldest are in college, what they need to do to be successful in life. I believe that a good, solid education is going to provide my children with more opportunities for success as adults. I think most parents would agree. There are some other parenting priorities, however, that I think are sometimes overlooked when we get ultra-focused on academics. These are character assets that, coupled with a good education, will truly be the key to future happiness and success for our kids. One trait that I want my kids to develop is optimism, and it is something we focus on here at Gold Arrow Camp, as well.

Optimism seems to come naturally to some people. They see the best in every situation and person, never let a failure get them down, and basically look on the bright side. For optimists, a rainy day is a positive thing, an opportunity for dust to settle and the air to be cleared. A failed attempt at something new is viewed as a step towards future success. A counselor once told me a story about a remarkable camper in his group. The young boy was struggling with hitting the target at archery, but instead of getting frustrated and giving up, as kids often do, he had a smile and a great outlook. He let his counselor and cabin mates know that he was going to “hit the target soon,” and he just needed to “keep on trying.” That kind of optimistic spirit will take that young man far in life!

But what about the not-so-naturally-optimistic kid? As parents (and camp counselors), we can help nurture the trait of optimism in our kids.

The Gold Fish Guide reads:
  • Let them try new things, even if they don’t always work out.
  • Tell them to dream big but to start small.
  • Encourage them to learn from others but to always be themselves.
  • Make sure they do a little something every day, and a little nothing every day.
  • Help them to notice what’s nice and to deal with what’s not.
  • Encourage them to look outside themselves and inside themselves.”

According to Dr. Christine Carter in her booking Raising Happiness, “Ten-year-olds who are taught to think and interpret the world optimistically are half as prone to depression when they later go through puberty.” Wow! With the rising statistics on kids and adults who suffer from depression and anxiety, that’s a pretty powerful reason to focus on helping our kids be more optimistic!

Carter recommends three ways parents (and counselors) can help kids be more optimistic: give faq-2936affection; teach kids to cope with challenges and frustration; and model optimism ourselves. At camp, kids have ample opportunities to try new, often challenging activities. Learning to deal with the frustration of not being able to get up on water skiis on the first, second, third, or fourth try is a powerful lesson in both persistence and optimism. Our role is to help kids learn to handle setbacks and frustrations in a positive way and realize that “success is 99% failure.” (Soichiro Honda)

“Optimism is so closely related to happiness that the two can practically be equated,” says Carter, whose research has found that optimistic people are:

  • More successful in school, at work, and in athletics
  • Healthier and longer lived
  • More satisfied with their marriages
  • Less likely to suffer from depression
  • Less anxious

In the article “Raise Your Children to be Optimists,” Elizabeth Scott, MS, gives these ten tips for parents:

  1. Help Them Experience Success
  2. Give Credit for Success
  3. Look for Future Success
  4. Don’t Praise Indiscriminately
  5. Validate, but Question
  6. Remember Success in the Face of Failure
  7. Look for “Opportunities to Improve”
  8. Look for the Bright Side
  9. Don’t Use Negative Labels
  10. Make an example of yourself

Smiling is another powerful tool in promoting optimism, so we practice a lot of smiling around GAC!

Four Reasons for Two Weeks of Camp

“Do you have a one week session?” is one of the questions we often get asked by parents who are new to our program.  The question is usually preceded or followed by the comment,  “Two weeks is too long for my child.”

I thought it would be helpful to outline for new parents why Gold Arrow Camp has a two-week session length as our primary camp offering.   Although we also offer one-week specialty camp options at the beginning and end of the summer, Gold Arrow Camp’s core program is a two-week session, and that is the length of time the majority of our campers attend camp.   We also have campers who are “Monthers,” who attend four weeks of camp by combining two, two-week sessions.
There are many benefits to camp, regardless of length of stay, as per the American Camp Association study.  So, I urge you to find a camp that fits your family’s needs and schedule, even if Gold Arrow is not the best fit for you.

Our program, up until the 1970s, was a month-long program.  Many traditional, East Coast camps still offer only one seven or eight-week session.   To people in the West, this sounds crazy, as most programs on our side of the country are one-week in length.   However, families who have been part of Gold Arrow and other traditional camp programs understand the benefits of a longer camp stay.

Many traditional camps in California have started offering one-week programs, because that’s what many parents think they want for their child.  Fortunately, our camp families have kept our two-week sessions consistently full, so we will continue to offer what we consider the best length for our program.

Why does Gold Arrow Camp have two-week sessions?

Here are four reasons:

  1. Community and Friendship Building
  2. Breadth and Depth of Activities
  3. Social Skill Development
  4. Independence and Confidence Building

Rock Climbing

 

1. Community and Friendship Building

“Eli had the greatest summer camp experience.  He knew no one going to camp and come home with a host of new friends.  He had a huge smile on his face when we greeted him and it lasted for a long time.  He was pushed to achieve and he was proud of himself for achieving his goals.” – 2014 GAC Parents

While a lot of fun happens during even just one day of camp, spending more time connecting and building bonds with counselors, cabin mates, and other campers is one of the benefits of a two-week stay.

The first week of the session, there is an adjustment period for the first few days, when campers are getting settled and getting to know one another, the schedule, and the activities.  By the middle of the first week, campers feel settled and comfortable at camp, and relationships have the opportunity to start getting deeper.  Friendships, while they can definitely be formed in one week, have a better chance to grow stronger and deeper with more connection time.

“My children lead busy lives during the school year with various teams and enrichment programs.  Going to Gold Arrow Camp allows them to unwind and gain a new perspective on friendship, goals and life.  From my perspective, GAC is summer the way it is supposed to be for kids.  Thank you!!” – 2014 GAC Parents

Because all of the campers in the cabin group are at camp for the same length of time (two weeks), there are no departures and arrivals in the middle of the session to disrupt the group’s cohesiveness and the bonds that have developed.  Everyone arrives together and departs together, with the exception of our Monther campers, who stay on for another session after their first two-weeks end.

 

2. Breadth and Depth of Activities

“Gold Arrow Camp is a great summer camp experience. Our son has gone to GAC for 4 years now and every year he sees old friends, makes new ones, tries new things, compares his skills at the activities from the current year to past summers, can be independent and responsible for himself and his belongings, and gets to enjoy the beautiful camp setting away from the heat in Phoenix. He is already looking forward to next summer when he will receive his 5-year blanket.” – 2014 GAC Parents

We take advantage of our location on Huntington Lake, in the heart of the Sierra National Forest, by teaching campers a large variety of water and land-based recreational activities.  Many of our activities require extensive time and instruction. Sailing, as an example, is an activity that begins with a 2 ½ hour group lesson, and can be followed up by many additional lessons as campers opt for more sailing during Free Time.  Without adequate time, it would be impossible for campers to even get to all of the activities we offer, let alone build skills in them.   We want our campers to get exposure to all of what is offered at camp, and have the opportunity to pursue activities they are passionate about.

During their two weeks at Gold Arrow, campers have the opportunity to learn to sail, ride a horse, shoot a rifle, get up on water skiis, and participate in a myriad of other activities.   Many of these sports require time and practice to master.  For first-time campers, two weeks is just enough time to expose them to all of the different activities and start practicing and improving skills.  Returning campers continue to build upon and develop new skills, even after five or six years at our program.  The depth of instruction offered, the opportunity to improve recreational skills, and the ability to earn different patches and certifications all distinguish Gold Arrow Camp’s program.

We have two outpost programs, away from our main camp, that take up a portion of the two-week session.  We have a water sports outpost camp on an island on Shaver Lake where campers enjoy one or two nights camping on the beach.  At Shaver Island, campers spend their days on the lake improving their skills in waterskiing, wakeboarding, and kneeboarding.  While these sports are also done at our main camp on Huntington Lake, their stay at Shaver allows our two-week campers time to really improve their skills with a lot of “behind the boat” time.  Our other outpost program is backpacking.  All campers go on a one-night overnight backpacking trip and get to experience outdoor cooking, sleeping under the stars, and living in nature.

There are some activities that we wait to do until the second week of camp, when campers are feeling connected and more comfortable taking risks.  At the end of the second week of camp, we have our dance, and several all-day, sign up trips.  Campers can opt to spend the day sailing across Huntington Lake, going on a long horse trail ride, climbing challenging terrain on a rock climbing trip, and more.

Honestly, even two weeks seems short to us.  We barely get campers to all of our activities, and it’s time for them to go home!

 

3. Social Skills Development

“Gold Arrow Camp added a new dimension to our daughter’s summer.  She was able participate in sports and activities she had not done before; further develop her social skills by meeting new people and being involved with her cabin mates a large part of each day; and enjoy free time in a beautiful setting free of electronics.” – 2014 GAC Parents

Kids benefit from experiences living and working in groups regardless of the length of time.  However, I believe that allowing a group to really bond and connect also allows kids to grow their communication, teamwork, and conflict resolution skills more than when they are in a shorter-term program.

 

4. Independence and Confidence Building

“Both girls came home SO happy!  Melissa came home today, Jesse last week.  Melissa had gone to camp knowing no one, and upon her return, she had to finish BIG hugs good-bye with friends before she’d get in the car to go home.  On our drive home, she went a mile a minute with stories about her 2 weeks at GAC, and when she got home, she burst into tears, saying she missed camp, her friends, and that she wished she could live at camp all year round!  At that point we told her she could go back next year for 4 weeks, and she became overjoyed with excitement, and wanted us to sign her up for 2012 right then and there.  Jessica ‘Jess’, also had an amazing experience.  She came home last Saturday, after 1 week, as she was a Nugget.  She, too wants to go back next year, this time for ‘either 2… maybe 4 weeks.’  Considering she’s only 7, we are amazed.  Both girls look like they grew 2 inches each while away, but it’s really an extra gained confidence where they’re walking taller and prouder with themselves.  We are SO thrilled that we found Gold Arrow Camp, a camp their second cousin went to almost 20 years ago.  As the famous vanilla tree has been rooted at GAC for years and years, we look forward to our girls being rooted there for years and years to come, too.  Thanks for such a positive, growing, and out of this world experience!” – 2014 GAC Parent
“As a multi-generational Gold Arrow Family, nothing beats your child immersed high-up in the Sierra Nevada for total fun and adventure. Every day brings a sublime surprise. They return with confident Sierra Nevada Mountain swagger that is part-and-parcel with a positive can-do attitude.”- 2014 GAC Parent

GAC gave our daughter the freedom to make choices, and the support to make good ones.

“Our daughter went from not being able to sleep overnight at friends houses to spending three weeks at GAC.  GAC provided our daughter with the confidence of knowing that she can accomplish anything that she sets her mind to complete.” – 2014 GAC Parents

For many kids, their stay at camp is the first time that they have ever been away from their parents at all.  Some have attended sleep-overs, weekend scout camps, or week-long school programs, but for many campers, their first stay at Gold Arrow is the longest they’ve been away from their parents.  We know this, and our counselors are trained to help first-time campers get adjusted to being away and learn to cope with feelings of missing their parents.

Campers feel a great sense of pride in themselves after “being on their own,” and having fun, without mom or dad nearby.   While two weeks seem slow to parents, especially during their first camp experience, the days fly by at Camp.

“Two weeks was not enough for our son….now he’s a MONTHER!” – 2014 GAC Parent

3 Ways to Make Family Dinner like a Campfire

3 Ways To Make Family Dinner like a CampfireMost of us know the importance of family dinners:

Kids who regularly eat dinner with their families are more emotionally stable, are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, get better grades, have fewer depressive symptoms, and are less inclined to obesity or eating disorders.

It’s certainly a compelling list. But what can you do if your family dinner isn’t that great? If people just “eat and run” or don’t really connect? One answer might be turning your dinner table into a campfire pit. Not literally, of course, but group campfires at summer camp offer a great example of fun, engaging activities that have helped make dinners at our house last longer than the ten minutes it takes my boys to shovel down their food.

Here are some ideas:

 

Sharing highs, lows, and “gratitudes” (I know that’s not a real word, but that’s what we use)

GAC CampfireOne way we’ve found to get everyone talking and contributing at our dinner table is consistent sharing time. We find out what’s going on in our kids’ lives (and in the lives of unsuspecting visiting friends) and we as parents share what’s going on in ours. For children who are quieter and generally don’t “take the floor” as often, this consistent discussion helps them open up.   And for those who don’t naturally focus on the good things, it helps them see the positive in their day.

Around the campfire, it’s an activity called “High & Lows,” or—as it’s now evolved in our family—“Highs, Lows, and Gratitudes.” It’s very simple:  Each person has a turn (uninterrupted, with everyone focused on that one person) to share
•  their HIGH point of the day,
•  their LOW point of the day, and
•  their GRATITUDE—what they’re feeling grateful for.

For a twist, we sometimes make rules for sharing: a “high” might be limited to three words, or a “low” might have a one word limit.  It creates a fun challenge and makes us think. If we can’t come up with a low, we share another high.

Sometimes, we interrupt, tell long stories, or go off on tangents, but that’s okay.  We’re connecting, sharing, and discovering what’s happening in each other’s lives. Our dinners last much longer than ten minutes, and our kids know they won’t be excused until everyone shares.

In The Whole-Brain Child, Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson write about the importance of getting kids to remember their stories.  So, instead of asking “How was your day?” which invariably gets a one-word response, they recommend asking “What was the best part of your day?” and “What was your not-the-best part?”  Sounds like a high and low of the day to me!GAC Campfire

Question or topic of the night

There are so many fun books and table games available, but you can probably just take turns thinking up a fun question for each person to answer, much like counselors do around a campfire. For my birthday a few weeks ago, a friend who knows me well gave me Q & A a day for Kids by Betsy Franco, which has 365 questions (one for each day) to discuss with your kids. We also have used The Enchanted Table (by Memorable Mealtimes) and Table Topics, a box of questions that our kids like taking turns reading.

Family Meeting (once per week)

health-78At camp, we always start the session with what we call our “First Night Campfire.” The counselor has a specific agenda for the campfire, which includes all the kids getting to know each other, sharing a goal they have for camp, and what guidelines they want to live by during their two-week stay. Families need to do the same kind of checking in with one other, so—once a week—we have a “Family Meeting” during dinner. We have an agenda that’s on a legal pad next to the table, and we take turns being the “chair” of the meeting.

On our agenda:
• What’s going on this week? We talk about the schedule for the coming week (any big projects/assignments due, any events, parents going anywhere)
• Goal for the week: Each person shares a goal for the week (something we want to get done, do better, etc.)
• A value or social skill we want to talk about. These have been focused on social skills for the past year in our house, and we’ve talked about things like looking someone in the eye while meeting them and how to chat with an adult. We’ve also used this printable (“10 Social Manners for Kids” from iMom) for several topics. Lately, it’s been a contest to see who can remember all ten!

We’ll hold fast to our family dinner time as long as we have kids in the house; I know it will be over far too soon. In the whirl of the last four years, our family group of seven has dwindled to the “final four”: me, my husband, and our two youngest. The meals we share are nothing like June Cleaver’s pot roast, and they often involve my awesome husband cooking or picking up something easy to eat or make. It’s rarely a big production, but it’s still really big. When we are gathered around our table eating and talking—with no phones or tablets in sight—it doesn’t matter if we have a home-cooked meal or a Panda bowl; as long as we’re connecting and sharing, it’s the biggest and best part—it’s our HIGH  point—of the day.

All we’re missing is the campfire.

Originally posted on Sunshine Parenting. If you like Sunshine Parenting, please subscribe to get an email update each time I post (use box on upper right column), or follow me on Facebook or Pinterest for links to other articles and ideas about camp and parenting. Thank you for reading!

Resources/Related:

Why Family Dinner is Important (Sunshine Parenting)
Sharing our Highs, Lows, and Buffalos (Sunshine Parenting)
Get 10 Social Manners for Kids Free Printable (iMom)
Resources for Teaching Social Skills

Pay It Forward Day!

Pay It ForwardI usually rush through the day thinking about what I need to get done and consumed by all the stuff that weighs on my time and my brain.  And yet, being aware of those around me and doing a simple act of kindness can change the trajectory of my, and possibly someone else’s, day.

I’ll never forget the time, at a camp reunion, when a former counselor told me a story I didn’t remember.  She was cold one night, and I found her a blanket.  Such a little thing, and yet, 15 years later, she remembered this as a significant act of kindness that impacted her.  It really struck me that some of the little acts of kindness we do may be MUCH bigger than we think.  We may not even remember them, but the act may be imprinted on the recipient.

And so, it’s important to be aware of the moments in our day when we have the opportunity to be kind.  Life is such a rush.  We all have a tight schedule.  But how amazingly nice it is, when we’re worried we’ll be late to pick up our kids from school, when someone spontaneously lets us go in front of them at the supermarket check out line?  Small, yes.  But significant, YES!  We pause and are so grateful and, for a moment, we feel connected to a stranger.  Their kindness makes our day happier.

Pay It ForwardJust today, in an elevator at a hotel with notoriously slow elevators, a woman profusely thanked me simply for telling her we could fit her and her suitcase in our crowded elevator.  It was nothing.  But it was something. It made her feel good, and it made me feel even better.

Today is Pay It Forward Day.  The phrase “Pay it Forward” was coined in Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novel by the same name. She defined it as “an obligation to do three good deeds for others in response to a good deed that one receives. Such good deeds should accomplish things that the other person cannot accomplish on their own. In this way, the practice of helping one another can spread geometrically through society, at a ratio of three to one, creating a social movement with an impact of making the world a better place.”

Did you see the 2001 movie by the same name? It had a big impact on me, and I’m re-watching it this week in honor of Pay it Forward day.

For Pay it Forward day this year, why don’t you do a small (or big) act of kindness toward a stranger or friend? Instead of asking them to return a favor to you, ask them to “pay it forward” to someone else by doing another act of kindness. In this way, your single act of kindness can have an exponential ripple effect to many more people.

Who knows how you can change the world, or the life of one person, by your simple, small act of kindness?

It may be one of the most influential things you do in your life.

Happy “Pay it Forward” Day!

Session 3 Superhero Dance

Originally posted on August 24, 2013

Pay it Forward Day Resources:
Pay it Forward Movement
Pay it Forward Day Website
Pay it Forward Day Resources for teachers and parents

Kindness Resources:

The Positive Psychology of Kindness
Kindness and the Case for Altruism
Random Acts of Kindness Foundation
Five Ways to Raise Kind Children, Greater Good Science Center
Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for more Joyful Kids and Happier Parents
Being Kind Makes Kids Happy
Fixing the Mean Girl Syndrome
Your Kindness is Good for You 

Study Finds Campers Really Are Happy

Last summer, I conducted research on the impact camp experiences have on children’s social skills and happiness. This research was through the California State University, Fresno for my master’s degree thesis entitled, “The Perceived Impact of Camp Experiences on Youth Social Skills and Subjective Well-Being.”Study Finds Campers Really Are Happy!

“Camp is basically my happy place, and I love being here
more than any other place in the world.”
– 2014 GAC Camper

“Happy camper” is an expression used to describe anyone who’s feeling good about something in any circumstance. But just how happy are actual campers who attend overnight summer camp? Last summer, in research conducted at seven different residential summer camps that included over 3,000 campers, I set out to answer that very question.

When campers completed their normal end-of-camp survey (used by camps to get feedback about the experience), additional questions in 2014 asked about happiness. From those, 80% of campers reported that their camp experience made them happier, with 31% of kids saying they felt “a little happier” because of camp and 49% saying they felt “a lot” happier. Here are a few of their comments:

“It was the best time of my life.”

“It’s one of my favorite places on Earth.”

“Camp is the most fun I have all year.”

“I had so much fun and everybody was nice to me.”

“Camp is a fun and happy place.”

“Camp is a really fun environment where I can learn and have fun, make friends, and grow as a person.”

“I get to play with my friends.”

“I have been here for five years and 99% of the time I’m happy (except for arrival and packing day).”

“Camp makes me feel happy.”

“The counselors are super funny.”

“Camp is an amazing place with no worries.”

“I enjoy the safe, active, friendly atmosphere.”

“Camp is very fun and sometimes I miss my family, but most of the time I feel at home.”

“It is very good to get away from technology and meet new adventures.”

“Camp is so much fun and has better things to do than be a couch potato.”

“I get to do activities I don’t get to do at home.”

“At home, I am bored most of the time. At camp, I am never bored.”

MAN-C17-6382

We also asked campers to tell us how they felt emotionally while at camp, and 86% of them reported feeling happy “most of the time” or “more of the time than sad,”compared to 70% who felt those same levels of happiness when they were not at camp. In fact, 2,032 (62%) of the 3,197 campers who answered the question said they felt happy “most of the time” at camp, compared to 1,334 (41%) who said they felt happy “most of the time” when they were not at camp.

Finally, when asked what they liked about camp and why they wanted to return, 1,047 campers Sailing Campersmentioned the word “fun,” and 635 mentioned the word “friend.”

Campers often describe camp as their “happy place” or “the best two weeks” of their year. And, from observation, anyone can see that kids and the counselors who work with them appear happy at camp.  They smile a lot. They look relaxed. There’s a lot of laughter.  So many fun things happen at camp every day that it’s no surprise it’s such a happy place for kids. Now, our findings have proven that the anecdotal stories are true and that most kids are, in fact, happier at camp.

Dancing CamperSo why is that the case? While that research has yet to be done, other research in the field of positive psychology may hold the answer. Martin Seligman—the father of positive psychology and a major figure in the wellbeing movement—has identified five areas that lead to the condition he calls “flourishing,” encapsulated in the acronym PERMA: positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and achievement. PERMA critics say there are few places where all five can be found together, but in the context of our study, camp is one such place. In short, camp may be just the positive intervention some kids need to flourish!

So go ahead and use the term “happy camper” to refer to people who are happy and flourishing, because kids at camp are, indeed, “happy campers”!

Happy Campers

Campers talk about GAC

GACspiration_CC_Amanda We just ended another fantastic Sierra summer, and we’re already counting down the days until Summer 2015! While at camp, we asked a few of our five-year campers what made GAC great.


Ruth, a five-year GAC camper, was asked to write an ode directed towards something or someone she loved. Ruth chose to write about GAC. Here’s what she said..

G-A-C is the camp to beatRuth Wecker blanket
Really great people you will meet
Smelling the vanilla tree on the way to meals
Putting on chap stick so your lips don’t peel

 

Green and Gold, we represent
Spending two to four weeks in a big green tent
Without this camp my summers would be a bore
Missing out on sleeping with my cabin mates and listening to our counselors snore

 

Three years a banner, five years a blanket, ten years a jacket
I know I’m going to make it
Have fun, make friends, and grow is our motto
All the counselors have really cool names, like Ninja, Toyota and Pesto

 

Ruth Wecker
I come back every year to see my friends that I wish I were always near
Sailing in sunfishes
And sleeping under the stars making wishes
Just being at camp is a wish come true

 

There are always people to talk with and something to do
Everyone there is such a champ
I love and thank you, Gold Arrow Camp
(Wadda, Wadda, Wadda!)

What does camp mean to YOU?

Amazingly Cool & Kind

Found this lovely gem and thought we might share it as a throwback to our theme from last summer, “It’s cool to be kind.” This was written by Renee, one of our 2013 campers. We hope you enjoy!

Cool2BKind

Over the past few days at GAC I’ve witnessed, participated, and experienced so many acts of kindness. This session at GAC has also emphasized the theme “Cool 2 be Kind” and I’ve definitely seen the influence it has over all the campers, counselors, staff, and nature of the camp. Though it is impossible for me to list all the examples of kindness I’ve seen and experienced I’ll do my best. From day 1 my counselors have been extremely welcoming and helpful whether it be tying my friendship bracelet or helping me get more contacts they have truly heightened my experience here at camp. Moreover, the girls in my cabin have all been extremely amiable. Most have 2-5 years of seniority at the camp and the guidance has been so kind and helpful. For instance one of the girls greatly helped my way around Shaver. Additionally, another one of my cabin mates did all of the Kitchen Patrolling at Shaver, from taking away trash and wiping tables. Even after coming she continued to K.P. for another day. One particular event that sticks out to me is when, as a cabin, we all helped clean up the Sleeping Beach at Shaver. A huge mess had been left at the beach from fireworks during July 4th and, as a team, we were able to greatly reduce the waste on the beach. Overall the atmosphere at GAC has been AMAZINGLY cool and kind.

Be Grateful

 “Each day comes bearing it’s own gifts.  Untie the ribbons.”
– Ruth Ann Schaback

grat•i•tude:  a feeling of thankful appreciation for favors or
benefits received; thankfulness

Two years ago, we spent the whole summer learning to be more grateful. Our summer theme of gratitude led to a range of activities and discussions that continue to be a central part of the GAC culture.  Why such a big focus on gratitude? Because strengthening their gratitude muscles is a great way to grow our campers’ happiness and is a skill we feel benefits them far beyond camp.

We’ve learned through Dr. Christine Carter’s research on gratitude that “people who consciously practice gratitude are happier, more satisfied with their lives, and have fewer health complaints.”  According to Dr. Carter, who is the author of Raising Happiness as well as a GAC parent and staff trainer, “people who practice gratitude are also more enthusiastic, interested, determined, are more likely to be kind and helpful to others, and sleep better.”  Wow!  With a list like that, how could we not focus on teaching campers some gratitude skills?

“Difficulty and scarcity inspire gratitude,” says Dr. Carter.  Those are not things that most GAC campers have experienced.  But camp does offer a unique opportunity for us to step away from our “stuff” and reflect on all that we have to be grateful for.  At camp, without being surrounded by expensive electronics and feeling pressured to have the latest clothing styles, campers have time to think about and discuss deeper topics of greater value and importance.

Dr. Martin Seligman, one of the founders of Positive Psychology, has tested his “Three Blessings” exercise with both his students and with patients exhibiting depressive symptoms.  In both cases, taking the time, each day, to simply think about and write down three good things had a powerful and positive impact on happiness.

 

Watch this video to get inspired to be more grateful!


365grateful.com from hailey bartholomew on Vimeo.

What you can do:

  • Start a gratitude journal where you write, every day, three good things (big or small) that happened that day.
  • Write a gratitude letter to someone you never properly thanked, and deliver it in person or read it to them over the phone.

Have a grateful day!

 

For more on gratitude:

Dr. Martin Seligman Video about Three Blessings
Teaching Kids Gratitude Instead of Entitlement
Sunshine Parenting: Grateful Campers are Happy Campers
Raising Happiness: christinecarter.com
Teaching Children to Be Grateful
The Gift of Gratitude
Your Kindness Is Good for You
George Saunders’s Advice to Graduates
Teaching Kids Gratitude