I was going through a particularly down period. I was doubting myself and feeling like I didn’t have much to offer the world. So I decided to do something drastic.

stupid simple image

During the past few weeks my network of contacts has created these awesome outcomes:

  • 5 dinner/lunch/breakfast invites
  • 40+ friends responding out to me (so far)
  • 8 babies born
  • 4 new marriages
  • 500%+ happiness in my startup life

All because of a stupid simple 20 word email.

I sent the email to 200 friends as part of an experiment to see if I could actually automate the process of manufacturing gratitude.

After so many years of hearing the platitude, I am starting to believe that gratitude is the key to happiness.

Here’s what I am going to do:

  1. I am going to show you the email.
  2. Break down how it’s connected to the secret of happiness.
  3. Show you how to use it in your life to generate a continuous stream of gratitude.

The gratitude email

Here is a screenshot of the email:


Who knew this simple email could create so much joy?

Simple, right?

It wasn’t always that way.

I was going through a particularly down period. I was doubting myself and feeling like I didn’t have much to offer the world. So I decided to do something drastic.

I knew that my life was full of great people. So just to feel like I had something to offer, I told them why I thought they were great.

My first gratitude email experiment actually looked like the email below:


That’s just an excerpt of an original gratitude email, by the way.

I would send the people I admired in my life unsolicited emails with the same subject line, “Justified Effusive Praise”.

The responses were amazing.


My mood totally changed after reading one of these responses.

As long as I sent one email a day, I would get these tremendous responses back.

The issue I ran into was discipline.

The emails were emotionally draining and sometimes took 10, 20, or 30 minutes to write.

The email was simple to write but not stupid simple.

It was still work.

Gratitude emails: Why do they work?

Daily detailed emails of appreciation are a lot of effort.

So why go through the exercise of writing them? Well, in a word: happiness.

Who doesn’t want happiness in their life?

My friend Gretchen Rubin has a hugely popular blog and New York Times Best Seller book called The Happiness Project.

There are apps dedicated to happiness like Happier (Boston represent) and Happify.

Most importantly, happy people tend to live better, longer, and more productive lives.

If you are working in or on a startup like me, you might say being truly happy could be a key to unlocking huge gains in productivity and growth for your company.

Yes, I know there are those of you who could care less about happiness and just want money.


Long term, all the research suggests money, prestige, and all the stuff you gain through achievement serve as temporary cheap highs that you keep chasing.

Okay, I want happiness. How do I get it?

When I was young I used to think the whole gratitude leads to happiness thing was a bunch of BS.

Turns out there is a lot of scientific evidence proving gratitude is the secret cheat code to creating long term happiness in our lives.

Dr. Robert Emmons has done over 10 years of documented research on the effects of gratitude.


Dr. Emmons has identified these key findings about gratitude:

Gratitude blocks negative emotions (resentment, regret, depression).

Gratitude strengthens social ties and self worth.

If you want to get down and dirty with his findings, you can get his books Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can You Make You Happier and the remix Gratitude Works!

Here is one of Dr. Emmons’ biggest points on gratitude:

It’s IMPOSSIBLE to have true gratitude and envy at the same time.

Gratitude vs. Envy

Gratitude and envy (I and the kids like to call it hateration) are inversely related.

It’s like walking and stopping at the same time. Not possible. If you ain’t busy thinking about Becky with the hair’s situation then chances are you are grateful for yours.

So why do we practice gratitude so little, if it’s so good?

1) It takes time. We’re busy. We are running around with our task lists or To-do lists or your productivity app of choice. It seems like more than ever there is always something to do. We have trouble with trying to escape our busyness by watching cat videos. Now you want to me sit down and write in my gratitude journal? Please.

2) We get distracted. Those cat vids really suck our time. Along with our jobs, families, community obligations, and Snapchat. Think about the last time you sat down and did work for 8 solid hours with no distractions. I’ll wait. Hard to remember right? Yep. We get distracted.

3) We take it for granted. Remember how excited you were when you earned your first dollar? How long did it take for the thrill to wear off? Not long. Now you want more.


Ever heard of the Hedonic Treadmill? It breaks down this phenomenon really well. The hedonic treadmill concept says the rewards we seek quickly get replaced by new, more attractive awards in a continuous cycle.

In other words, the next sexy shiny thing becomes way more attractive than the original thing we salivated over. We’ve all been there in the hedonic cycle. We strive and work hard to get ‘that thing’ then it loses all its shine.


The irony is we act like we had ‘that thing’ all along after we forget all the work put in to get it.

Right now my business thing is having a successful launch for the Scream Club community in the fall. My personal thing is creating enough income to go out on regular dates with my wife.

I’m 1000% sure once I reach these goals, they won’t feel as special anymore.

Context about the gratitude experiment

A friend of mine asked some great questions about sending these gratitude emails. When I read them it felt they were filling in a big piece of the puzzle.

Read the questions and my answers. I believe you will find they add a lot of context to the gratitude experiment.

Can I really show gratitude in a short email?

The funny part of the shorter email is the act of sending the email is more significant than the length of the email. Sending the email creates a gratitude circle.

Gratitude Cycle

I send you an email >

You are grateful to receive an unsolicited email from someone taking the time to ask you how you are doing >

When you respond I feel gratitude that you took the time to respond back to me >

I respond in kind to your response continuing the virtuous circle>

Here’s a concrete example:

As I was writing this post, a friend came by asking me if he should hire someone to write a note to a potential client in fancy script. He believes his handwriting is poor.

I told him the simple attempt of sending the letter will produce this virtuous circle.

What happens after I send the email to multiple people?

People are still responding to that email sent on June 7 to this day. My last received response was last week.

The length of my responses vary. Some people let very personal and deep things off their chest.

They are not necessarily looking for answers.

They simply received permission to vent or express their excitement in detail from my initial email.

I am happy to respond to emails even with the overwhelm in the responses (the length of responses, not the quantity).

I think of it as feeling immense gratitude for having an email to respond to in the first place.

Are long emails worth the effort? Do short or long emails create more gratitude?

Profound question. Long emails are definitely worth it but very difficult to maintain consistently.

I feel the same gratitude with long or short emails because I have made the effort to express that I am thinking of someone else.

The attempt itself makes me grateful.

The act of pressing send makes me feel good.

A response is icing on the cake.

The reason I send the emails is not to get a response. The reason is the immediate gratification of pressing send.

The whole exercise of sending emails is to prove when you have hit rock bottom you still have something to contribute.

There is no need for fancy words or even long expressions of gratitude.

A sincere short message can have a great impact.

My advice for people who want to replicate the effect of this experiment is simple.

Be sincere and press send.

Follow Up: Step by step video tutorial + written instructions

video tutorial

This video tutorial breaks down the exact process of manufacturing gratitude  

For those of you who want written instructions with diagrams I’ve included those as well.

You’ll receive the tutorial links directly to your email inbox.

I encourage you to spread more gratitude and try your own experiments.

Stories of Grateful Living
Derrick DuPlessy

Derrick DuPlessy

About the author

Derrick Duplessy is a husband, career coach, and founder of Duplessy Foundation. His Purpose Rockstar podcast with 50,000 listeners in 120+ countries shares the career stories of successful professionals around the world. Derrick has been featured on Boston.com, Boston Globe, CBS talk show “The Doctors” and NPR. Derrick’s now addressing the stress and anxiety of startup life by screaming on rooftops around the world with Scream Club.