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Prospective pilot study of the Three Good Things positive psychology intervention in short-term stay hospitalised patients
  1. Nicholas Zehner1,
  2. Laura Polding2,
  3. Valeria Faraci Sindra3,
  4. Lisa Shieh2
  1. 1School of Medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA
  2. 2Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA
  3. 3Department of Spiritual Care, Stanford Hospital, Stanford, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Lisa Shieh, Department of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, USA; lshieh{at}


Background The ‘Three Good Things’ (3GT) positive psychology protocol developed at Duke University has been shown to decrease depressive symptoms and emotional exhaustion in healthcare providers. Whether hospitalised patients may also benefit from the 3GT protocol has not previously been explored.

Objectives To determine the impact and efficacy of the 3GT protocol with hospitalised patients experiencing serious/chronic illness.

Design Patient-level randomised control trial.

Setting Medical units of an academic, tertiary care medical centre.

Patients 221 adults over the age of 18 years admitted to inpatient wards (intensive care units excluded) at Stanford Hospital between January 2017 and May 2018.

Interventions Patients were randomised to the 3GT intervention arm or the control arm with no intervention.

Measurements and main results There was no significant difference between the intervention and control groups in the primary outcomes of improved positivity scores, decreased negativity scores or increased positive-to-negative emotional ratios.

Conclusions A journal-based application of the 3GT protocol did not result in a statistically significant improvement in patient’s emotional health.

  • general medicine

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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  • Contributors LS wrote the study protocol. NZ and LS coordinated the study. NZ, LP and VF wrote the questionnaire and conducted the patient interviews. NZ wrote the first draft. All authors participated in the drafting and approval of the final version of the manuscript. LS is the guarantor and accepts full responsibility for the finished work, the conduct of the study, had access to all data, and controlled the decision to publish.

  • Funding The work described in this paper was fully supported by the Stanford Cyber grant and the Stanford Med Scholars Program.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.