When Deborah Norville stepped into Jane Pauley’s shoes as co-host of the "Today" show, the stunning blonde got a rap as “the other woman.” Then, when ratings fell, NBC replaced Norville with Katie Couric. Norville thought her TV career was over.
“I was too young and too blonde,” Norville tells me.
Now, as anchor of "Inside Edition," Norville works in the same building where Couric anchors the "CBS Evening News." They pass each other dodging buses on 57th Street and occasionally chat on the phone.
“We’ve talk about work and the schedule, we’ve talked about mommy things,” Norville says. “We’ve talked about the challenges of trying to take on a new job and to take it on when there’s been so much publicity.”
Like many media stereotypes, the image of Norville as a femme fatale is wrong. A born-again Christian since she was 15, Norville has been married to businessman Karl Wellner since 1987. A devoted mother, she loves to sew. Just before I interviewed her, she was carrying crates to help her son move into his prep school dorm.
“There were three things that got me through the difficult times on the 'Today' show,” Norville says. “My family, my faith, and the other thing was my sewing machine. I love to do all that stuff — crocheting and embroidery and knitting.”
Indeed, before she was making big bucks, Norville made her own clothes.
“When I first got in the business, I couldn’t afford to buy clothes in the store,” she says. “I bought fabric from the sale table and would make stuff. So my sewing machine has been a big part of my life ever since I got my first one when I was 14.”
Nor is Norville the airhead many in the media believe her to be. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, Norville graduated summa cum laude from the University of Georgia with a degree in journalism. Few in the TV business are as sharp as the 49-year-old Georgia native.
That brings us to Norville’s new book, "Thank You Power: Making the Science of Gratitude Work for You," which comes out ths week. Norville had a hunch that taking time to express gratitude not only makes us happier, it gives us more energy and improves our health. She did the research and found studies actually documenting this. [Editor's Note: Get Deborah Norville's book — Go Here Now.]
Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California, and Michael McCullough, a psychology professor at the University of Miami, asked test subjects to focus for three weeks on everything that was wrong and irritating in their lives. A second set was asked to focus on ordinary events. The third group was asked to focus on blessed events: “That was the most spectacular sunrise,” or “My boyfriend is so kind and caring, I am lucky to have him.”
“The people who focused on gratitude were just flat-out happier,” Norville writes. “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.”
In fact, the thank you group began spending almost an hour and a half more time on exercising each week than the subjects who focused on hassles in their lives.
“The grateful people were less depressive, envious, and anxious, and much more likely to help others, a fact not lost on those around them,” Norville says.
Of course, the power of positive thinking is not exactly a new concept. Buddhism and other religions emphasize the importance of expressing gratitude. Even Alcoholics Anonymous promotes gratitude as part of its recovery program.
But in calling her book “Thank You Power,” Norville gives readers a specific way of remembering to be grateful.
“The idea of feeling grateful is different from thinking positively,” she says. “Thinking positively can take shape in any number of forms. It can be being hopeful about the future, it can be self-deluding that the reality that exists is not the reality that you want to see, because you’re going to think positively. There are a lot of different ways that positive thinking can manifest itself. But the notion of giving thanks gives you a sense of having been fulfilled, of having been blessed, of having been pleased, of having been happy.”
Besides the well-known ups and downs of her career, “there are times when you’re just upset with yourself,” she says. “You’re just upset with the world. There’s nothing particular that’s happened; there’s nothing especially that’s gone wrong, but we all get into those funks sometimes.”
In a small journal she keeps in her pocketbook, Norville tries to make a note every day of the small and big events that she is thankful for.
Looking at one entry brought her back to July 4, when she attended a dog show.
“Being the TV person, I get drafted as the announcer, and I was having a hard time holding the papers to read what the kids’ costumes were and this microphone thingy at the same time,” she recalls. “And this woman came and said, ‘Let me hold this for you.’ I was just appreciative to have the help. Later, she told me that she was grateful for the opportunity to do this, because her brother had just died. And she said a lot of people were expressing their condolences, which of course she appreciated, but every time somebody said something she started crying.”
It was a small thing, but life is full of small moments.
Norville read other items from her journal: “Thank you for the time to sew; thank you for my daughter’s interest in knitting; thank you for the great curtains; I’m so happy and grateful that I was able to get my daughter’s room redone.”
Those little things have helped her through some tough times. Those included “the ones America knew about, and the ones that probably my own family didn’t know about,” Norville says.
The beauty of thank you power is that, unlike the power of positive thinking, it is a specific mental act that is action-oriented, Norville says. Those who already tend to look on the sunny side and adopt thank you power find that they experience the high of feeling grateful more often than before.
“It means you have to focus,” Norville says. “You have to consciously express gratitude. You have to jot down. You have to make a point of noticing. Nobody else can do it for you. But when you look at the list of possible benefits in my book, you’d be pretty stupid not to give it a shot.”
[Editor's Note: Get Deborah Norville's book "Thank You Power: Making the Science of Gratitude Work for You" — Go Here Now.]
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of NewsMax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now.
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