A.J. Jacobs — 10 Strategies to Be Happier Through Gratitude (#344)

Photo by Lem Lattimer

“Paradoxically but wonderfully, focusing on someone else’s happiness will actually make you happier.” — A.J. Jacobs

A.J. Jacobs (@ajjacobs) takes over the show for a special episode. A.J. is a kindred guinea pig of self-experimentation who chronicles his shenanigans in books that seem to keep winding up as New York Times best sellers. The Know-It-All was about his quest to learn everything in the world. In The Year of Living Biblically, he tried to follow all the rules of the Bible as literally as possible. Drop Dead Healthy followed his well- (and ill-) advised experiments to become the healthiest person alive. My Life as an Experiment is about exactly what it sounds like, and It’s All Relative aimed to connect all of humanity in one family tree.

His latest book, Thanks a Thousand: A Gratitude Journey, chronicles his journey around the world to personally thank everyone along the supply chain who makes his morning cup of coffee a possibility: the farmer of the coffee beans, the barista, the designer of the logo for the coffee, the truck driver who transported the coffee beans, the guy who painted the yellow lines on the road so the truck wouldn’t veer into traffic, the inventor of the cardboard sleeve that goes around the coffee cup (aka the paper zarf) so you don’t burn your fingers, and on and on.

In this episode, A.J. will be taking us through 10 strategies for being happier through gratitude in these stressful times and his agreement to do so just builds upon the gratitude I already have for this man. I hope you enjoy, and if you benefit in some way from these strategies, please feel free to reach out and thank him.

Bonus: if you pre-order his latest book or let him know how much you’ve appreciated his earlier work, he may even personally thank you back with a handwritten card (details found here)!

#344: A.J. Jacobs — 10 Strategies to Be Happier Through Gratitude

Listen to it on Apple Podcasts.
Stream by clicking here.
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Want to learn more about A.J.’s creative process? — Listen to my interview with him in which we explore his experiments, tipping points in his life, how he learned to love marketing and much more! (Stream below or right-click here to download):

#211: A.J. Jacobs: Self-Experimenter Extraordinairehttps://rss.art19.com/episodes/30f9ac28-33fa-4d51-88fd-bc493f10626a.mp3Download

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


Connect with A.J. Jacobs:

Website | Twitter | Facebook

Thanks a Thousand: A Gratitude Journey by A.J. Jacobs
A.J. Jacobs: Self-Experimenter Extraordinaire, The Tim Ferriss Show Episode 211
What do you call a coffee cup sleeve?
Want to be Happy? Be Grateful. by David Steindl-Rastat, TED Global 2013
The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs
The Bible
My Outsourced Life by A.J. Jacobs, Esquire
The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
A.J. Jacobs Traveled the World to Thank Everyone Who Helped Make His Cup of Joe by Cindy Sher, The Times of Israel
Joe Coffee Company
Choose to Be Grateful. It Will Make You Happier. by Arthur C. Brooks, The New York Times
What Is Savoring — and Why Is It the Key to Happiness? By Tchiki Davis, Ph.D., Psychology Today
Smell, Slurp, Savor: How Experts Taste Coffee, Starbucks Coffee
The Story Behind the Sistine Chapel’s Stunning Ceiling by Michelangelo by Kelly Richman-Abdou, My Modern Met
It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree by A.J. Jacobs
Colombia La Familia Guarnizo, Joe Coffee Company
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” — John Muir
Watch: The Influence of One Cleaner at NASA in 1960 by Stefan Werc, Fed Manager
Effective Altruism
Radical Life-Extension Is Not Around the Corner by Michael Shermer, Scientific American
Memento Mori: The Reminder We All Desperately Need, The Daily Stoic
The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A.J. Jacobs
Bite Down on a Stick: The History of Anesthesia by Esther Inglis-Arkell, io9
Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker
Adulteration of Coffee Act 1718
The Pure Food and Drug Act, US House of Representatives
A Redesigned Coffee Lid That Totally Changes the Drinking Experience by Liz Stinson, Wired
The Viora Lid
Sign up to get a handwritten thank you card from A.J. here.
You Should Actually Send That Thank You Note You’ve Been Meaning to Write by Heather Murphy, The New York Times
A Little Thanks Goes a Long Way: Explaining Why Gratitude Expressions Motivate Prosocial Behavior by Adam M. Grant and Francesca Gino, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Study: We All Underestimate the Power of a Thank-You Note by Monica Torres, Ladders
Habitat for Humanity
NYC’s Reservoir System
Dispensers for Safe Water


A.J. Jacobs explains the premise of his new book, Thanks a Thousand, details a few of his previous adventures for the uninitiated, and shares his 10 strategies for being happier in these super stressful times. [06:02]
“So it is not happiness that makes us grateful. It’s gratefulness that makes us happy.” -David Steindl-Rast [Ed. Note: A.J. admits after recording the episode that he confused David Rendall with David Steindl-Rast while recording this episode, and adds: “Thanks to David Rendell and David Steindl-Rast for their (hopeful) forgiveness.”] [08:58]
Strategy #1: Declare War on the Negative Bias. [14:19]
Strategy #2: The Art of Savoring. [19:34]
Strategy #3: Practice Six Degrees of Thankfulness. [23:23]
Strategy #4: Don’t Forget You’re Going to Die. [28:40]
Strategy #5: Using Gratitude to Fall Asleep. [31:20]
Strategy #6: Thou Shalt Not Have Nostalgia. [32:20]
Strategy #7: Try to Discover the Hidden Masterpieces All Around You. [35:42]
Strategy #8: Go Analog. [37:32]
Strategy #9: Fake It until You Feel It. [41:05]
Strategy #10: Use Gratitude as a Spark to Action. [42:20]


David Rendall
David Steindl-Rast
Larry David
Fred Rogers
Ted Kaczynski
Ed Kaufmann
Sister Sledge
Barack Obama
John Muir
John F. Kennedy
Will MacAskill
Steven Pinker
Theodore Roosevelt
Doug Fleming
Elon Musk
Millard Fuller

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