Gratitudology Part 6: A WISER Approach to Wellbeing Through Gratitude

It is well known that healthcare workers have experienced heightened degrees of stress and burnout in recent years, though they are of course not alone. In this installment of gratitudology, I want to talk about a gratitude-based intervention that is being used to help those in the healing professions to do a little bit of self-care. The method is not specific to the healthcare setting, but it does provide an opportunity to measure the effectiveness of the method.

A recent study tested the effectiveness of a program called WISER, for “Web-based Implementation for the Science of Enhancing Resilience,” a positive psychology program designed to improve six dimensions of wellbeing. Participants, who were mostly nurses and physicians, were sent videos explaining positive psychology exercises called 3 good things, cultivating awe, random acts of kindness, cultivating relationships, and gratitude letters. A control group cohort started several months later so as to have a valid comparison.

The primary outcomes measured were emotional exhaustion, depressive symptoms, work-life integration, happiness, emotional thriving, and emotional recovery. Outcomes were measured using six validated wellbeing instruments. WISER resulted in significant improvements in all but emotional exhaustion. These changes endured at the 1-, 6-, and 12-month follow-ups.

The study adds to the substantial evidence that simple exercises of gratitude can have an outsized impact. The exercises are self-explanatory and not complicated; how hard can it be to write down 3 things that you are thankful for each day or find an opportunity for a random act of kindness?

Gratitude, longevity, and the love hormone

The deeper I look into this subject the more I find connections beyond mental wellbeing. There are measurable impacts on physical health and implications for longevity. There is now even a program called Gratitude Expression Treatment, or GET, which was evaluated in a recent experiment involving romantic couples. A 5-week study found that GET increased time couples were co-present, but more interesting to my inner science geek is that there were changes in genetic markers for oxytocin, known as the “love hormone” because of its effects on mood, bonding, and happiness. What’s more, there were changes in a gene called CD38, which is involved in immune modulation. Oxytocin and CD38 come up frequently in longevity medicine science. (see my ebook Biohacking Longevity.)

I am grateful for many things, but I’ll narrow the list to 3 good ones: My smart and dedicated nurses and healthcare staff here at Phase Plastic Surgery; my inspiring wife who amazes me every day; and the brilliant scientists who pique my curiosity and expand my mind.

Interested in learning more about Dr. Baxter and Phase Plastic Surgery? Contact us online or call (425) 776-0880 today to get started.

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