humor hope gratitude
How Humor, Hope, and Gratitude Can Make You More Resilient
In a new monthly webinar series, Duke University psychiatrist and patient safety researcher Bryan Sexton shares practical tips for cultivating resiliency both personally and with your teams.

Building Resilience One Month at a Time

The U of U Health Resiliency Center is partnering with the Duke Center for Healthcare Safety and Quality​ to bring a monthly webinar series to U of U Health employees. These webinars will feature practical tools for building and maintaining resilience.

Each month, Duke University psychologist and patient safety researcher Bryan Sexton shares bite-sized concepts that are engaging, fun, evidence-based, and relevant to the lives of busy health care workers.

The first in this series, "Enhancing Resilience: Three Good Things," is now available on Pulse.


urnout is a team sport. Building resiliency is, too. Bryan Sexton spoke at University of Utah last year, citing social contagion research that suggests our environment (specifically the people around us) impacts whether we experience burnout or resiliency.

To clarify, Sexton used a metaphor: Let’s say we are all on a big health care cruise ship. Yay! One of our colleagues tumbles off the side into the deep blue and yells for help. Another one of us leans over and says, “You should take swimming lessons!”

While well intentioned, it’s a silly response. And yet when someone at work has a burnout-related incident, we often hear (or even say) comments such as, “she should take up yoga,” or “meditation really can help,” or even “he should get off gluten.” These strategies may apply when someone is “still on the boat,” but they are as unhelpful as offering swimming lessons to someone who has fallen overboard.

Burnout is often defined as emotional exhaustion, a disillusioned sense of accomplishment, and disconnection to the point of depersonalization. Sexton narrowed the definition to the impaired ability to experience positive emotions.

“Burnout is the impaired ability to experience positive emotions.”

Stop and consider that: the impaired ability to experience positive emotions. That means even if you have a good experience, burnout prevents you from feeling its positive emotions.

Cultivating resiliency is something to do before falling off the cruise ship. To cultivate means to nurture, grow, and encourage resilient behaviors. It takes daily focus.

Three of Sexton’s recommendations and tools:

  1. Cultivate humor — Finding the humor in benign violations of social norms decreases stress. (Find his humor tool here.)
  2. Cultivate hope — The opposite of burnout is not happiness—it is hope. (Find his hope tool here.)
  3. Cultivate gratitude — Gratitude, even for the seemingly mundane, helps us connect to and feel positivity. (Find his gratitude tool here.)

You Don't Have To Do It Alone

The University of Utah Health Resiliency Center has people and programs available to combat burnout and cultivate resiliency for all staff members. Take a look at the services available to you and your team.

Adapted from an article that originally posted March 15, 2019, after Dr. Bryan Sexton spoke at the U of U Health Leader Development Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah.



Christian Sherwood

Chief Human Resources Officer, University of Utah Health

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