Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thank You Power

A few years ago, I saw a copy of Thank You Power: Making the Science of Gratitude Work For You in a clearance book bin. What intrigued me about the book was who its author was, Deborah Norville.

In 1987, University of Georgia suma cum laude graduate Norville was selected to replace Jane Pauley on NBC's The Today Show. Cries of ageism immediately sprang forth as people protested what they saw as the usurpation of the popular Pauley. Struggling to defend her credibility when Jane Pauley left the morning broadcast, the pressure became unbearable for Norville, who left the show during her maternity leave in 1991. For a while, to be replaced by a younger worker was even dubbed being "norville'd". Many people, including the Emmy-winning reporter herself, thought she would never return to television. A few years later, Ms. Norville would regroup and write a book about her experience, Back on Track: How to Straighten Out Your Life When It Throws You a Curve.

Thank You Power is a quick and simple refresher course on the importance of gratitude presented in the context of studies in "positive psychology" and its role in personal happiness and intrapersonal relationships. Norville discussed various studies done on this topic and what the researchers learned in an interview while promoting the book:
[Positive Psychology] is a fairly new field, this notion of counting your blessings and the quantifiable benefits of gratitude. But what gratitude does is it puts you in a positive affect. You feel good from counting your blessings, you're more optimistic, you're less pessimistic, you even exercise on average an hour and a half more per week...You feel good when you do all those things. If you feel good, your dopamine receptors are activated. You're a better thinker. You will do better on a test."
Ms. Norville made a profession of Christian faith at the age of 15 and this perspective permeates her writing. The last chapter covers Scripture's admonitions to give thanks in all things and hold fast to the promise of Romans 8:28: We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. She cites studies echoed in Arthur C. Brooks' Gross National Happiness.
Duke University's Center on Spirituality has done a great deal of research on [people of faith being happier]. Spiritual people and religious people live longer. Religious people are happier. There is even one study that encompasses many, many years called the Nun Study. It was published by researchers at the University of Kentucky...They took the writing of some sisters shortly after they took their vows and they looked at their explanatory style. They looked at their hopefulness. They evaluated the personality of these people based on their writings. Those who has a more hopeful explanatory style lived an average of ten years longer. So, simply being an optimistic person can add a full decade to your life. "
There's nothing new or profound in this little book. At times, the writing is cliched. However, I have enacted one of its recommendations. I now have a "Thank You" journal where every day I write down three things from the day for which I am thankful and who or what made these things possible. It is a wonderful way to be reminded to have an attitude of gratitude - regardless of whether it makes me live longer or not.

1 comment:

Leah Atha said...

Gratitude is something I've grappled with. I simply don't think about it. I have toyed with the idea of a "thank you" journal but I haven't started.

I think that a "thank you" journal is the premise behind One Thousand Gifts, but I've yet to read the book, only bits & pieces of the author's blog.