Three Good Tools: Positively reflecting backwards and forwards is associated with robust improvements in well-being across three distinct interventions.

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Burnout in healthcare workers (HCWs) is costly, consequential, and alarmingly high. Many HCWs report not having enough time or opportunities to engage in self-care. Brief, engaging, evidence-based tools have unique potential to alleviate burnout and improve well-being. Three prospective cohort studies tested the efficacy of web-based interventions: Three Good Things (n = 275), Gratitude Letter (n = 123), and the Looking Forward Tool (n = 123). Metrics were emotional exhaustion, depression, subjective happiness, work-life balance, emotional thriving, and emotional recovery. Across all studies, participants reported improvements in all metrics between baseline and post assessments, with two exceptions in study 1 (emotional thriving and happiness at 6 and 12-month post) and study 3 (optimism and emotional thriving at day 7). The Three Good Things, Gratitude Letter, and Looking Forward tools appear promising interventions for the issue of HCW burnout.





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Adair, Kathryn C, Lindsay A Kennedy and J Bryan Sexton (2020). Three Good Tools: Positively reflecting backwards and forwards is associated with robust improvements in well-being across three distinct interventions. The journal of positive psychology, 15(5). pp. 613–622. 10.1080/17439760.2020.1789707 Retrieved from

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John Bryan Sexton

Associate Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Bryan is the Director of the Duke Center for the Advancement of Well-being Science.  He leads the efforts around research, training and coaching, guiding quality improvement and well-being activities.  


A psychologist member of the Department of Psychiatry, Bryan is a psychometrician and spends time developing methods of assessing and improving safety culture, teamwork, leadership and especially work-force well-being.  Currently, he is disseminating the results from a successful NIH R01 grant that used RCTs to show that we can cause enduring improvements in healthcare worker well-being. 


A perpetually recovering father of four, he enjoys running, using hand tools on wood, books on Audible, and hearing particularly good explanations of extremely complicated topics.

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