3 Surprising Benefits of Gratitude and a Recipe for Accessing them Year-Round

There is something remarkable about this time of year. Beyond the food, football, or even time with family, as we gather together and vocally express thanks for the blessings in our lives, it seems to bring a great sense of happiness, peace, and contentment. As I sat down to write this post and figure out what makes being grateful…well, so great…I was pleased (and even a little surprised) to find that this is much more than some abstract or ethereal concept; it has been backed by science! A number of recent studies in what has been termed “positive psychology” have linked gratitude to incredible physical, emotional, social, and psychological benefits. The key to gaining these benefits, though, is to make gratitude a regular practice. While it’s great to spend a day focusing on our blessings, if we make a habit of regularly recognizing our blessings and demonstrating sincere gratitude for them, we can seriously improve our quality of life.

Following is a list of what I found to be some of the most intriguing benefits of gratitude and a few ingredients for incorporating gratitude into our everyday “diet” to realize them, even after the leftover turkey and pie are long gone.

Supporting Children with Invisible Special Needs at Church

“The body [of the Church] hath need of every member, that all may be edified together.”
Doctrine and Covenants 84:110

I think it’s safe to say that most people want to be tolerant and loving towards people with disabilities. We wouldn’t hesitate to make accommodations for a person with physical limitations or to someone who is deaf or has a visual impairment. However, there has been a significant rise in the number of young children diagnosed with what can be classified into a group called invisible special needs. Society in general is lagging behind when it comes to supporting these children and their families. What’s worse is that many families are being pushed out of their own churches, the very places that should be the most compassionate and accepting.

What is an “invisible” special need? Autism Spectrum Disorders (Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, and Pervasive Development Disorder), Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, learning disabilities, developmental delays, mental and emotional difficulties, anxiety, and giftedness are some of the most common special needs that would fall into this category. Kelly Priest (a school counselor and mother to a son with Asperger’s) gave the following definition:
“Kids who seem pretty typical much of the time, but have significant trouble, of neurodevelopmental origin, with self-regulation, social interaction, friendships, flexibility, abstract thinking, sensory management, attention, language and communication, and self-advocacy. Special, yes, in some ways … but ordinary kids in some ways too.”
It is likely that in a large church congregation of 200-300 people there are probably at least 5-10 children and teenagers who have invisible special needs. It’s also important to note that not every child with challenges will have an official diagnosis, but they still might need extra support at church just as they would at home or at school. For church leaders, teachers, and church attendees, here are 12 ways you can support children with invisible special needs and their families at church:

Four Ways Motherhood Has Changed Me

Mom: one of the most beautiful words in the English language. Each language throughout the world has some term designated for motherhood. For me, the word is accompanied by feelings of safety, warmth, comfort, work, tenderness, and love. When I first became a mother, trying to live up to the title was overwhelming. It still is! Every day, I strive to be the best mom I can be, and as I do that, I am changing into who the Lord would have me be. How has motherhood changed me? Here are four of the ways:

3 Lessons Fatherhood Has Taught Me About God

Every once in a while an event occurs in our lives that teaches us something about the true meaning of life and offers us a glimpse into the eternities. For my wife and me, one of those events occurred earlier this year when, after more than three years of trying unsuccessfully to have children on our own, we were able to adopt our sweet baby girl. More than anything else, becoming a father has helped me gain a better understanding of the nature of our relationship with God. So, while I certainly realize that I am only at the beginning of this great adventure called parenthood (and have a LOT more to learn), here are just three of the lessons I have found most meaningful during my short time as a father.