Whether you have symptoms of burnout or not, intentionally cultivating positive emotions relieves stress and counters the negative thinking of depression and anxiety. A simple way to do this is by keeping a gratitude journal. Before retiring at night, write down one or two things from the day that made you feel grateful. It can come from a patient encounter, a conversation with a friend, something you noticed in nature, etc. This may sound contrived, but it works. Over time, you will accumulate a list. Then, when you are not at your best, rereading your gratitude journal may help alleviate some distress.
Negative thoughts tend to come more readily and stick like burs. Being mindful of positive events or feelings in life, over time, counters negative thoughts. With practice, positive thoughts can be recalled more easily and can replace the negative ones. If you are interested in learning more about this, look at some of the literature on positive psychology and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy suggested below.
Suggested Literature on Positive Psychology and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy
- Doidge N. The Brain That Changes Itself. New York, NY: Penguin; 2007.
- Kok BE, Coffey KA, Cohn MA, et al. “How positive emotions build physical health: perceived positive social connections account for the upward spiral between positive emotions and vagal tone.” Psychological Science. 2013;24(7):1123-1132.
- Kuyken W, Warren FC, Taylor RS, et al. “Efficacy of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in prevention of depressive relapse: an individual patient data meta-analysis from randomized trials.” JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73(6):565-574.
- Offri D. What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine. Boston, MA: Beacon Press; 2013.