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Reflections & Thanksgiving 2020

This article has been on my heart for several months. It’s reflections from a compilation of conversations. Honestly, it’s been a hard year at times for most, if not all people. Interweaving this with Thanksgiving, there’s perhaps a variety of thoughts, perspectives, and feelings as we approach the holiday. It may be tempting to want to skip it and perhaps be easier to complain than find gratitude or feel thankful!

The challenges with COVID, markets, livestock harvesting facilities, trade, weather impacts to crops, online schooling and virtual meetings, societal and family tensions and divisiveness, the election, and many businesses and farm operations hurting financially added much stress to 2020. (Insert a deep breath after reading all that!).

With these above-mentioned challenges come the feelings and realities experienced. I’m so blessed with individuals’ trust through conversations and the vulnerability in sharing…conversations around mental wellness, stress, family and financial struggles…

So many hurting. So many conversations involving hurt, anger, regret. Common threads have included ‘just wanting to be seen’, ‘be heard’, ‘be appreciated’, ‘be useful’.

We often don’t know what’s going on in others’ lives. If you are struggling right now, please know you’re not alone and there is ALWAYS hope and help! Please do reach out to someone. It would be wise for us all to program the following in our cell phones: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255 and Rural Response Hotline: 800-464-0258.

This isn’t a direct quote but had recently read something along these lines: Why is it that we often wait till people’s funerals to share gratitude of how a person impacted us? Made me think.

For me, perhaps a blessing this year is a renewed realization of how quickly time passes and each day is not guaranteed. Been processing and praying through all this.

Who are the people who’ve positively impacted my life that I need to tell?
Who are the people in my life I tend to take for granted and don’t thank enough?
Who haven’t I connected with recently?
Who could benefit from intentional encouragement during life’s difficulties right now?

Perhaps questions others wish to consider?

We may never know how greatly a smile, kind words, a visit, a genuine ‘thank you’ can impact another person’s life, especially since we often don’t know the struggles others are experiencing. But these simple acts may just help someone in the midst of a dark or difficult time. They may also save a life.

Last November I mentioned there’s been a lot of research on gratitude. Harvard University shared, “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.” Summarizing several studies I read, most would say finding a way to count one’s blessings or focusing on gratitude greatly improved a person’s sleep, health, attitude, focus, and relationships.

A simple way to start is to write out or send a text each day of 3-5 things for which you are grateful. If that’s hard, start with one! For example, what are the ordinary every day things we take for granted (ex. bed, food in pantry, vehicle, etc.)? I’ve found the written account helps me with remembering my blessings and is encouraging to re-read in the difficult times. And, over time, it becomes easier to find gratitude even in the things that go wrong! I’ve also found one of the best ways to help my heart when feeling down is to find a way to encourage someone else. Additional ideas for expressing gratitude, particularly for those with children, can be found at: https://go.unl.edu/q04v

My hope and prayer in writing this is that we seek kindness, seek connection, choose to more intentionally seek gratitude, and share with others how they’ve positively impacted our lives. Also hoping something shared here helps if you find yourself struggling today. Wishing everyone a very blessed Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Food Resources: For your Thanksgiving meal check out https://food.unl.edu/article/thanksgiving-central for turkey preparation, food safety questions, recipes, and health/wellness topics!

JenREES 11-24-19

I’ve often thought about two words the past few months: Grief and Gratitude. It’s been a hard year for many with grief coming in the form of various losses. The stories I’ve been blessed to be entrusted with this year included losses in the form of livestock, land, fences, feed, finances, crops, homes, health, relationships, family members, pets, farms, jobs…

It’s important to take the time to grieve and acknowledge the losses while not getting stuck there. I think sometimes we want to push forward and avoid the mess of grief, but there’s healing in acknowledging it. At our Extension Fall Conference, we spent time talking through 2019 and the experiences we had as Extension faculty with boots on the ground serving people. While it was uncomfortable for many, there was healing in the discussion and sharing, in the tears and triumphs of helping others during a really difficult year. I would encourage us all to acknowledge losses we’ve experienced and ultimately keep talking with others instead of isolating.

Our keynote speaker at our conference was David Horsager who wrote the book The Trust Edge. One thing he asks his audiences, “What is the most endearing quality a person can have?” What do you think? Often people say kindness, compassion, generosity, being positive, humor, etc. His company does a great deal of research and they’ve found the most endearing quality is…Gratitude…sincere gratitude. According to Oxford’s Dictionary, gratitude means “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”.

There’s been a lot of research on gratitude! Harvard University shared, “In positive give thanks.PNGpsychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.” Summarizing several studies I read, most would say finding a way to count one’s blessings or focusing on gratitude greatly improved a person’s sleep, health, attitude, focus, and relationships. Many of those studies didn’t involve individuals who struggled with mental wellness. However, one study in Indiana focused on 300 adults who suffered from anxiety and depression. The researchers wanted to see if focusing on gratitude could help with mental health concerns. Adults were split into three groups and each group also received counseling. One group wrote a letter of gratitude to someone each week (but wasn’t required to share it). Another group wrote down negative thoughts and experiences while the third group didn’t do any activity involving writing. Individuals who wrote the gratitude letters were found to have significantly improved mental health 4 and 12 weeks after starting the activity (in spite of only 23% actually sending the letters). The gratitude activity on top of receiving counseling resulted in better mental wellness for the individuals than counseling alone. Regardless of if one is in the midst of a difficult time or not, research ultimately shows the benefits of seeking gratitude!

Grief and Gratitude. With Thanksgiving this week, for what are you and I grateful? Perhaps there’s someone who came alongside you this year during a difficult time or someone who showed you an unexpected kindness that you wish to thank in some way? Perhaps you choose to make a list of things for which you’re thankful or jot a few things down each day? Perhaps you choose to write one letter or note to someone each week expressing thanks? Or perhaps your family starts a tradition of expressing gratitude in some way during Thanksgiving dinner? Additional ideas for expressing gratitude, particularly for those with children, can be found at: https://go.unl.edu/q04v. Here’s wishing everyone a blessed Thanksgiving!

UNL Thanksgiving Food Safety Resources:  https://go.unl.edu/ji8p
UNL Thanksgiving Food Preparation Tips: https://go.unl.edu/7rwi

Thanksgiving Reflections

Thanksgiving is upon us and every day I’m reminded I have so much for which to be thankful!  It seems like there’s such a rush to go from Halloween to Christmas and it’s sad to me that Thanksgiving seems to be lost in the shuffle.  Today as I gather with my family, I’m thankful for so many things God has blessed me with:  salvation, my wonderful family, all our men and women serving overseas, my home/career/dogs, wonderful food and our farmers who grow it, so many things!  May you have a blessed Thanksgiving reflecting on the blessings in your life as well!

Sunday night was our 4-H Achievement program.  Watching the youth receive their awards, I was thankful for the parents, grandparents, leaders, and volunteers who helped those youth achieve success in their projects.  I’m thankful to work in a county with such wonderful people!  Every organization or board our office works with understands that the 4-H program and fair are about the youth-developing life skills and successful young people for the future.  I’m so thankful for these relationships and the fun we all have at 4-H activities and the fair!  I’m also thankful for all the sponsors of our 4-H program and the youth and parents appreciate you as well!  It was a great night with a great turnout and a nice conclusion to the 2011 4-H year. 

Speaking of being thankful, IANR released a special feature entitled “Feeding the Future”.  It shares a Thanksgiving message from Dr. Ronnie Green and how IANR’s research, teaching, and extension efforts are helping to ensure success in feeding the future throughout Nebraska and around the globe.  Check it out here:   http://www.unl.edu/ucomm/ucomm/special/20111115/

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