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Find the positive around you

Posted: January 12, 2012 10:57 a.m.
Updated: January 13, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Gratitude, says Deborah Norville, will make your life happier and more fulfilling.

Norville, the television personality who’s had her own share of ups and downs during her career, isn’t the first person to explore the science -- and it’s legitimate to call it that, given the evidence -- of gratitude and its effects on people’s lives.

Her book, “Thank You Power,” is a powerful testament to how much better our lives can be if we’re willing to take a few moments each day to express our gratitude for what happens in our lives -- to “count our blessings,” as it’s been called for so long.

There’s no magic in “Thank You Power” -- only a realistic roadmap to channel readers’ lives into a route that emphasizes the positive. It’s a powerful motivator to make people ... well ... thankful.

With a new year having just started, there’s no better time to consider the multitude of things for which all of us can harbor gratitude.

OK, I’ve misspoken. Not all of us. But certainly, most of us. Some people will never be thankful for anything. Perhaps you know some of them.

You might be thinking, "What's with Glenn? Is he thinking he's Dr. Phil or Joel Osteen or Oprah?"

No, but an emphasis on gratitude is commanding lots of attention, and scientists are buying in. 

Norville stresses keeping a gratitude list -- writing down things on a daily basis for which we’re thankful.

It works.

No, making a gratitude list won’t make us immune to the travails and perplexities of daily life, but it does indeed focus us on emphasizing the positive.

There have been countless tests and research projects proving that people perform better when they’re happy and gratified. This isn't opinion; it's fact.

An “attitude of gratitude,” one study revealed recently, can lead to better health, sounder sleep, less anxiety and depression, higher long-term satisfaction with life and kinder behavior toward others.

And research shows that for kids, focusing on a singular happy moment can help them perform better in school. Among adults, grateful people tend to be able to remember more positive events in their life and to recall them more vividly, thus keeping them in a better frame of mind.

Norville’s book is no panacea, of course. It contains a few meaningless platitudes: “find a blessing in something bad,” for instance. When you’ve just lost your job or bounced your mortgage payment check, it’s hard to see many blessings in that.

But her book, in line with an increasingly common philosophy,  goes further than that; the most important thing, she says, is to make a conscious effort to notice things you’re thankful for, and then to enumerate those things.

Listen to what one of my friends says about his experience with “Thank You Power”:

 “I had never kept a written gratitude list, so it seemed a bit cheesy when I first decided to do it. I’d always been grateful for many things, but I wasn’t sure that getting a pencil and paper out and actually committing something to writing would make a difference in my life.

 “But it did. When I began the daily discipline of listing things, it made me so much more aware of how many instances there are in our lives that bless us -- things we overlook on a regular basis.

 “I began noticing and appreciating tiny things I’d taken for granted … the friendly manner of a store clerk or someone I met on the street, the decorative manner in which the window in a retail store was artfully arranged by someone, the way frost lies on a field in the morning, like a little white cap…

 “Pretty soon I began to look forward to jotting things down on my gratitude list. And the odd thing was, I felt so much better doing it. It became part of my daily routine, and at night, I would look back and recall all those things that had made me happy that day."      

Look, I’m no therapist or psychologist. I'm just passing along something that you might consider trying. It takes a pencil and a piece of paper and five minutes daily. It might be worth a shot.


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