“Hey, how was your day?” is an innocuous question that can elicit rage-filled rants about terrible traffic, appalling co-workers, and broken photocopiers. And while it might be therapeutic to vent your frustrations, researchers now think that doing the opposite – paying attention to the good things at work – can be beneficial to your health. Joyce E. Bono of the University of Florida led a team that introduced the ‘three good things’ intervention to workplaces, asking participants to make note of positive aspects of their workday. The intervention is generally used to improve the mood of the mildly depressed – Bono and her team discovered it can also help reduce stress. “This simple practice — writing about three good things that happened — creates a real shift in what people think about, and can change how they perceive their work lives,” she writes. “It can also create a feedback loop that enhances its impact: we believe that people who reflect on good things that happened during the day are more likely to share those things with family and friends.”
The participants were employees of outpatient family-practice clinics. Over three weeks they were asked to complete a daily survey about how their workday went, particularly to discuss things that had gone ‘really well.’ The responses ranged from the relatively minor (it’s Friday; a co-worker shared some delicious food) to more important confidence-boosters (one nurse wrote that a doctor had complimented her “because I knew exactly what to do in an emergency situation, and I helped a patient who was having a seizure”). After three weeks stress-levels had declined and people were more able to relax and ‘switch off’ after work, and were better able to sleep, feeling more rested the next morning.