Three Things to Feel Good

Burnout at its core is an impaired ability to experience positive emotion, says Dr. Bryan J. Sexton, PhD,¬†director of the Duke University Health System Patient Safety Center at Duke Medicine in Durham, North Carolina. Burnout is a combination of increased emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and diminished sense of personal efficacy.¬†They all seem to influence a person’s ability to perceive positive emotions.

If you show people who are stressed or burned out a series of positive, neutral, and negative images, they recall in detail all that was happening in the negative images, but they don’t recall factual information from the positive or neutral images. When stressed out, we forget that this state changes what we notice and don’t notice about the world around us. Our inbuilt filters are influenced by how we feel. Perceptions are influenced by how you feel.

Dr Sexton says, “Your focus determines your reality.” To illustrate the point, he showed a lung computed tomography scan with substantial white nodules. In the black background, there was an outline of a gorilla. “If you show a scan like this to a room full of radiologists, 83% will not notice the gorilla: a radiologist’s job is to look for the white nodules in the [computed tomography] lung scan. If you are trained to look for the white, you are not going to notice the darkness.” Interesting!


Three good things: The result of a study to suggest that you start a simple little routine before going to bed, in order to train your positivity muscle: Write down three good things that happened that day and label them with one of the 10 positive emotions that have been most closely tied to burnout:


They can be minor things such as watching a funny television show or spending time with friends.

What you are doing is flexing your muscle to notice the good, and you actually counteract a lot of the other demands that are put on your brain that force you to focus on the negative.

In a trial with 148 internal medicine residents at Duke Medicine, researchers saw a 15% decrease in burnout in just 2 weeks, declining from 65% at baseline to 50% after the intervention. A year after the intervention ended, 48% remained resilient, suggesting the intervention has a lasting effect on risk for burnout, Dr Sexton reported.

The residents also reported significantly less depression in the post-intervention measures, fewer delays, less conflict, and better work-life balance.

In order to accurately evaluate your situation, and not hold onto an old emotion that is no longer relevant you have to have access to the positive emotions.

Remember: Focus determines reality.

If it is that easy, you might as well give it a go and write down three good things at night before going to bed during 10 days and enhance your ability to feel positive emotions!!!


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