Allying for Health Equity Blog

By Michele Simos, Chief Learning Officer, at SMART Conversations®, an ACU Corporate Ally.


We’re all busy. We have unending time demands from our family, our friends, and our employers. In this whirlwind lies health risk. When we become stressed out too often, anxiety, achiness, lethargy, and depression can set in. Worse yet, if let unattended, we experience burnout.

Harnessing Gratitude to Prevent Burnout

If you feel you’re moving in the direction of burnout, it’s time to put your to-do list aside, adopt a self-care practice by prioritizing you, change unproductive habits, engage a mental health professional, and consider cultivating a gratitude practice.

Taking the time to think about what you are grateful for produces the best results when you make it part of your daily life. A gratitude practice has the power to lift you up by shifting your perspective, fostering positivity, and re-focusing your mind on what’s really important.

Practicing gratitude releases dopamine, a feel-good chemical. Those chemicals elicit positive emotions which lead to optimism and, at work, camaraderie. Camaraderie, in turn, creates esprit de corps. According to the Mayo Clinic’s Strategies to Reduce Burnout, cultivating esprit de corps is the strategy for solving the issue of burnout in all patient-centered medical organizations.

When you create an intention to focus on gratitude, you can move from helpless and fearful to the present moment. By acknowledging the good, we build resilience and create a buffer against the negative effects of stress and burnout.

Harnessing Gratitude to Prevent BurnoutPsychological safety is a companion element to preventing burnout. “Creating a safe space for people to be together, work together, and resolve conflict reduces stress and builds resilience.  By demonstrating respect, balancing asking questions, listening at a deep level, and taking turns speaking, a Google study shows, builds the trust needed to get through difficult times.

“When people feel safe to say what’s on their minds without fear of retribution or ridicule, they can be their full, authentic selves,” says Paul Weisman, CEO of SMART Conversations®.

When you practice gratitude, build strong relationships, and take care of yourself, you create a shield against burnout.

Keeping a gratitude journal is one way to cultivate a positive mindset and enhance your well-being. Here’s are 10 tips to beginning and maintaining a gratitude journal:

  1. Choose a Journal. Whether you pick a physical notebook, a phone, or a computer app, make sure the process is enjoyable and convenient. Some people enjoy writing in longhand because they feel it taps into a different place in their mind. Others prefer the efficiency of an app.
  2. Create a Routine. Identify a specific time each day to make an entry in your journal. Some people like getting up 15 minutes early and writing while they’re sipping their morning tea or coffee. Others prefer writing at the end of the day when they have time to reflect.
  3. Start Small. Try to write down at least three things you are grateful for each day. It can be as small as a smile from a co-worker or someone holding the door open for you. Perhaps you are grateful for a warm cup of cocoa on a snowy day or a simple “how are you?” By beginning small, the writing process will be more manageable.
  4. Be Specific. Writing “I am grateful for my spouse” is lovely and isn’t specific enough. Try: “I am grateful for my spouse because they listen to what I have to say without judging, which feels supportive.”
  5. Acknowledge difficult moments. While reflecting on difficulties, challenge yourself to find something small you can be grateful for. For example, let’s say you made an error at work, but you learned something from it. Maybe you didn’t beat yourself up about it. Maybe you received support from your supervisor.
  6. Use prompts. Here are some examples: What/who helped you through a difficult moment today? What was the best thing that happened today? When you were feeling positive today, what was happening? If you could have done something differently to take care of yourself today, what would that be?
  7. Be creative. Many people add stickers, photos and sketches to paper-based journals to make them come alive. You don’t have to be an artist to doodle. Let your mind go and see where it takes you.

A gratitude journal puts the power of positivity directly into your hands. Writing connects to a different part of the brain and, when you focus on looking for good, you will find it.  It helps shift your focus toward the positive, fostering a sense of contentment and appreciation for the richness of your life.

“Acknowledging the good you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” – Eckhart Tolle