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)!

You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

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

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 Extraordinaire

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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


  • 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]


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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

  1. I am deeply grateful for this wonderfully presented podcast. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I was very touched that A.J. brought up how handy arms are.

  2. I’m very grateful for this wonderfully presented podcast. Also, I can’t put my finger on why, but I thought it was touching how A.J. brought up the handiness of arms.

  3. My long-time favorite quote is “It’s easier to act your way in to an new way of thinking than to think your way to a new way of acting.” I dont believe it originated with the founder of Habitat and my just be unattributable. I first heard it in the mid 1800’s from a cognitive behavioral psychotherapist Dr Pat Allen from Newport Beach California. She still specializes in relationship therapy and addictive behaviors, as a recovering alcoholic addict. I also heard the quote repeated then and over the years in 12 step meeting rooms. No matter its derivation, it’s a revelation for most everyone hearing it for the first time, just as it was for Tim Ferriss.

  4. So love how he’s gone on quests and experimentations in this way. What a rich and fulfilling way to live your life, learn and teach otherws.

  5. I love the Just One Thing. In meetings, books, conversations, random interactions, fitness classes…remembering just one positive thing that I can take away.

  6. A.J., Your 10 strategies for rethinking gratitude were illuminating. It really is a must to cultivate gratitude isn’t it–that is, if we’re genuinely interested in understanding the different aspects of enduring happiness? Every day I find myself so easily swept away along the high rapids of life that I forget how easily a “thank you” or just simply stopping for a second and appreciating the wonders right under my nose. You got me paying attention more. Now let’s see if my old lizard brain can stick to the strategies you’ve so thoughtfully laid out (practicing Strategy #9 especially will be key). Thanks a Thousand to you Sir for presenting such a relevant podcast in today’s world! I remain grateful.

  7. I have a request that you interview an addiction specialist, Dr Hyla Cass. She basically matches a supplement (eg amnio acid) with an addiction to stop cravings.

    For alcoholics (also sugar) that’s l glutamine. I swear everyone needs to hear about how this judgement free addiction treatment works so we can change the world.

  8. I would agree that applying yourself in helping others pays equal amounts of happiness for oneself. I frequently volunteer at a soup kitchen, and I’ve learned over the years it’s one of the most important activities on my calendar each month.

  9. Tim, I want to be the fill-in for your next absent podcast. Tell me all I need to do for the opportunity. I am grateful in advance for your time and guidance if you choose to reach out. I can be contacted through the email provided.


  10. Hi! I just watched the video you posted with Rebecca Brachman on Treating Depression and Post Traumatic Stress and I need to know how to find a doctor who can help me; my stress reliance is very low and I’m heading into a funk. I want to know more about ketamines. Especially what’s the likelihood that I can get treatment.

  11. Top Ten Reasons Why I’m Grateful for This Episode

    1. AJ sounds like he’s smiling the ENTIRE time.

    2. The ABCs of Zzzzz Exercise!

    3. It made my bus wait delightful.

    4. I noticed that although the bus was late (as usual) it eventually arrived!

    5. It’s a list. I LOVE lists!

    6. It’s bite sized and left me wanting more–I’ve listened to it thrice in 24 hours.

    7. The Coffee Tasting made me laugh.

    8. AJ sounds like he’s a great father and that makes me happy.

    9. I can listen to it when I’m ready to start my day or go to sleep. It’s galvanizing and meditative.

    10. I can thank the important people in my life by sharing it.

  12. Listened to your Podcast #318 “one-Person Businesses”. In large part thanks to your original 4HWW book, i got into this type of business. And I’ve helped 2 friends gett on their feet. We all work in different industries so it’s been amazing learning from each other. These businesses afford freedom and income, but they can be very lonely and sometimes scary. One of our common mentors, an older and very successful guy, had actually given our businesses a term, “Lifestyle Business”, and it’s meant to be derogatory term. He wants us move from a “lifestyle” business into a “real” business, but the 3 of us don’t see how adding revenue, and overhead, makes enough extra profit to be worth the hassle. Instead, all of us are using automation and technology to stretch our own minds, and side-step having to build a “culture” and deal with HR and all that. And the irony? We have to outsource more and more to other people’s “lifestyle businesses”. We’re all in Austin, if you ever needed a case study! The personalities involved live very different lifestyles, one of us (the single one) a very unorthodox personal life. Anyway – the net net is that it was great hear YOU say a “lifestyle business@ is something to be proud of. It’s a real 3rd option, vs the other avenues. The only part I was having trouble with, was your strategy of “moonlighting” to get started. I get that you don’t want to be responsible for a bunch of people committing financial suicide, but I’ve seen too many people that never get it off the ground moonlighting, because it’s never urgent and it’s just flat not important enough even if they can’t admit that. Quit your job? It get important real fast :). Thank you for everything Tim!!

  13. I’m a fan of A.J.’s since his Esquire article on outsourcing his life, and his book on living biblically is a must read. While he’s obviously enthusiastic about showing gratitude to all these people, it’s hard to see where to draw a line before you are just praising people who are so far removed from having done anything to provide service or value to you, that there lacks a connection.

  14. Great initiative, I recently started saying thanks to all the people involved in making the food on my possible and I figured out it is actually sometimes quite challenging to know who (e.g. which country) is involved