post it notes that say "Think Positive!" on them

Positive Psychology & Summer Camp

What is Positive Psychology?

Positive psychology is the study of happiness and self-improvement. It looks at what makes people happy and how to become happier over time.


This semester, I am taking a class about positive psychology. I thought that with everything that’s been happening over the last year, I could use something that would make me happier. Recently, though, I realized that a lot of what I’m learning about in this class has been taught to me again and again throughout my life. One of the places that I learned these strategies, which are essential to Positive Psychology, is at the girls’ summer camp I attended from when I was twelve to seventeen.

Gratitude


The first assignment that I received in my positive psychology class was to keep a gratitude journal over the course of the semester. I am supposed to write three things down every day that I am grateful for. Being grateful for the things around us can help keep us focused on the best aspects of the day instead of worrying about things that are outside of our control.


At the summer camp I attended, gratitude was also discussed a lot. We had a wall on the side of the dining hall where campers could go up and write things that they were grateful for other campers doing. Another thing the camp had was a night at the end of the week where girls could get up and share parts of their camp experiences that had mattered to them. Those meetings often ended with many people crying because of the emotional impact of the experiences shared and because camp would be over soon.


Acts of Kindness


Another thing that I’ve learned about in class is the importance of doing small acts of kindness for the people around you. Small acts of kindness might not take much time, but they can improve the moods of those around you, as well as improving your own mood.


At the camp I attended, acts of kindness were also very encouraged. We had built-in activities to give gifts to other campers, and the leaders were always ready to award acts of kindness that they saw with little tokens that could be redeemed at the camp store. I remember so many little acts of kindness from my leaders and the other campers from over my time at camp. It felt like if I tripped, there would be at least five people nearby who would make sure that I was all right. If I seemed upset at all, my leaders would make sure that I was okay. I tried my best to pass on that kindness to the other campers around me.


Developing Strengths


Finally, positive psychology focuses on developing your strengths as a part of self improvement. While the class has not focused much on strengths yet, one thing that I have learned is that it is important to concentrate on improving my personal strengths instead of trying to strengthen my weaker points too.


The camp I attended taught me a lot about what my strengths were, and helped me to develop them. When I first went to summer camp, I was extremely shy. I had never been away from home for more than a single night, and I did not feel ready to be at camp for a week. At the end of the week, though, I felt like I had found a bit of courage. I had made a friend or two, learned a lot of camp songs, and more. In later years, being a part of that camp as a youth leader strengthened my confidence in myself, helped me learn how to work with others, and taught me how to help other campers have the best experience possible.


The summer camp I attended was very different from Camp Laurelwood in many ways. Despite those differences, from what I’ve learned about Camp Laurelwood from interacting with camp staff and the research I have done, it also teaches these strategies.


Like the summer camp I attended, it teaches campers the importance of gratitude, through note-writing on Shabbatand other activities. It also provides opportunities for campers to learn and grow and connect with other people their age. Those kinds of experiences stretched me and helped me to become the person I am today. My experiences at camp helped me to be more positive throughout my life, and I am grateful for that. Now, it helps me to find the beauty in the world around me, appreciate it, and share it with others. Right now, everyone could use a little more beauty and joy in their lives.


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