A.J. Jacobs is an “immersive journalist,” someone who submerges himself completely into a project, then writes about what he learned and experienced along the way. Intellectually, he knew that gratitude was good for him but, being a self-proclaimed pessimist, it was a behavior that didn’t come naturally.
One of his most recent books, Thanks A Thousand: A Gratitude Journey, started with what the author thought would be a very simple way to begin a gratitude practice – saying thank you to everyone involved in making his morning cup of coffee. But when he really began delving into who was involved, he discovered there were literally thousands of people – farmers, chemists, artists, presidents, truck drivers, mechanics, biologists, miners, smugglers, and goat herders –all of whom played a part in his ability to enjoy his morning caffeine ritual.
This gratitude experiment evolved into a year-long journey around the world to show his appreciation. During his appreciation adventure, Jacobs discovered how gratitude can make us happier, more generous, and more connected.
As he reached out to more and more people simply to say thank you, Jacobs realized just how much power those two words held for the people being appreciated. And as he expressed his thanks to others, he found that his own appreciation and overall happiness grew.
He also experienced just how interconnected we all are. Nothing happens because of a single person, or even ten. There are literally thousands of people who play a part in making things happen; who make our morning cup of coffee (and millions of other things) possible.
During his year-long gratitude journey, A.J. Jacobs had a revelation: he finally understood firsthand that behavior shapes our thoughts. Jacobs says he, like many others, would get caught up with the few things that go wrong each day rather than all of the things that go right. This pessimistic outlook encouraged him to be less grateful and so he was surprised to find that when he focused on the good, the exact opposite occurred.
“Gratitude makes us more aware,” said Jacobs in a TED Talk podcast about kindness. “It makes us want to try and make things better for the “collective.”
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