I’ve recently been fascinated by the research behind the benefits of gratitude. Not only is it psychologically beneficial to experience gratitude, it is also beneficial to express gratitude to those around you. In an effort to express gratitude, I've begun a gratitude journal to highlight my experiences in gratitude.
My first entry highlights the healthy culture of gratitude at one of my favorite places in the world. I’d like to introduce you to the first entry in my gratitude journal.
In the summer of 2014, I graduated from a small liberal arts school in the Midwest with a psychology degree, ready to change the world. I became one of the millions.
Like every summer before that, I retreated to the summer camp I’d been attending since I was 12 years old – except that now I was working on the leadership staff training counselors and programming activities for campers. That was my place. I wasn’t just one in a million there – no one was. Each person had a job and they had to do that job to set everyone else up for success. If the kitchen didn’t make the food, the kids wouldn’t eat. If maintenance didn’t clean, the kids would feel unsafe. If the lifeguards didn’t guard, there would be a lake for no reason. Although we didn’t necessarily tell each other all the time, everyone was appreciated for their 16-hour days, day in and day out.
Unlike Wet Hot American Summer, we didn’t have a talent show at the end of the summer hosted by Bradley Cooper and Amy Poehler. We did something way better - we expressed gratitude towards each other.
There’s a tradition at Camp Echo on the last night – each person has a piece of paper in the dining hall with their name on it. In the dining hall where we spent many tired mornings, exhausted nights and rainy afternoons, we spent one last evening walking around with markers, pens, and hearts full of emotions while we expressed three months worth of gratitude to our peers. It was quite a process going through a hundred of your peers and trying to sum up your feelings for them in one sentence - but it was worth it.
These comments would be read over and over again throughout the year and if you were like me, you saved the sheet from every year in a folder. If you are like me, that folder is more sacred than your college degree. If you are like me, you’ll challenge yourself to express gratitude to your friends, family and peers on a regular basis.