Sunday, August 25, 2019

Dr. Joyce Addo-Atuah, Author of The Power of Thanksgiving: A Blueprint for Contentment, Fulfillment, and Well-Being through Gratitude

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Today we are interviewing Dr. Joyce Addo-Atuah about her Christian inspirational book, titled “The Power of Thanksgiving: A Blueprint for Contentment, Fulfillment, and Well-Being through Gratitude.”

You are a new author and so it is important that people get to know who you are. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am a pharmacist by profession but since 2008, I have been in full time academia as a college professor at the Touro College of Pharmacy in New York City. I am a very passionate educator, teacher, speaker, motivator, and storyteller. I have spoken and taught on several professional as well as Christian platforms and have travelled widely to nearly 40 countries. My husband and I are blessed with 4 children, all young adults now. Although I have been writing in the scientific world as a college professor is expected to do, this book, “The Power of Thanking: A Blueprint for Contentment, Fulfillment, and Well-Being through Gratitude” is my first one in the non-academic world.

Describe your new book, “The Power of Thanksgiving: A Blueprint for Contentment, Fulfillment, and Well-Being through Gratitude,” in a few sentences.
One reader of the book has described it as “the Genesis through to Revelation of thanksgiving.” Genesis is the first book of the Bible and Revelation is the last one so I believe that this reader meant to say that the book is a comprehensive text about thanksgiving and indeed it is.

It starts with why we should be thankful, to what we should be thankful for, followed by how to express gratitude to God and people, to how to develop a lifestyle of gratitude, through to the physical, mental, relational, and spiritual benefits of a gratitude lifestyle. Chapter 7 calls every reader to action to begin their individual life journeys of gratitude. The chapter describes a 4-step process of Acknowledgment ( of our brokenness as people), Reconciliation (with friends and family), Giving (paying it forward; doing good to others in appreciation for all that we have); and ending with the Sustainable Lifestyle of Gratitude stage in order to obtain the full range of the benefits of thanksgiving over the long term.  

What inspired you to write The Power of Thanksgiving?
You see I am naturally a very grateful person and so taking stock of my life and reflecting on all the opportunities that God in His infinite mercies has brought my way, I have since 2013 felt a strong urge to write a book that will publicly thank Him and the people around the world He has used to bless me in diverse ways. For example, I dedicated a section of the book to write about my encounter with and appreciation for all the assistance and support I received for my PhD program in the United States because of Dr. Dick R. Gourley (Professor Emeritus and former Dean of the College of Pharmacy at the University of Tennessee in Memphis and his wife Dr. Greta Gourley who I met in year 2000. 

Let me state here that I have spelt out my 3 goals for writing this thanksgiving book in the chapter “Why I Wrote This Thanksgiving Book.” So my first goal as explained above is to thank God and people who have contributed to my life in diverse ways. My second goal I will address in answer to the next question.  

But my third goal which is the most important to me is to demonstrate in concrete ways that I am grateful for all that I have received in life by paying it forward. So I would like everyone to know that proceeds from this book will provide the seed funding for the Shalom: Health & Education in Ghana (SHEG) Foundation which I am planning to set up to assist in meeting the basic health and educational needs of people in Ghana, especially those in the rural areas. I have seen heart-wrenching pictures of pregnant people sleeping on the bare floor in healthcare facilities or others being turned away for lack of hospital beds. In the area of education, school children in many areas don’t have properly constructed classrooms, even basic structures; some learn under trees siting on pieces of stone or on the bare floor. My passion is to make a difference here. 
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Author Dr. Joyce Addo-Atuah.

What do you hope readers gain from reading your book?
By the way, the book is available in 3 formats-Ebook, paperback, and audiobook. So whether people read or listen to the audiobook, I sincerely hope that both readers and listeners of this book would learn about the wide-ranging benefits of a lifestyle of gratitude, starting from increased happiness and translating into good physical and mental health, better relationships, a positive outlook on life, higher productivity, and long life among others. Not only will they learn about these life-transforming benefits of thanksgiving but I do hope that they will take the 4-step process to initiate their own gratitude life journeys in order to actually experience these benefits over the long term. I also do hope that readers and listeners of this book will gain even more benefits when they realize that they are actually contributing to a worthy cause bigger than themselves and do whatever they can to partner with me in accomplishing the goal of improving the education and healthcare resources for rural Ghana.

Who do you think would most appreciate your book?
I think everyone, no matter their background, would appreciate The Power of Thanksgiving. This is because everyone is happy when appreciated for an act of kindness. Also the wide-ranging health and relational benefits that people who practice gratitude derive is not limited to any group of people. However, because I wrote the book primarily to thank God and the people who have been kind to me in my life thus far, and because of my Christian background, some chapters in the book, especially chapters 3 and 4, is scripture heavy and so may turn off the non-Christian reader. Having said that, every person, no matter the religious or cultural background, stands to benefit from developing and demonstrating gratitude (Chapter 5), experiencing the health and social benefits of a gratitude lifestyle as described in chapter 6, and the call to action as has already been described in chapter 7. 

It seems more and more people are discontent and unhappy with their lives. Do you think social media and technology are factors in creating a materialistic culture?
Technology has certainly made it possible for people to show off their lives to people around the world on social media. Whether these seemingly exotic lives are the reality all year round is another matter but they create images which may evoke feelings of inadequacy in people who may be prompted to compare themselves and their surroundings to those depicted by those they see on social media. This certainly may be one of many sources or causes of discontent and unhappiness among people today. This may be true for people of all ages but may be even more so for the younger generation because of peer pressure.

One of the strengths of your book is it draws from science, scripture, and your experience. Was it challenging to write about this vast amount of information while still making the book relatable?
I must say that the connection between a gratitude lifestyle and good health and well-being among others have already been established by science although I must admit that I didn’t know about it or the extent of the studies. I chanced over these priceless scientific findings when reading another book on thanksgiving which made references to these scientific studies and that drove me to get to the source of these fascinating research findings. These findings greatly enhanced my desire to write The Power of Thanksgiving: A Blueprint for Contentment, Fulfillment, and Well-Being through Gratitude because I realized that I now had 3 sources of evidence regarding the benefits of a gratitude lifestyle; i.e. Scripture and my own life experiences buttressed by scientific evidence. This makes this book unique because it has something for everyone no matter who they are or their background.

In addition to easy-to-follow methods for seeing God’s hand in our daily lives and advice on how to be grateful, your book also contains Bible passages and hymns. How did you select the scripture and hymns to include? Do they share a theme?
Yes, the Bible passages and hymns in the book all share the same theme of thanksgiving and gratitude to God for His love, protection, provision, opening of opportunities for His people and so on. 

The specific scriptures selected and where they appear in the book depends on what is being discussed in that particular section of the book. For example, I bring in the Bible passage of David fighting and killing the giant named Goliath to demonstrate one of the many reasons we have for being grateful to God-giving us protection from our enemies and supernatural abilities to overcome difficult situations. 
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Are there any people in the Bible who standout as inspirational examples of practicing gratitude?
I quoted extensively about King David because, as I stated in the book, he was a shining example of someone who knew where God had taken him from, a shepherd boy alone in the fields taking care of his father’s sheep, to be anointed by Samuel on the direction of God to become arguably the greatest king of the Jewish nation in his time. He did not hide his gratitude to God; even as king, we are told that he could sing and praise his God with careless abandon of his status as king. Let’s remember that in gratitude to God, he had the intention to build a temple for Him, although he was told that it was his son Solomon who was to do the building. However, King David made sure to make all the things required for the temple building ready for his son before his death. It takes a heart of gratitude to do all these and let’s also not forget that he wrote the majority of the Psalms of praise and worship in the Bible.

What was the most interesting thing you uncovered while doing research for the book?
When I started to write this thanksgiving book, I decided to watch the daily practice of people with respect to thanksgiving and gratitude. I began to look out for people who were showing gratitude and those who were not and the circumstances under which these practices occurred. So for example, during my morning commute in the New York City subway system, I began to take note of various acts of ingratitude which I had previously overlooked. These acts of ingratitude included people taking seats vacated by others for them without even a nod of acknowledgment; some people also waved off attempts by others to vacate their seats for them often to the embarrassment of the philanthropic person. It was really interesting to watch these everyday human interactions in the context of gratitude and thanksgiving. 

Did writing the book take you to unexpected places or reveal things you hadn’t thought about before?
I can definitely say here that writing this book reminded me of so many things in my life and that of my family which I had forgotten about or taken for granted. As I began to write, I was reminded of these life experiences that reflected whatever section of the book I was writing about. Recounting these life experiences I sincerely believe would make the message of the power in thanksgiving much more real and relatable to both the readers and listeners of the book. 

You have an interesting background, as a Pentecost Bible College board member and college professor, in addition to being an author. What drew you to writing as a way to share your message? Did you always know you wanted to write?
You see, as a college professor I have to write in order to see any career progression. We have a saying in academia which goes like “Publish or Perish.” So I have many published papers and book chapters to my credit in the academic world but as I have already stated “The Power of Thanking: A Blueprint for Contentment, Fulfillment, and Well-Being through Gratitude” is my first non-academic book. Now that you’ve asked, I remember that during my primary school days in Ghana, I wrote a story entitled “My Grandmother’s Funeral” which described vividly the elaborate burial proceedings for my loving grandmother who was very much alive and well at the time. I still don’t know why I chose that topic because I truly loved my grandmother and didn’t in any way wish for her death, but what I remember is that the story won the inter-schools’ essay competition for my school. That’s when I realized that I have a writing talent.

What are some of the common mistakes people make when they decide to start practicing gratitude?
Practicing a lifestyle of gratitude is a 2-way street which involves the person showing appreciation for kindness received both in word and deed. The latter includes paying it forward by showing kindness or doing good not only to the person who was the initial benefactor but also to other people. What is important to remember though is that not everyone would show appreciation for the good that we do on their behalf; some people may even do things intended to harm us in spite of our kindness to them.  If we don’t take care, we may allow these inevitable cases of ingratitude to make us bitter or angry and we may even decide not to follow the path of gratitude any longer. What we need to remember is that by aborting the gratitude path, we actually hurt ourselves and deprive ourselves of all the long-term benefits of gratitude and thanksgiving.

Do you have any advice for people who are intimidated by the process of changing their lives to practice gratitude?
I encourage people to start small, wherever they are and at whatever stage in life they may be right now. They can start the practice of gratitude by appreciating the “small things” in life. Research has shown that even writing down one thing that one is grateful for on a daily or weekly basis yield measurable health and other benefits. 

What was the most challenging aspect of writing the book?
I would say the most challenging aspect of writing this book was finding the time, the commitment, and the determination to start and complete it. By joining a community of writers and would-be writers through enrolling in the Self-Publishing School was the best investment I have made for my self-development for a long time. Because by hearing and seeing the results of community members’ achievements in their writing and publishing journeys gave me the impetus and determination to start my own writing journey and to become a published author in November 2018 after a 3-month period of focused work.

How have readers responded to your book so far?
I thank God that readers and listeners of The Power of Thanksgiving: A Blueprint for Contentment, Fulfillment, and Well-Being through Gratitude have really responded positively to the book. I have over 30 five-star ratings on Amazon from verified customers and everyone who has read or listened to the book say it has reminded them to be thankful and not to take anything for granted. The book has also received excellent editorial reviews from the Readers’ Favorite (Five star) and a 4/4 star rating from the Online Book Club of over a million members. More importantly, the book has won 4 awards this year alone-a winner in the National Indie Excellence Awards, a Bronze Medal winner in the Global Ebook Awards (Christian Non-Fiction), a finalist in the Book Excellence Awards and also a finalist in the International Book Awards (Christian Inspirational).  So all in all the response has been very positive across board. 

Where can people get copies of the book to buy?
People can get copies on Amazon in the U.S. and also in Canada, Europe, India, and Australia, among others. Other outlets include Barnes & Noble, Books- a-Million, Hudson books, and independent bookstores supplied by Ingram Spark. People can also check with their local bookstores and recommend this book for them to stock copies if they haven’t done so already. The Audiobook is available through Amazon, Audible, iTunes and many other audiobook outlets.

You said one of your goals for writing this book is to get seed funding to assist in providing resources for education and health for people in the rural areas of Ghana. That is a very laudable goal. So how can our audience help in achieving this goal? 
I am appealing to individuals and corporations, institutions, influencers, society icons, for profit and not for profit organizations, and communities of faith to get involved and put their weight behind this very worthy cause. Let’s promote this book to become the go-to thanksgiving book for all people all year round in order to generate the funds needed to improve the education and healthcare resources for Ghanaians especially those in rural communities. Libraries and bookstores can contribute their quota to the success of this project by stocking copies of the book and partnering with me to promote the book through book signing, book reading and similar book promotional events and activities. 

Readers and listeners would be contributing a great deal by posting reviews of the book at the sites of their purchases and also encouraging their family and friends to also get involved.   

Is there anything else you'd like potential readers and listeners to know about your book? Any closing remarks you would want to share with potential readers?
Yes, I would like to announce that we are running a 7-day Kindle countdown deal on Amazon for the Ebook beginning on Friday, September 13 with a starting price of $1.99 which will be increased gradually through to September 20, 2019 when it returns to the normal retail price. This is a deep discount from the normal price of $5.99. I encourage people to take advantage of this great discount to get their kindle copies on Amazon because this purchase would qualify them to get the audiobook for only half the price. For those who may be doubting the value of the audiobook, please read the experience shared by an Audible member below:

“I enjoyed this audiobook. I intend to listen to it over and over again. I found a lot of peace listening to each chapter. We are reminded to be humble in all that we do and that God’s grace sees us through. The nice aspect of the audio version of this book is that one can hear the music (piano versions) and it’s a lovely addition.”

I would like to thank you all for your support for this book and for making the project in Ghana possible for the benefit of the less privileged. I am truly grateful and appreciate you all.

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