Building Strengths and Resilience
Positive Psychology, Character Strengths and Well-Being at Culver Summer Camps
During the past two summers prior to staff orientation, a variety of Upper Camp and Woodcraft Camp staff members were introduced to "broadening and building" strategies in the field of positive psychology – the study of positive emotions and positive character traits at the individual and collective level. Positive psychology includes the experiences of well-being, contentment and satisfaction (in the past), hope and optimism (for the future); and flow and happiness in the present. The "broaden and build" theory suggests that positive emotions, such as joy, interest, contentment, pride and love, broaden an individual's attention, creativity, cognition, and scope of possible action. They also build physical, intellectual and social resources over the long run. Staff and campers who regularly experience positive emotion, moods and sentiments are likely to be more resilient, happier, more psychologically healthy, and more resistant to physical illnesses. There is also growing research that claims that there is a positive correlation between positive emotions and performance. This may have important implications at a personal and professional level.
Participants identified their own and camper "signature" strengths, such as hope, wisdom, creativity, future mindedness, courage, responsibility and perseverance. They developed strategies to foster a strengths-based approach in living units, athletic arenas, performing arts and classroom in the areas of motivation, optimism, resilience and savoring. Putting a name to a character strength and knowing what particular traits look like in action may be instructive and informative for staff and their campers. By learning about character strengths and ways to build and apply them, staff members can be guided to acknowledge, own, and apply their own strengths, to value their authentic selves, and to increase both their collective and self-efficacy.
This information was valuable to staff members who can then have a better snapshot of individual, peer and camper strengths. Also, this was very helpful in working with groups of campers – i.e. living unit, athletic field, military activities, etc.