By Katie Kasenchak, Therapist
One of my favorite parts of working at Pacific Quest is having the opportunity to share meals with our students. Not only do I enjoy taking a moment to appreciate what our students have cultivated and nurtured in the garden and prepared in the camp kitchen with new found skill and enthusiasm, but I am particularly inspired by the act of giving thanks that marks the beginning of each meal. As we sit down to eat, students and staff alike are invited to take a moment to express gratitude for the things in life, both big and small, for which they are thankful. “I am thankful for my family,” “I am thankful for my friends,” “I am thankful for the hands that made this food,” “I am thankful for my therapist, PQ, and the opportunity to grow,” “I am thankful for the sun and the rain that nourish our garden…”The list goes on and on…
The good news is that gratitude can be cultivated, much like our gardens, and cultivating gratitude can lead to a greater sense of well-being, especially when expressed to others. The act of expressing gratitude to others has been associated with increased levels of optimism, empathy, and energy (Psychology Today, n.d.). Therapeutically, we often ask students to create a “gratitude journal,” to remind themselves of all of the things in life for which they give thanks. While this can seem a small and simple task, it is one that is often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of daily life, and it is these things, the things for which we are truly grateful, that make the journey worthwhile. Research shows that the simple act of writing down what we are grateful for can have a number of positive effects, including better sleep, less illness, and increased happiness (Marsh, 2011).
I am grateful for living and working in such a beautiful place, with such amazing people, who remind me every day of what is important in life, in the value of Ohana, or family, and in cultivating the aina, the land, to nurture both the body and soul. I am thankful for opportunity, for new beginnings, and for both fertility and growth. I am thankful for the students and the families who grant me the privilege to accompany them on their journey to a greater sense of wholeness, balance, and health, both physically and mentally.
As the days grow shorter and we round the corner into the busy holiday season, I ask, what are you grateful for and what are you doing to honor that gratitude? And I encourage you to be true to your heart.
The Benefits of Gratitude (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/gratitude
Marsh, Jason (2011). Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal. The Greater Good. Retrieved from http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/tips_for_keeping_a_gratitude_journal