Camp News & Blog

What Makes You Happy?

Well… it’s not the internet. How do I know? The Dr. Jean Twenge recently put out an article and  great series of graphs on the World Happiness Report. Dr. Twenge and her team looked specifically at 12 to 18 year olds. (I would guess the following holds true for our younger… and older… friends, too!)

Time on the internet has increased dramatically from 2009 to today. During that same time period, the average amount of sleep and ‘in-person’ interactions have plummeted.

And, guess what the results for happiness did? Just like the rockets that don’t pop their ‘chutes at camp: straight down.

But, if you spend any time at camp, this isn’t a surprise. There are no phones and very, very little internet. There is an abundance of in-person interaction. In fact, you can hardly get away from it. And, (believe it or not parents), there is a lot of sleep – at least 8 hours for even our oldest campers.

Here’s the kicker graph to me:

Now, this graph is ‘correlational’ rather than ‘causal.’ That means it’s not proven that spending time texting or on social media or internet causes you to feel unhappy. It could be that when you are unhappy, you reach out to those options.

Either way, we know the things on the top of the graph – with the scores moving to the right – are either making you happy or are things you do when you are happy.

Want to know something crazy? It really doesn’t matter if it’s a before or after scenario. The more you do things that are correlated to your happiness, the happier you’ll be.

At camp, you can pretty much do everything that is purple in the graph above… except the news things. Yes, you can even do homework… if your parents request it. The things in yellow? Almost impossible to do at Weequahic.

Here’s the thing: you know you are happy at camp. So, make your life in other areas as happy as you can by making it more like camp.

How? Start by getting off your phone and around others. Go play. Volunteer your time. Reach a book. Write a list of you are grateful for rather than spending time scrolling. There are lots of ways. You just have to get creative and decide to go and do.

Get out there, Weequahic. Move! Interact! Sleep! And be happy.

Curious Before Furious

When going through your life, whose perspective do you rely upon the most? (Your own, of course.) It’s the most natural thing in your life: seeing all that is going on around you from your own point of view.

Henry Thoreau, the writer of a few very famous books, said that he’d spend hours looking at a scene from one perspective. The next day, he’d sit in almost exactly the same spot – just a little different – and observe the same scene. He did this over and over. (The guy was either really patient, driven or bored to tears. I prefer to think it’s one of the first two.)

Thoreau did this so that he could observe the same things from different perspectives. Claude Monet, a ground-breaking painter, did a similar thing with haystacks and other subjects.

“Ok, Cole, why all the art talk and perspective?”

I’m glad you asked: because everything can be seen from different perspectives. And in doing so, you get a fuller understanding of what is actually in front of you.

Curious Before Furious

You and your friends read the same book for a class report. But each of you take the same information in differently, stressing some points and ignoring others. You think you and your friends have been arguing but you’ve made up and now everything is ‘ok.’ You may want to check that from the other’s perspective… or a third. (“Hey, Jenna – you were there when Samir and I were arguing. I think we made up and all is good. What do you think?”)

It’s a great tool in life to be able to see a situation, moment or thought from another (and another’s) perspective. It’s very easy to get emotional right away when something is said and you hear about it out of context. As I heard recently, it’s better to be curious before furious. What was really said? What was the context? What was the intent?

I like that phrase. It’s one that can be put into action right away. Sure, you can be mad after you’ve gotten all the facts and perspectives. But at least do the work. It can actually save you a lot of grief in the long run.
Be curious this week ahead!

Summer Learning

While many of our campers have already been enjoying school for a few weeks, most will be starting on Tuesday of next week. I know everyone would be excited to just get back to camp instead of picking up the math books. Campers, remember, you will learn important things at school, too.

As we prep for the buses to roll and get dolled up for those ‘first morning’ pics, I’d like to remind you of a few things you learned this past summer that will help you through the first few days (and longer) of school.

Turn It Up

When we turn up joy, we turn down fear. When we turn up generosity, we turn down envy. When we turn up humility, we turn down false pride.

Humility is a great word and even better way to live your life.  The word humility comes from the Latin word ‘humus’ which means ‘fertile ground.’ That’s ground on which lots of things can easily grow. Humility doesn’t mean thinking less about yourself but rather thinking of yourself less and others more. It’s about serving and celebrating others rather than serving or celebrating yourself.

So, when we turn the humility knob up to maximum blast, what happens to the false pride knob? Right – it gets turned down. Here’s a question: how do we turn humility up? What’s the key that will unlock the dial so you can turn it up?

The key is gratitude.

Realizing that you’ve benefited from others actions – be it your friend, your parents, your camp counselors, Yaweh, Buddha, Jesus or Mother Nature – is the first really big step. Saying ‘thank you’, especially if it is heartfelt and honest, is wonderful. Do that in school and I guarantee you’ll turn heads for all the right reasons.  

Cups or Fires

Will you treat your brain as a cup to be filled or as a slow moving fire search for new ideas? If you feed the fire, the light, the warmth inside you with new information and old wisdom through connection and questions and curiosity, you’ll go far. The stuff on your phone, tiktok or insta or snap… most of that stuff is just entertainment. It doesn’t feed your fire. In fact, I’d guess the long-term effect is actual a dampener on your fire than a fuel.

In fact, there will be a lot of fuels that don’t work. Others will give you a quick burst but go out just as quickly. But, if by experimenting and searching, you find the right fuel for the long, slow burn. Tend that fire well and it will burn brightly for a long, long while.

In my experience, the best fuel is an attitude of curiosity and of humility.

It may seem easier or cooler to live as though you know everything already. That’s your choice. And you get to live with the consequences of that choice. You can choose to be ungrateful, spiteful, uncaring. You can choose to use terrible language and decide not to listen to people who truly care and want the best for you.

Or, you can choose to be grateful, thoughtful, patient, curious, kind, honest, helpful and friendly.

Remember, your choices make you who you are. But you want the best news? If you find yourself making bad choices… you can change.

Courage to Connect

It takes courage to go past your comfort zone and connect. It’s lot easier to be furious rather than curious. There is something very old inside us that wires us for big emotional reactions and for keeping to our own. These impulses probably kept the human race limping forward.

Now, that mentality holds us back. Campers, you are lucky enough to live in time when things would be considered miraculous to any human living before you from 1960 until the dawn of time. As a parent once wrote, imagine dental work without pain killers…. Yeesh!

It takes courage to put yourself out there. It takes courage to reach out. And, the reward for doing so completely and totally outweighs the opposite. Yes, you might feel awkward. But, as you learned at camp this summer, it’s important.

Reach out. Be yourself. You are more than enough.

Swim and Howl

Be aware of the little things around you. Be kind to the bus driver, the custodian, the Lunch Lady. They are a seemingly small part of your day but their work makes your life easier and, in most cases, a lot better. The ‘water through which we swim’ at school is full of a lot of fish – some big, some small. They all deserve to be treated kindly.

And, while we have fish swimming all around us, remember you’ve got two wolves inside you. One is Good and the other is Not. The one that wins is the one you feed. Choose wisely.

Camper – have a great year at school. You learned a lot this past summer. Now, go put it into practice and make the little world around you a better one every day.