Being Grateful Is Good For You

Being grateful—for what others do, for good fortune, for what you have—is good for you. It makes you happier, helps you sleep better, and boosts your immune system. Being grateful is a good way to live and when you thank someone else for what they have done for you, I believe it fosters relationships, builds community, and encourages others to do the same.

I learned about the concepts behind journaling gratitude at my first KalamazooX when Elizabeth Naramore1 discussed her own gratitude journal. Around the same time, a Facebook friend started recording five things a day for which they were grateful. Looking back, this was the period when I started to acknowledge that I had unaddressed problems with depression, anxiety, and self-worth. Being grateful seemed like an easy place to start, so I gave it a try.

At different times, I recorded my gratitude using Facebook, Twitter, a physical journal, and my blog. Eventually, it started feeling stale or false; I was being thankful for inanimate or generic things like coffee, friends, or sunshine. Don't get me wrong, these are all fantastic things, but stating gratitude for coffee felt like my goal had become writing about gratitude than actually feeling grateful.

"…people are not so keen on just handing out personal information like their home address without at least knowing why."

Sometime before a visit to Boston, I had read about a man who set out to send one "thank you" note a day for a year. The idea of writing to people and thanking them directly was appealing. While in Boston, we visited the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and there I bought a box of postcards that I thought would suit this purpose. It took another two years and a move to Texas before I actually got started.

It has now been three weeks since I started; I have sent 20 cards, and have another four ready to go this week. Writing them is cathartic for me and I get a little excited to mail each one. I keep a list of the people I intend to write to and make sure to keep track of those to whom I have already written. Each day, I send one card, write one or two more, and send a message or two over the Internet to get addresses. However, it turns out that some people are not so keen on just handing out personal information like their home address without at least knowing why. This seemed odd to me at first and I felt untrusted. In addition, I felt a deep reluctance to explain why. It seemed I felt the value of this project was lost if the postcard was not a surprise. Of course, that is ridiculous; not only do people have every right to know why I would want their address, but if the surprise of receiving the card itself were the value, what would be the point of writing anything on the card?

So, I write this blog entry, in part, to provide an explanation for people when they ask why I need their address. That said, I also write it as encouragement to others who might be considering the start of their own gratitude project. Being grateful is powerful on its own, yet the responses I have received to messages I have sent have been wonderful, humbling, and kind. People are amazing, so tell them; the more you thank others for their impact on your life, the more you will be surprised by your impact on theirs.


  1. IIRC 

Lessons from an ever changing career in software development

At the end of last year I came to a terrifying conclusion; it was time to look for a new job. I was terrified because I had not been through the process of proper job hunting in over 12 years and because, though I had a job, I knew I would not be happy if I stayed in it. I had worked in the same organisation for over a decade and though I had worked several different jobs and faced many challenges, this felt like the biggest (yes, even bigger than when I moved to the US).

The story of my career and this move is too long for this post1, but after transitioning from university to a job, from Motorsport to automotive and now healthcare IT, and from the UK to the US, I have learned a few things along the way and I believe they are universal. Perhaps you feel something is wrong and you can't put your finger on it, or maybe you want to try something new but are frightened of what where that might lead; just knowing others go through similar emotions can be incredibly helpful, so I'm sharing what I've learned so far.

  1. Look for opportunity

    It seems strange and I certainly didn't get this for a long time, but you won't recognise an opportunity unless you are already looking for it. I look back on every major change I made in my life and can see how this was true for each and every one, whether it was going to university, farming Ostrich, or moving to the US.

  2. Know what you want

    In order for you to recognise that opportunity, you have to know what it looks like and more importantly, what it does not. List the things you want in a job and take note of the things you don't want. Don't just think about the technical side of things, be sure to consider the culture you'd like to work in too. This also helps in recognising when it is time for a change.

  3. Learn the signs that it's time to change

    Too often we can ignore the little things that indicate a bigger problem and pass them off as having a bad day or working with annoying people. In reality, these are often signs of a wider dissatisfaction that needs to be addressed. It's easy to ignore the little problems when you're enjoy what you do, but once the enjoyment is gone, those little problems get bigger. Has there been a cultural change within you or the organisation? Are you not getting things from your work that you used to? Take stock of your situation and work out what you do and don't want from your job then see if it matches. If it doesn't, work out what you need to do to fix it. Sometimes all you need to do is make some simple changes to the way you work, sometimes you'll need a whole new workplace, but recognising this before you start burning bridges is really important, for you and your colleagues.

  4. Don't burn bridges

    It is tempting when making a change (or in the throes of realising that you need to) to tell people what you really think of them or their job. Resist this urge. Unless you are truly coming from a well-intentioned place and you are certain that the other party is willing to hear what you have to say, it is best to keep it to yourself. Usually, it is best to keep it to yourself. I was once told to be nice to people you meet on your way up in your career because you never know who you'll need when you find yourself on the way back down. I didn't listen. I have one less bridge.

  5. Don't be afraid to ask questions

    Whether in an interview or just in your every day work, ask questions. If you don't know something and you want to know it, ask someone. I have learned this the hard way. Knowing when it's time to ask instead of continuing to blunder around in the dark is really important. You may feel like you're stupid or weak somehow for asking, but asking is far better than finding yourself in a job you hate or without a job because you spent too long not knowing what you were doing. Sometimes, this can even help avoid the need to change your job in the first place.

  6. Know your own mind

    Learn to recognise when fear is clouding your judgement. When we're afraid to try something, we're great at convincing ourselves that we're right to just not. For example, some people turned down the same opportunity I took when I ended up moving to the US because they "owned houses" or "had a family"2. While compelling, these excuses aren't truly impassable obstacles like those who utter them would have us believe. A person who is content and doesn't want an opportunity is surely more likely to just say, "no", but those who are afraid will find excuses instead. If I had let my fear of the unknown take hold, I could have found a hundred reasons why I just couldn't move to the US (it was only for a month or so originally, anyway), but instead I identified what might make the move difficult and I addressed it.

While I've focused on career change here, many of these things apply to life in general. I hope that you find them useful. Perhaps you have some tips of your own. Please feel free to comment and share them with the rest of us.


  1. perhaps another as I did just write it while prepping this one 

  2. As if I'm some mutant who just appeared one day, parentless and alone. Apparently, this phrase "have a family" only has true meaning if you're married with kids…please… 

To A Friend

I have acted foolishly in times that demanded wisdom; I have been afraid when I should have been open, been closed when I could have been loved, and been loved when I should have been shunned. I have mistrusted when I should have embraced. I have been a good friend. I have been a bad friend. I have broken promises. I have not always done the right thing. I have made mistakes. I want to be better. I want to be stronger. I do not know what I want to be when I grow up. I want to apologise for those times I failed to help, to be there, to do the right thing. I talk about myself when I should listen to others. I apologise too much. I talk too much. I have cried alone. I have cried in love. I have cried in laughter. I have tried in spite of failure. I have laughed in spite of sadness. I have loved in spite of hate. I have tried harder than I thought I could. I have loved more than I thought I would. I have fallen down. I have got back up. I know I am not the only one but sometimes I have felt like I might be.

And through it all, you have been there. You have inspired me. You have conspired with me. You have given me the benefit of your wisdom. You have given me the benefit of the doubt. You have been an attraction when my heart was full. You have been a distraction when my heart was void. You have been a good friend. You have been a bad friend. You have been exasperating when you have been wrong and more so when you have been right. You have heard what I say, you have known how I feel and you have seen who I am. You have encouraged when I lacked courage. You have discouraged when I lacked wisdom. You have laughed with me, cried with me, walked, run, slipped and climbed with me. You have stood with me in spite of me. You have lifted me up. You have talked me down. You have fought with me. You have fought for me. You have loved me. You are not the only one but sometimes I have felt like you might be.

It is never enough, but thank you. You change my life.