Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

How Often Do You Count Your Blessings?

            Many Americans are in the process of preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving. You may be traveling and dealing with problems in the airports and on airplane, or you may be driving and dealing with the excessive cost of gasoline. I am staying home and starting to prepare for a feast. However, you spend Thanksgiving Day, you may be interested in knowing why we have this four-day Thanksgiving weekend.

            Abraham Lincoln presented a Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1864, and it is still meaningful today. It was written a particularly dark time in the United States. An editorial in the Deseret News described the situation as following. 

The nation was at the deadliest point of a long Civil War, one that had touched almost every American household. Gettysburg, Antietam and many other battles already had claimed the lives and the health of thousands upon thousands of people. Black bunting, the sign of mourning, was a common household adornment as people agonized over loved ones lost. No one could be certain when the violence would end, or when it would touch them personally.

It was against this backdrop that Lincoln pondered the nation’s blessings from God. “He has largely augmented our free population by emancipation and by immigration,” he said, “while he has opened to us new sources of wealth and has crowned the labor of our workmen in every department of industry with abundant rewards.”

God, he said, “has been pleased to animate and inspire our minds and hearts with fortitude, courage, and resolution sufficient for the great trial of civil war into which we have been brought by our adherence as a nation to the cause of freedom and humanity, and to afford to us reasonable hopes of an ultimate and happy deliverance from all our dangers and afflictions.”

            The United States was in the midst of a civil war, and most families had lost loved ones. No one knew how or when the war would end, or what its results would be. Yet, President Abraham Lincoln was counting his blessings and the blessings of the nation.

            I am currently in the midst of drafting an academic paper on the topic of gratitude and how it affects wellbeing. The social scientists all declare that the expression of gratitude – mentally, verbally, or written – causes the person doing so to think and feel better. I studied a study today indicating that the expression of gratitude changes the thought process and can lead to a positive outlook. Besides counting blessings mentally, orally, or by the written word, anyone can use prayer and meditation to express gratitude. The editorial discussed some studies and gave this quote from the Harvard Medical School.

In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.

            Like Lincoln, last President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints invited people worldwide to flood social media with messages about their blessings. He also prayed for the world and made this comment.

Counting our blessings is far better than recounting our problems…. No matter our situation, showing gratitude for our privileges is a unique, fast-acting, and long-lasting spiritual prescription.

            I was one of the estimated fifty-two million people who responded to the invitation. I also make it a practice to list five blessings each day as I write my journal entry. Some days, I have a challenging time thinking of blessings, and other days I struggled to determine which blessings to list. Either way, I know that my daily expressions of gratitude help me to keep a positive view in our darkening world. I encourage you to take steps to develop an attitude of gratitude and improve your own wellbeing.

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