July 27, 2017
Yesterday was a crazy day. We had our final Trojan-Spartan game of third term, the Roll Out the Red Carpet Dance, 2 Senior Camper talks, one Man Cave and our weekly meeting. During all of that, we had 3 sets of guests that we had the pleasure to entertain.
All this excitement led to a new first: I failed to write my blog yesterday.
While I do not think this ruined anyone’s day, I apologize for failing to share my glimpse into the world of camp. I hope you find these missives helpful – or at least occasionally amusing, but they have become important to me as well.
Research into mindsets and cognition reveals that writing a blog or journal helps our brain decide what to focus on. For example, if I were to write something daily about how unpleasant life is – I would begin to notice more and more unpleasant things each day.
On the other hand, if I write about something uplifting or positive, I train my inner eye to spot the lovely things around us.
I have found writing about camp helps me see more kindness, silliness, humor and love than I might otherwise spot. As a result, the blog helps me find moments of joy – even when the day is not perfect or someone is struggling.
Susie Ma’am and I strive to share this insight with our high school campers (the Senior Campers) by showing them the research on journaling and writing daily “gratitudes”.
Here is the theory behind the power of “gratitudes” and journaling.
Every one of us is inundated with stimuli at all times: sights, sounds, smells, ideas, information and emotions. Put simply, our brains cannot process all of it, so it develops filters, allowing some stimuli to come in and others to remain un-noticed.
The brain starts by filtering out irrelevant information. I look at camp every day, but I have no idea how many trees there are on the main property. Similarly, your children probably have no idea how many rafters there are in their cabins. The rafters are important to the structure itself, but they are not important to your child. They look at the rafters, as I look at the trees, and take no notice.
But even when you eliminate all extraneous input, there is still too much for the brain to process. As a result, we concoct models and worldviews that help us interpret the world. Once we develop a model, we will “torture the facts” to reinforce our viewpoint. Psychologists call this “confirmation bias”. If we expect to find interesting people, we will find them. If, on the other hand, we belief that people are self-serving jerks, we will find unpleasant people.
Ultimately, we see what we expect to see.
So writing gratitudes or journaling about positive moments trains our brains to scan the world for positive things to be grateful for.
Since I have become familiar with this research, I know that my own perspective about life and other people has become more positive and upbeat. I was never dour, but I have become cheerier.
Also, being surrounded by other people who scan the world for positivity helps as well.
So while camp is not “the real world”, it has helped train me to interpret the “real world” in a more excitatory light!