Write Team: Lessons in gratitude from the pilgrims

A grateful person is a happy person.

Studies have shown that feeling thankful can improve your health. The experience of gratitude induces a sense of relaxation, improving the immune system and decreases blood pressure. Positive emotions such as joy and contentment help us slow down. Practicing gratitude can make us better equipped to handle the difficulties of life.

Do you need a little boost in your gratefulness score this year?

Perhaps you’re tired of warnings and restrictions because of COVID-19. Tired of empty store shelves and the “mask mandates” that seem to persist.

How can we stir up some gratefulness – like the pilgrims did 400 years ago after they experienced a rough winter in the new land where they had settled? Perhaps we can learn from them.

What did they do? They celebrated.

It’s been 400 years since the pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving, a three-day feast celebrating their first harvest in the New World in 1621.

William Bradford, the leader of the Plymouth Colony, documented the story of the Pilgrims from 1608, when they first settled in the Dutch Republic, through the 1620 Mayflower voyage to the New World until the year 1647.

In his account, he lists the 102 Mayflower passengers and those among them who died during the winter of 1620-21 and the spring of 1621. Based on Bradford’s accounting, and knowing no other ship arrived in Plymouth until after the first Thanksgiving, the number of Pilgrims at the three-day celebration was just the 53 remaining Mayflower survivors.

Did the Pilgrims eat turkey at Thanksgiving? We don’t know for sure, but “wild fowl” was mentioned in historical accounts, which could have included ducks or geese. Turkeys are a possibility, but they were not a common food at that time. We know the Wampanoag Native Americans brought five deer with them, so venison was on the menu. Seafood was plentiful at the time and common, including lobsters and clams.

I believe their thankfulness was based on their faith in God and an appreciation of his faithfulness to them, in spite of the sorrows and struggles they had experienced, and the sadness they had endured.

They expressed their thanks for the harvest that had just been completed and for the many other blessings they had experienced.

How can we learn to be more grateful as we express our thanks at Thanksgiving 2021?

Here are some tips you might consider:

1. Keep a gratitude journal where you jot down a blessing every day.

2. Tell a friend or family member how much they mean to you.

3. Text someone you know to express thanks for a recent favor.

4. Send someone a thank-you note with a gift card.

5 Thank God for all the blessings in your life – not just things, but experiences, memories, people, adventures, health, opportunities.

6. Check out Psalm 100. It’s a great example of praise to the God who is the giver of all our blessings.

• Carole Ledbetter of Ottawa is the author of two books, “Carole’s Columns” and “Who Am I Now? Growing Through Life’s Changing Seasons,” and is a speaker consultant for Stonecroft Ministries. She can be reached at dbarichello@shawmedia.com.