When Janice Kaplan was at the helm of Parade Magazine, the popular Sunday newspaper supplement had a readership of 74 million people. So it was no wonder that when she picked up the phone to ask President-Elect Obama to share an essay for her readers on the eve of his first inaugural speech, he happily obliged.
But Obama’s media relations person said that the newly-elected president couldn’t just give away gems from his upcoming speech, and he asked for guidance from the then editor-in-chief. With about 30 seconds to come up with a response, Kaplan suggested Obama write an open letter to his daughters on his hopes for them over the next four years.
The “Barack Obama: A Letter to My Daughters” cover story got international attention, as did her own interviews with stars including Barbra Streisand, Clint Eastwood, Matt Damon and Daniel Craig.
Author, television producer, broadcast journalist Janice Kaplan visits the Siegel JCC
Kaplan enjoyed her seemingly easy access to “A level players,” spending decades in journalism before turning her focus toward writing books. Now the author of 14 books, including the New York Times bestseller The Gratitude Diaries and her latest, How Luck Happens, Kaplan visited Wilmington’s Siegel JCC today to speak to a packed crowd over lunch.
Kaplan was the featured guest at the Jewish Federation of Delaware’s WOW (Women of Wisdom) spring 2019 event.
The former award-winning producer at Good Morning America and former executive producer of the TV Guide television group didn’t spend time looking back on her career, but instead offered simple advice based on her theory that gratitude brings happiness.
Much of her advice is contained in her bestselling book, The Gratitude Diaries, which is based on a year she pushed herself to live each day with an abundance of gratitude.
A New Year’s Eve resolution leads to Kaplan to write her favorite book
Kaplan’s year of gratitude starts at the end of a long night, one New Year’s Eve, when she sets a resolution to try to live more gratefully.
“This was actually my 13th book, and I know as authors we’re not supposed to have favorites. But this one was my favorite. And it was my favorite because by getting to live a year gratefully, I ended up living the best year of my life,” she said.
Kaplan had just left as the editor of Parade Magazine when she was asked by a national foundation to do a big survey on gratitude. It was the results of that survey that spurred her to make that New Year’s resolution, dig deeper and write an entire book on her research findings with advice for leading a more grateful life.
Kaplan says she started by being more grateful to the people and things she had long taken for granted. And that each month of the year she would be grateful for something different. “Right after New Year’s, I decided I was going to be grateful to my husband. I thanked him for things he does all the time, but I never seemed to notice.”
Health benefits of living a grateful life
Kaplan says expressions of gratitude can bestow a number of health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, improving sleep and decreasing depression. And continued positive behaviors bring on greater happiness. “One thing that gratitude does is that it quite literally lets you reframe the picture. By only focusing on the positive, things felt really, really different,” she said.
Kaplan even went on to say that psychologists who have studied behavior say connectedness neuron circuits can grow stronger when people express gratitude.
At the end of her book, Kaplan reflects on what she has learned by focusing her attention more gratefully, saying it had given her the ability to experience joy for almost any reason.
Referencing a Benedictine Monk and author who explored the value of gratitude in the context of spirituality, she said, “It’s not happiness that makes us grateful. It’s gratitude that makes us happy. I wish you to find the good in everything you do.”