The Tim Ferriss Show – A.J. Jacobs on 10 Strategies to Be Happier Through Gratitude

Strategy 1 – Declare War on the Negative Bias
  • Thinking on an evolutionary scale – the negative bias had value
    • We needed to extra aware of dangers (lions, poisonous mushrooms etc.)
    • But now, that’s not so important
  • Focus on the things that go right every day, instead of the things that go wrong
    • One good way – write them down 
    • Get specific – Did the checkout line at the grocery store go quick? Write that down. Did you avoid red lights on your way to work? Write it down.
Strategy 2 – The Art of Savoring
  • Savor your experiences 
  • Be present, get off your phone, and absorb your surroundings 
  • Instead of watching TV or browsing your phone while drinking coffee, take a moment to pause, and savor the coffee’s acidity and taste
  • A.J. has a cool practice:
    • He has a file on his computer called “The One Thing”
    • Every night, he adds to it, based on what he did that day – the one thing he wants to remember from every conversation, podcast, TV show, or book
Strategy 3 – Practice 6 Degrees of Thankfulness
  • Everything is connected
    • “It takes thousands of people to make any object. It doesn’t take a village to make a cup of coffee, it takes the world.”
    • Remind yourself continuously that you’re part of something bigger
  • A.J.’s previous book, It’s All Relative, was about a group of scientists building a family tree of the entire world (all 7 billion people)
    • They have over 100,000,000 connected – they’re not finished
  • Realizing we’re all connected, makes it easier to ask for help
Strategy 4 – Don’t Forget You’re Going to Die
  • Be grateful you exist at all
  • More likely than not, you won’t exist forever
    • “We have a brief flash here on earth, make the most of it”
  • Remember you are going to die, is known as “Momento Mori
  • A.J. has a skull as his laptop screensaver to help him remember this
Strategy 5 – Use Gratitude to Fall Asleep
  • Instead of counting sheep, count the things you’re grateful for
Strategy 6 – Though Shall Not Have Nostalgia
  • Glorifying the past is a thief of joy
  • A.J. has a 3 word mantra he finds very helpful – “Surgery without anesthesia”
    • Up until a few decades ago, that’s the way all surgeries were
  • Just think about how good we have it now, all things considered
    • There is much less suffering in the world than there used to be
  • “Don’t wallow in the past”
Strategy 7 – Try To Discover The Hidden Masterpieces All Around You
  • Think about how much engineering, passion, and thought goes into creating a coffee cup lid
  • “There are so many masterpieces all around me, that I take for granted”
  • Pay attention – if you notice the “masterpieces”, they’ll awe you with wonder
Strategy 8 – Go Analog
  • Write hand written thank you notes more often
  • “We overestimate the level of awkwardness when we thank people, and underestimate how much impact it will have”
  • Side notes
    • A.J. recalls one study that found using the phrase “thank you”, isn’t as effective as saying “I am grateful for..” – “thank you” is too robotic
    • A.J. recalls another study which found that people who hand write thank you notes after job interviews, are more likely to get called back
Strategy 9 – Fake Gratitude Until You Feel It
  • When you act in a certain way, it affects your mind
    • The outer, effects the inner
  • “It’s easier to act your way to a new way of thinking, than to think your way into a new way of acting”
  • Act as if you’re grateful and eventually your mind will catch up
Strategy 10 – Use Gratitude as a Spark to Action
  • The more grateful you are, the more likely you are to help others (also the more pro social you are)
  • Gratitude makes you want to pay it forward
Wrapping Up
  • It’s not the glass half full vs. the glass half empty
    • It’s the fact that we have any water in the glass at all…
    • How f*cking crazy is it, that we can walk to our kitchen, turn the faucet, and have clean water come out
  • “Paradoxically but wonderfully, focusing on someone else’s happiness will actually make you happier”
  • If everyone involved in the supply chain of your coffee, were paid the minimum wage in the United States, your cup of coffee would cost $25 – and you thought $3 was ridiculous