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What Really Makes Celebrities Grateful

Aug 18, 2015

At next month’s Emmy Awards, some of the acceptance speeches will surely include so many “thank yous” that viewers will be left rolling their eyes.

The winners will be left worrying about who they forgot.

“The stars at awards shows always come backstage feeling like they didn’t express enough gratitude,” says Hollywood journalist Jeanne Wolf. “There aren’t enough ways to say thank you for something big. That’s why you hear ‘thank you so much’ and ‘thank you so so much.’”

While we often assume celebrities are self-absorbed and ego-driven, they can actually teach us something quite lovely about appreciating what we’ve achieved—and recognizing the people who helped us get there. Instead of being cynical about awards shows, we can see them as meaningful reminders of how important it is to see success in a broader perspective.

Wolf says most stars she’s met (and she’s met most) are a little surprised by their own good fortune. “They all bow in the direction of luck and chance. They know they’ve been chosen, and they also know to look around and be grateful,” Wolf says.

Given new research linking gratitude to better health and increased happiness, the grateful stars may be on to something. Outside of awards shows, many celebrities are finding their own ways to express gratitude. Wolf says that when she asks stars about gratitude, they are often eager to tell her about how they put it in practice.

“Usually before I eat a meal I’ll list the things for which I’m grateful. I do that with my wife [Anna Faris],” Jurassic World star Chris Pratt told Wolf. After his movie raked in $200 million its opening weekend, he could easily have turned entitled—but before-meal gratitude was a strong antidote.

Actor Will Arnett has developed a plan to remind himself to be grateful whatever the status of his TV and movie projects.

“Every single morning, I write a gratuity list. I write down ten things I’m grateful for every day—and it always starts with my kids,” said the actor, who made his name in shows like 30 Rock and The Lego Movie.

Psychologists who study well-being say that keeping a gratitude journal can boost spirits and reduce depression better than almost any other intervention. Stars need that as much as the rest of us.

“Along with the success is tremendous insecurity and fear and self-doubt—the sense that it will all go away tomorrow,” Wolf says. “A-list stars want to find a way to slow down and count their blessings.”

It’s easy to say that stars should be grateful—they have big paychecks, adoring fans, and shiny cars. “But that misses the point. We all have bumps or tragedies that could have stopped us,” says Wolf. Gratitude helps give all of us the power to get through difficult times and recognize the bright ones.

Kelsey Grammar struggled after the murder of his sister, deaths of his half-brothers, and his own addictions to cocaine and alcohol. But the star of Cheers and Frasier turned his life around.

“I hit my knees every day and express gratitude,” he told Wolf.

Having spent a year trying to bring more gratitude into my own life (and writing about it in my new book “The Gratitude Diaries”), I admire anyone who can look past difficulties and focus on the positive. Stars I spoke to incuding Matt Damon, Jerry Seinfeld, and Clint Eastwood, all had “thank you” as part of their every day vocabulary. They didn’t wait for awards shows. I was happy to learn from them.

I won’t win an Emmy next month, but to all these stars who make gratitude part of their lives and teach us how to do the same, I would like to say …..

Thank you.

Janice Kaplan is the former editor-in-chief of Parade magazine and the author of a dozen books. Her latest, “The Gratitude Diaries” will be published this month by Dutton.

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