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Thank You Power: Making the Science of Gratitude Work for You
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Thank You Power: Making the Science of Gratitude Work for You

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by Deborah Norville

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Deborah Norville's groundbreaking and persuasive book argues that gratitude is the secret key to unlocking one's full life potential.

Thank You. Can such small words hold life-changing power? Yes! Rooted in science, presented from a spiritual perspective, Thank You Power details the surprising life improvements that can stem from the


Deborah Norville's groundbreaking and persuasive book argues that gratitude is the secret key to unlocking one's full life potential.

Thank You. Can such small words hold life-changing power? Yes! Rooted in science, presented from a spiritual perspective, Thank You Power details the surprising life improvements that can stem from the practice of gratitude. In this eye-opening book, Deborah Norville brings together for the first time the behavioral and psychological research that prove what people of faith have long known: giving thanks brings life blessings.

Beginning with two small words, thank you , Norville shows how anyone can be happier and more resilient, have better relationships, improved health, and less stress. After two years of scientific research, Norville brings it all together with powerful personal stories of thank you power in action and gives specific steps for readers to cultivate thank you power and put it to work in their own lives.

Editorial Reviews

Forbes Magazine
A good time to start this book is at the airport when your connecting flight has been delayed or canceled. Which is the setting Emmy-award-winning anchor of Inside Edition, Deborah Norville, has used to kick off her short yet powerful book. It will serve you well, whether in coping with the frictions of everyday life or some life-shattering accident or tragedy. Instead of telling you to have a positive attitude, Norville shows you how--citing real-life examples and scientific research. This book won't make life's vicissitudes go away, nor will it give you a Candide-like view of the world. Instead, by harnessing "the power of thank you," you'll start to see the positive parts of your life more clearly, and you'll be better able to handle the unavoidable setbacks. Start, for example, "to jot down three things that happened today for which you are grateful." This wee exercise "forces your focus onto what went right today, versus the inevitable things that went wrong. It reminds you of the interconnectedness of life.

[It] reminds you how much others add to the quality of your life." Little rewards or gifts can do wonders to focus one's mind. This really hit me: Doctors perform better when given little bags of candy! "I think I'll bake cookies before my next checkup," Norville notes. Norville's book is chockablock with helpful suggestions that are made all the more plausible and persuasive by stories of real-life people coping with horrific situations, including one woman who barely survived an attack by a mountain lion. Thank you, Deborah Norville, for what will become an ever needed classic. (10 Mar 2008)
—Steve Forbes

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Making the Science of Gratitude Work for You
By Deborah Norville

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2007 Deborah Norville
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7852-2193-7

Chapter One

The Power of Thank You

Reflect on your present blessings-not of which every man has many-on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some. -Charles Dickens

Some days you want to just stay in bed, pull the covers over your head, and hope the world forgets you ever existed. David Patrick Columbia was having one of those days. New to New York City, he was completely worn down by the hustle and bustle of the city that never sleeps. The excitement and pride he'd felt when he relocated to Manhattan several weeks earlier was gone. He'd imagined himself the hot young talent about to take the magazine world by storm. The reality was he was a low-level assistant, mostly assigned to grunt work on stories about vacuous celebrities with meaningless lives. He couldn't afford a place of his own and knew he was lucky to have a friend on the Upper East Side who didn't seem to mind how long he was a guest in the extra room.

"I was rethinking everything about my move to New York," he recalled. "My ability as a writer, my choice of career-everything." He knew when he relocated to town that it would be a struggle, but he never imagined it would be this hard. That salary that had seemed so attractive when he accepted the job didn't go nearly as far as he'd thought it would. And as nice as his friend was about his extended stay, David couldn't help but feel as if he was sponging off his pal. He felt like Blanche Dubois in Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire: dependent on the kindness of strangers. The only difference was that he knew the people who were being kind to him.

Against this depressing backdrop, all David wanted to do this Saturday morning was stay in bed and hope it would just get better. But no. This Saturday morning, he had to get out of bed and go pick up a photograph that was needed for the next issue. Low man on the roster, it was David's job to hike across town and get it.

It was cold, gray, and damp when David walked out of his friend's apartment building and headed across town. "To this day, I don't know what possessed me to do this, but I decided to start counting things I passed along the way that made me smile," he says. "Maybe it was something someone had told me from an Al-Anon session or something, but for whatever reason, I just told myself I was going to see how many pleasing things I came across as I walked over to Fifth Avenue."

The first thing on David's list: a mother walking her baby, all bundled up in a stroller. "I have always had a soft spot for babies, and that little face just made me smile." Then after that, a movement in the sky caught his eye. It was a jet passing over Manhattan. "Something about flying has always captivated my imagination, and to this day, every time I see a plane in the sky, I just get excited."

And so it went. From the smells of the bistros to the displays in the store windows, each block of David's compulsory crosstown trip found him acknowledging something that brightened his mood. By the time he'd delivered the photo as required, he says he was feeling pretty good-and thankful that he'd made the intimidating move to the Big Apple.

"That walk reminded me that I lived in a place that was exciting and interesting and invigorating," he told me. "I often do this whenever I'm feeling down-for some reason, it just makes me feel better." It's been more than twenty years since David took that walk of thanks across Manhattan. Today he's a successful entrepreneur in the media business. His gratitude stroll continues to help him stay focused.

It's easy to say thank you when you've just won the lottery. The words just roll off your tongue when you've been given a big raise or a promotion. Get an incredible piece of jewelry or a new golf club? Thank you. And that second helping of a sinfully delicious, totally calorie-free dessert? Thank you. We live in a society in which the spectacle of saying thank you attracts more than a billion television viewers. That's really what the Academy Awards, the Emmys, and all those other awards shows are, aren't they? Just one big, teary thank you after another, intertwined with an occasional memorable speech or gaffe.

Saying thank you is one of the first things a cooing mother teaches a baby. When times are good, we're good at saying it. We know we are supposed to acknowledge what we're given. When a person knows that thank you is going to seen by others, he makes an extra effort to say it.

The other day, my son was buried in the sports section at breakfast as I poured the milk on his cereal. He mumbled, "Thanks," and I am quite sure he had no idea he was saying it. Gracias, merci, tack, obrigado, danke, asante-you probably can say thank you in a zillion languages that you don't speak.

But have you tried feeling it, embracing it? You know you embrace all the stuff for which you aren't thankful. If you're like most people, you probably grab hold of life's negatives like a pit bull, and won't let go. "Oh, not me," you say. Really? Keep reading.

Chances are something didn't go the way you planned it today. Perhaps something even went hideously wrong. A cross word over breakfast stays with you all day. Your morning starts off on the wrong foot, and the bad feelings just won't leave. Like a bad penny, that unpleasant exchange at breakfast keeps popping up in your mind. Your stomach tightens at the thought; your lips purse. You think of all those things you were too angry or not smart enough to say over the breakfast table. You're much more assertive in those fantasy conversations, and-man!-you're letting him have it, saying all the things you wished you'd said.

Aside from breakfast-how was the rest of your day? Not the best, huh? Actually pretty awful? Do you think, just maybe, that your no-good, very bad, terrible, awful day might have had something to do with your holding on to that morning mix-up like a dog to a piece of meat? The crashing dominoes of things that went wrong all began with that spat over the Cheerios, a spat on which you fixated all day.

What if you'd focused on something else? Instead of letting the argument at breakfast dominate your thoughts, what if you'd reminded yourself instead of that automotive magic that got you smoothly to work this morning? Every single light on that usually backed-up four-lane you take daily was green. You sailed through traffic-the most stress-free drive you've had in ages.

How would you have felt at the end of the day if you had let your thoughts be dominated by the memory of the office assistant's face when she received her surprise birthday cake? She was so pleased. It was nice that the lady who does so much for everyone else at work was on the receiving end of something sweet herself.

Did you notice that letter you got from a long-lost friend? Filled with news, tidbits about her life, genuine interest in what you've been doing-reading that letter was like having your friend right there in the same room with you. Reflecting on it, you can't help but feel a smile growing at the corners of your mouth.

Yet you've let yourself plod through the day, ticked off, mad at the world, and probably short-tempered with people who didn't deserve it. All because you just won't stop thinking about that silly dispute at breakfast. Snap out of it!

If you'd spent the day relishing the magic of the easy ride, acknowledging your good fortune to work with such kind and caring people, and being valued by a dear friend, you'd feel pretty good right now. Literally. You'd feel good. There they are: three things today that were positives in life's ledger book. Had you focused on them, you would be happier.

But, nah, you opted to let a squabble over ... what was that argument about, anyway?-wreck your day. You've come home in as foul a mood as you left it.

Fifty years ago, scientists discovered that female silkworm moths put out a powerful sex attractant. "The minutest amount of it [makes] male moths beat their wings madly in a 'flutter dance'" that proves their attraction. Humans may not work the same way, but a few studies seem to indicate that there's a similar chemical-attractant effect in people. What is quite clear is that certain human behaviors can cause predictable outcomes. Science has proven it.

Spend just a few minutes each day focusing on the good things that happened, the incidents and situations that you'd put in the plus column if you were noting plusses and minuses. You'll be healthier. You'll sleep better and exercise more. You'll feel more optimistic. Take just a moment to note the day's blessings and you'll sense that you have more energy. You will feel more alert and active. Do this for a period of time, and you'll realize you are making progress toward your goals in life. You may even discover you're less of a mess, more organized, less possessive-the clutter that used to collect around you seems to disappear.


The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings. -ERIC HOFFER

Remember David Patrick Columbia from earlier in the chapter? What he discovered in his own life, Robert Emmons proved in his laboratory. A professor of psychology at the University of California-Davis, Emmons has long been interested in the role gratitude might play in one's physical and emotional well-being. As a scientist, his world revolves around proving what others accept on faith. Gratitude proponents, like Oprah Winfrey, preach that it's a good thing to keep a journal, to take note of your blessings. With a fortune estimated by Forbes magazine at $1.4 billion, certainly Oprah's got plenty to be grateful for. But if noting your blessings is a good thing, how much of a good thing is it?

The short answer? More than you'd ever believe.

"There was a whole lot of better stuff going on!" Speaking from his office at the University of California-Davis's psychology department, Robert Emmons's enthusiasm has an almost hurricane-like force. His career has been devoted to trying to understand what it is that makes people happy.

"I wanted to see if we could actually make people more grateful," Emmons recalled during our interview. He said, "There are a lot of ideas floating around in the self-help literature about how to be happier and how to live an optimal life, but until it's been established scientifically, it means nothing."

The experiment I did during my storm-induced layover at the Pittsburgh airport, Professor Emmons, along with psychology professor Michael McCullough of the University of Miami, conducted in an organized fashion, putting into place the controls and variables that make a study trustworthy. It was brilliant in its simplicity.

The professors took three groups of volunteers and randomly assigned them to focus on one of three things for a week: hassles, things for which they were grateful, or ordinary life events. Group A focused on everything that went wrong or was irritating, such as "The battery was dead on my car" or "That jerk cut me off on the highway." Group B volunteers honed in on situations that they felt enhanced their lives, e.g., "My boyfriend is so kind and caring; I am lucky to have him" or "That was the most spectacular sunrise; I'm glad I got up early." Group C just remembered events: "I cleaned my closet," or "I went shoe shopping."

Participants were asked to list five examples in their respective categories and then quantify how they felt about what they'd listed: irritated, ashamed, stressed, joyful, grateful, forgiving, calm, proud, etc. They were also asked specific lifestyle questions: How much time do you spend exercising? What physical symptoms do you experience-are you sick, suffering from allergies? Do you feel particularly energetic? If they had received assistance from someone, participants were asked how they felt about it: grateful? annoyed? embarrassed? appreciated? Finally, they were asked how they felt overall, both as they looked back at the past week and as they looked forward to the week ahead.

The people who focused on gratitude were just flat-out happier. They saw their lives in favorable terms. They reported fewer negative physical symptoms, such as headaches or colds, and they were active in ways that were good for them: they spent almost an hour and a half more per week exercising than the people who focused on their hassles. In addition, those who'd been on the receiving end of someone else's kindness rated higher in joy and happiness than the others. In short, those who focused on what they were grateful for felt a higher level of gratitude. Life just seemed better for them.

People around them recognized that. Professor Emmons says, "They noticed that the people had more joy, more energy. They could see that they were becoming more optimistic. They even seemed to be perceived as more helpful, you know, going out on a limb to help people." Emmons was surprised by this result. "This is not just something that makes people happy like a positive thinking/optimism kind of thing, but really gets people to do something, that is, to become more prosocial or more compassionate or more optimistic." This didn't happen in the other two groups.

Emmons and McCullough took their study further. Rather than focus on hassles, blessings, or events on a weekly basis, they rounded up some volunteers-college students, who received course credit for their participation in the experiment-to do it every day. Along with the focus on life events, the researchers asked for specifics: how many alcoholic drinks volunteers had, how many aspirin or other pain relievers they took, the quantity and quality of their sleep-and they wanted folks to compare themselves to others: Are you better or worse off?

If you were going to have dinner with anyone from the study, you'd want someone from the gratitude group at your table. Right off the bat, Emmons and his team recognized that there was something especially impactful about a regular gratitude check. A follow-up study found the effect even more powerful when the gratitude exercises were done on a daily basis. Those who found something to appreciate every day were less materialistic, that is, they were less apt to see a connection between life satisfaction and material things. They were more willing to part with their possessions. The bumper sticker that reads "The one with the most toys, wins" was unlikely to be found on any of their cars.

The grateful people were less depressive, envious, and anxious, and much more likely to help others, a fact not lost on those around them. When other people were asked their impressions of the daily-gratitude students, they generally judged them as empathetic, helpful, and prosocial. That is, they felt the members of the gratitude group were more likely to put themselves out for others.

Here's a laundry list of the study's conclusions about test subjects who were consciously grateful:

* They felt better about their lives as a whole. * They were more optimistic. * They were more energetic. * They were more enthusiastic. * They were more determined. * They were more interested. * They were more joyful. * They felt stronger about handling challenges. * They exercised more (nearly an hour and a half more per week!). * They had fewer illnesses. * They got more sleep. * They made progress toward important personal goals. * They were more likely to have helped someone else. * They were perceived by others as more generous and helpful. * They were less envious of those with more possessions. * They were less cluttered.

Related studies have found additional benefits, all of which could arguably be linked to a grateful mind-set:

* Clearer thinking-more creativity and openness to ideas * Better resilience during tough times * Higher immune response * Less likelihood of being plagued by stress * Longer lives * Closer family ties * Greater religiousness


Excerpted from THANK YOU POWER by Deborah Norville Copyright © 2007 by Deborah Norville. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Deborah Norville is the anchor of Inside Edition, the nation’s longest running, top-rated syndicated newsmagazine with five million viewers. The two-time Emmy-Award winner and lecturer is also a New York Times best-selling author. She and her husband have three children.

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Thank You Power: Making the Science of Gratitude Work for You 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
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I'd also recommend that you buy "When God Stopped Keeping Score," another great book, which takes an eye opening look at forgiveness. Given the chance, it will change your life. It did that for me.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An excellent source for "life coach" exercises.
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ReviewYourBook.com More than 1 year ago
Thank You Power
Deborah Norville
Thomas Nelson, 2008
ISBN: 078522193X
Reviewed by Debra Gaynor for ReviewYourBook.com, 12/08
5 stars
Great Read¿
Deborah Norville reminds readers of the importance of a positive attitude and the power of saying thank you. People avoid negative, ungrateful people. Norville comes across as a truly nice person with a positive attitude. There should be more people like her in this world. Thank You Power is well-written and easy to read. We would all benefit from Norville¿s advice.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent, easy to read book that gives you great insight into the dynamics of being thankful and grateful for what you have in your life. Norville's research is very well done and interesting and her research provides you with concrete information on the power of being thankful. This book would make a great gift for all ages.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Over 25 yrs ago I entered a 12th step program in Los Angeles, and one of the first things my sponsor said to me was 'Honey tomorrow morning you'll start your day by writing a gratitude list while having breakfast' ..... I remember saying 'What is a gratitude List'? 'totally serious' ....She said 'Well you write down anything that is good in your life, if you have a roof over your head, a place to sleep, food to eat, a job that pays you money so you can eat, an auto if you have one, limbs that work, arms, legs, fingers, toes, that you live in the USA, that people care about you, etc, etc, things like that. I said 'I'm sleeping on someone's couch, don't have a job, my own mother said she wanted me out of her home and out of her life, what in the world do I have to be grateful for ' I said..... ..... after a long pause she replied, 'Well the couch may not be yours, but at least you have a couch to sleep on, and from what I've seen Dogs seem to like you, you can always start from there......' 25 Yrs later, that Mother has forgiven me for everything, after I made honest and sincere amends to her, actually we're best friends now, play Canasta, and I have been entrusted with her ATM Pin Code as well as keys to her safety deposit box. I have a spouse, 'for 13 yrs now' and it's a great relationship, have a host of friends, and everything good that my sponsor told me would come from writing a daily gratitude list has come true, and then some. I was so grateful that I wanted to pass it on to anyone interested in how it worked, for me, that I got the phone number 656-MATT and would get calls from all over the USA. I'm in Boynton Beach Florida now and still write a daily gratitude list and the reason I went into that 12th step program is still in remission 25 yrs later. Love the Book, as it shows everything I've been told is backed up with Scientific evidence, not just personal experience of someone in a 12th step group. God Bless you Deborah Norville, your insides are as beautiful as your outsides, and I can see why. I love having scientific evidence to back up a personal spiritual belief 'not religious, but spiritual'
Guest More than 1 year ago
So Deborah Norville has written another book. All I can say is¿ It¿s about time. Her latest offering is Thank You Power, a fitting title for a woman who truly lives her life with an attitude of gratitude. She truly is a celebrity who we can hold up as a role model. In Thank You Power, Deborah explores what benefits there are, if any to living a life filled with gratitude. Ever the first class journalist it is not surprising that she uncovered the vast scientific evidence on this subject. While you might think that a book with so much information would be boring, Deborah¿s skill as a writer makes it anything but, on the contrary by using amusing stories from her life and the lives of others Thank You Power is a very fast and interesting read. Can simply counting your blessings greatly improve the quality of your life? See what the scientific evidence says. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy for yourself and with the holiday season arriving soon, Thank You Power would make a great stocking stuffer. Thank You Power is yet another highlight in her already a remarkable career.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I received an advanced copy of this book after meeting Deborah Norville at a book signing at a book expo in New York City this Summer, and I read it in one sitting (with notes!?!). I couldn't put it down! She is as dynamic of a writer as she is in person (and on TV) - she was very warm and gracious, and after reading her book, it is clear that she practices what she preaches. Her book is a seamless compilation of stories from her own life (one of my favorites is the one about the 'airport cat'), other people with incredibly interesting research sprinkled throughout supporting how being gracious and the power of thankfulness can truly impact your life in a positive way. It was a fantastic read that I recommend to everyone. Enjoy!