National Center for Healthcare Leadership|
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|GIVING THANKS: CAN A FEW MINUTES OF GRATITUDE A DAY REALLY CHANGE YOUR ENTIRE OUTLOOK?
From Andy Garman, CEO
While there were many awe-inspiring headliners at last week’s NCHL conference, one stood out to me as particularly relevant to this week’s Thanksgiving holiday: Bryan Sexton, from Duke University. Bryan, who has a gift for discussing difficult subjects in very humorous ways, carried our “science over fiction” theme by talking with our community about evidence-based approaches to building resilience.
The impact of one of the exercises he described - the gratitude exercise, originally popularized by psychologist Marty Seligman - sounded almost too good to be true. I wanted to share the exercise with our broader community in our Thanksgiving newsletter, but the skeptic in me needed to do some verification. So I poked around the research literature this weekend, and also took a test run myself. Below are the results of both.
The Evidence Base
My look into the literature turned up a meta-analysis published just last year in the Journal of Counseling Psychology. After the authors sifted through 1,083 studies, they were left with a total of 26 that met all their criteria for inclusion – including, most critically, the random assignment of participants to intervention vs. control groups.
The review found quite a bit of both practice and measurement variation, making conclusions more difficult to draw, however the overall pattern was clear: gratitude interventions were associated with positive, statistically significant effects on psychological well-being. And while the size of the impact was generally modest, the very tiny amount of time required suggests that it is a very worthwhile use of time.
The Local Experiment
After the conference wrapped up, I took the approach home and asked my partner and twin adolescents to complete it with me. (I’ll spare you the details of the negotiation process – let’s just say it wasn’t a slam dunk right from the starting whistle.) At this point we are just four days in, but all agree it has been surprisingly effective so far.
My Encouragement to You
I invite you to give the exercise a try during the holiday week. You can read how to do this very simple and quick excercise HERE. Scroll down to the quote that begins, “Every night for the next week…” If you are inspired like I was to invite others to join you, you are welcome to say that an NCHL colleague of yours gave you the idea.
My Thanks to You
Working in healthcare can be incredibly hard, which is why it is so critical that we take the time to remember how impactful the work is, and how special the people who work in it are. On behalf of the entire NCHL team and community, thank you for what you do for others every day.
A central part of NCHL’s work is supporting collaborative networks of hospitals and healthcare organizations, as well as graduate health management programs and corporate partners. These include: