As a 40 year broadcast veteran, Deborah Norville has certainly seen
her share of life’s up and downs. Despite the loss of her mother at
age 20, the very publicized dismissal from the “Today Show” in the
mid 90’s and subsequent bouts of depression, Norville—has emerged
stronger and the wiser for it. In “Thank You Power” her latest read—
she draws compelling connections, between living life from a place
of gratitude and being healthier, happier and more productive. (We
somehow have an inkling, she practices what she preaches!)
Link2us: What inspired you to write, Thank you power?
Norville: I was inspired really, by a hunch. I had seen in my own life that things just seemed to go better when I focused on what was going right— instead of the inevitable things that go wrong. Professionally, as a journalist, and personally, I am just naturally skeptical. ‘Prove it’… And ‘how come’ are words that seem to always be on the tip of my tongue and I think it was my natural curiosity that first got me going on the research path. I had no idea the research would take me into such interesting territory. Beyond that; I am a naturally grateful person. Radio DJs tell me I am the only celebrity who sends thank you notes after an interview—now they get emails! But it’s really more than that… It is living in a ‘zone of thankfulness.’ My mother had numerous health problems through most of my childhood, so I was always especially appreciative of her good days. I am hugely grate- ful for my own good health… For a marriage that’s still working—and while I’ve had plenty of setbacks, public and personal, focusing on all I had seemed to make the hurt of the losses lessen.
Link2us: What facts were you most surprised to find in your 2 year research?
Norville: We have all heard it said, if you see it, you can be it. Well, that never worked for me! I try to see myself 25 pounds thinner and it just doesn’t happen! So I had a high degree of skepticism going into this. What attracts me to the research results is that it is done under the most rigorous of conditions, with the kinds of screens that keep the results from being tainted. People didn’t know what kind of research they were part of—so the findings are pure. People who regularly practiced what I call ‘Thank You Power,’ were more opti- mistic, less pessimistic, more apt to do things for other people, they exercised more than others…. And that’s just for starters. Those findings were enough to encourage me to delve deeper and see what else Thank You Power could do. My standards were pretty tough: the findings had to be measurable and quantifiable. “I feel…”Or”it seems…” didn’t cut it for me. There had to be measurable benefits from the study for me to include the information. After all… This is a REPORTER’S approach—the FACTS had to be beyond reproach!
Lingk2us: Could you share with us, some hands on ways in which the average person could begin to implement the practice of gratitude —is there a formula?
Norville: At the end of the day do a “gratitude check.” Jot down three things that hap- pened for which you are grateful in a little notebook. Doing this forces you to focus on what went right that day and redirects your mind toward something positive. It’s magic- ally simple. Thank You Power can be ignited by the regular practice of finding something in your day that was meaningful and beneficial to you. Maybe it was an e-mail from a long-lost friend, or the magic of all the traffic lights going green when you were late get- ting to work. They’re not necessarily headline-making events. In fact, experts in this field say it’s usually the more banal moments that, on reflection, are the most meaningful in our lives. I actually have a Thank You list—pretty much everyday I jot down three or four things that I am grateful for in a little fabric covered notebook. Focusing on these moments is an incredibly effective way to put yourself in “positive affect,” which is the scientific term for feeling good—seeing the glass as half full instead of half empty.
Link2us: In what ways can the practice of gratitude impact each of us physically and emotionally?
Norville: It starts with you, every day- it doesn’t have to be the same time everyday, but on a regular basis-literally writing down what was good in your life that day. There’s something very affirmative about that. When you see all these affirmations in totality, there’s a kind of elevation that happens. Scientists have actually proved this—there’s a hormonal change that goes on. Oxytocin starts going through the body, and you really do have this sort of elevated sense. Beyond that, as I point out in Thank You Power, when the mind is focused in a particular positive way, one can actually reduce the physical effects of stress. In one study, participants were literally able to lower their blood pressure and re- duce their heart rate. Another study I cite shows how referring back to those ‘supremely happy moments’ in life can enhance one’s cognitive skills. Its pretty dramatic stuff!
Link2us: In your line of work you meet people from all walks of life who have over- come the most difficult circumstances. In your observation, what are some of the common threads in their abilities to beat the odds and move on to live successful lives?
Norville: It’s something that has always floored me as a reporter. We often come into people’s lives during their most dire times… and yet instead of lashing out because of their loss, they often find something positive to celebrate. ‘We had so many years to- gether…’ ‘I should be dead and I am not—I must be here for a reason…’ there sentiments were always, it seemed, coupled with gratitude. What I learned in my research is that gratitude will help those individuals weather a crisis better!
Link2us: In your book, you quoted Martha Washington as saying “I have learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our disposi- tions and not upon our circumstances”. Could you share with us, your insights into this statement?
Norville: There will always be difficult days, disappointments, illnesses, unfulfilled
dreams. But there is always the promise of tomorrow, of success, health and dreams
realized. When one focuses on that, one is subconsciously priming themselves to reach them. As Henry Ford is quoted as saying, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t—you’re right.” The mind is an incredibly powerful machine. I choose to focus mine in a positive direction—and the results, speak for themselves!
Link2us: Your book has been wonderfully received by both the faith and mainstream community. In your opinion, what common threads allow this information to be universally received?
Norville: All great religions of the world place an emphasis on the practice of gratitude. But one needn’t BE a religious person to enjoy the benefits of it. obviously, as a Christian, my faith does play a role in my own practice of gratitude—but this message is SO impor- tant and so life affirming for EVERYONE, that I did not want to put an over emphasis on religion, lest that be a turn off for some would-be readers.
Link2us: As a Celebrity spokesperson for the Mother’s March of Dimes, and a member of the Board of the Council of girl scouts: you are very involved in charitable groups and events. Why is this so important to you? Norville: My own personal motto is one from Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, who says, “Service is the rent we pay for living.” I have been blessed to have the good health and family that I do, the opportunities that have come my way, and an incredible public voice with which to speak. It’s why I try to find time for charities that are important to me, like the New York City council of Girl Scouts and the Alzheimer’s Association, to not only give back of my- self, but remind others that there are many ways they can make a difference. Sometimes it takes only a phone call to brighten a day—or change a life. Amazing, isn’t it?