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SALT LAKE CITY — After months at sea in a small ship, a group of weary travelers from England, upon reaching the shores of North America, fell to their knees to give thanks. The Pilgrims at Cape Cod or Plymouth Rock in 1620? No, Englishmen at the Berkeley Plantation, Va., on Dec. 4, 1619. Their orders included the giving of thanks upon arrival and on the anniversary every year after.
The power of gratitude can be life-changing. Studies on the health benefits of gratitude have shown an increase in energy in participants, improved sleep and other positive outcomes, according to Robert Emmons of the University of California Davis, Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami and Alexander Wood of the University of Manchester.
The late Robert W. Woodruff, a prominent business leader, toured the United States giving a lecture he called "A Capsule Course in Human Relations." The message, as quoted by LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson, is that the "two most important words in the English language are these: 'Thank you.'"
Love and gratitude bind individuals, families and communities in cheering and healthy ways. Each of us has the potential to increase the positive energy in our community, world and the universe.Gratitude and generosity lift our lives and society to a higher and happier place. Emmons says serving the needs of others helps us find our own inner spirituality.
As we consider ways to increase our gratitude in the new year, here are a few suggestions that can help:
- Blessings Centerpiece — Place branches in jars or vases surrounded by votive candles, seasonal greens and smooth river stones. Have family members and guests write things they are thankful for on paper tags and tie them to the branches.
- Family Bingo — Create a family bingo game using copies of photos of family members. You may mount them on vintage scrapbook paper or cardstock and laminate them at a teachers' supply store. This is a fun way for younger family members to visualize and remember their ancestors.
- Service Opportunities — One way to show gratitude for blessings is to share. Opportunities abound for helping the less fortunate, including serving dinner at homeless shelters, hospitals or retirement centers; or gathering food for food banks and community kitchens. Find organizations that serve populations you care about, and then get involved through contributions of time, money or other resources. Look around your neighborhood to find people who would enjoy sharing a dinner with your family.
- 1000 Reasons to be Grateful — In his article "1,000 Things to Be Thankful For", Richard Romney shared his daughter Charlotte's project identifying 100 things in her life that she was grateful for. She was so enthusiastic, her list eventually stretched to over 1,000. Can you name 100 things you are thankful for? Althought this list would make a bright and wonderful journal entry, another idea is to write the things on paper strips and collect them throughout 2014, placing them in a jar to be read at the end of the year.
Pam McMurtry is a wife, parent, artist and writer.