Three Good Things: A Resiliency Exercise

3 good things - photo by Startup Stock Photos

One out of three health care employees experience burnout: that being a mental, or even physical breakdown due to skyrocketing stress levels. In even higher-stress occupations such as emergency medicine, the rate of burnout rises to over 60 percent.

This “burnout” phenomenon doesn’t only affect employees in health-related fields either, it can affect you too. Maybe it already has.

The cause for burnout can be attributed to the way most people tend to view the world – constantly on guard for threats in our environment. Researcher and author Dr. Barbara Fredrickson sums it up as “the negative screams at you, but the positive only whispers.

So the question is, if negativity is a major cause of burnout, how can we recalibrate our outlook on life and be more positive?

The answer comes from an experiment conducted by the Duke Clinical Research Institute. It’s design was to see if a few simple actions could increase resiliency and boost positivity in the lives of the subject. It’s known as the “Three Good Things” or Three Blessings exercise.

Here’s what the experiment involved. It’s something you can try too.

Just before retiring to bed, the subject would write down three good things that happened during that day. These events could be big or small.

The subject would then reflect on why these good events happened. It doesn’t matter if the reason is verifiably correct or just a guess.

What matters in this exercise is that the mind is purposefully directed on positive events at the conclusion of the day.

This recording of good events went on for two weeks, and the results were startling.

The benefits of the Three Good Things exercise included lower depression, lower burnout, less conflict with colleagues, fewer disruptive behaviors, better work/life balance, better sleep quality, and the subjects got home on time more often, skipped fewer meals, and ate fewer poorly balanced meals.

Not bad at all for what amounts to a simple mental exercise! Nearly all the subjects said that they would recommend the exercise to a friend or supervisor.

The research showed that reflecting on positive events at bedtime for four or five days (at around three minutes a day) led subjects to be more aware of the positive events happening in their daily lives.

The reflections only went on for two weeks – the optimal time that subjects could see results and take advantage of the remarkable benefits offered by the Three Good Things exercise.


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