Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

Micro-acts of joy 


Focusing on your own wellness doesn’t take a lot of time. A simple practice like listing three things you’re grateful for each day can reduce burnout. 

Life is busy. Work can be hard. How do we make time for joy? I used to think that acts to improve well-being or beat burnout took a lot of time. Time that I didn’t have. I thought I had to either do a “big” thing, like a well-being retreat, or nothing at all. 


I’m also mindful of something a resident told me years ago when wellness started being more present in healthcare. He said that for many residents, wellness initiatives seemed like another thing to put on the “to-do” list and added work instead of making things easier.  So, I didn’t want to do or recommend bigger things that take a lot of time. 


I now recommend Three Good Things to patients and to colleagues, a gratitude exercise that has been shown to reduce burnout and/or depression.  


As it turns out, researchers have found that “micro-acts” of joy are beneficial to our well-being. Those who participated in daily “micro-acts” for only one week reported a 25% increase in emotional well-being. The BIG JOY project has participants from over 200 countries and studies how these small acts improve our well-being.  


You can join their project, or you can do it yourself. Here are some ideas to get you started: 


1. Write down three good things that happen to you each day. They can be small or big. 


2. Thank someone every day. It can be for something big or small. 







This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.