Why It's Important To Give Thanks - 5 Ways
It’s no secret that as professionals, doctors are exposed to high levels of stress throughout their careers, and are often at risk of burnout. Moreover, an intense focus on caseloads can create a sense of myopia when it comes to appreciating life’s simple gifts. (Don’t fall into the trap of offering patients advice that you don’t have the time to follow yourself!)
No matter where you are or what you’re doing, it’s always beneficial to take a step back, broaden the perception and give thanks. There are a number of daily exercises you can do to help you pull focus a little bit, take a look around and realise life can be pretty wonderful.
In fact, we reviewed some TED talks and came up with five practical daily exercises that could help add a bit of life-affirming flavour to your day-to-day as a medical practitioner. No hard and fast rules, just apply where and when you can and stick to the ones that resonate the most.
Take one photo a day of something you’re grateful for.
As presented in her 2014 TEDx QUT talk, Hailey Bartholomew had all the prerequisites for a fulfilling and happy life but was unable to shake a nagging sense of emptiness and lack of purpose: “I had two healthy kids, a lovely partner, but I just did not feel anything for my life.” After speaking with a counsellor she created a ‘gratitude challenge: taking a photograph each day of something she was grateful for. This process helped her to perceive a lot of great things in her life that had been outside her periphery.
Take the time to sincerely thank people in your daily interactions.
AJ Jacobs’ TED talk outlines his attempt to meaningfully thank every person involved in a seemingly uninteresting daily necessity—in his case a simple cup of coffee. One cup of coffee led him to over a thousand expressions of gratitude, and what impressed him was witnessing both the positive effect it had on others and on his mental health.
If you really looked each and every person in the eye and said ‘thank you’ like you meant it for the most seemingly mundane things—a barista handing you your coffee, or someone holding the lift—how would that affect your disposition?
Set up some gratitude “stop signs”
In his fascinating TED talk, David Steindl-Rast’s illustrations of how, when and why to be grateful about life are elegantly simple yet deeply philosophical. In a nutshell, feeling grateful can create a sense of happiness, but it’s the opportunities for gratitude that we don’t let ourselves see. These opportunities, which he believes are the keys to happiness, are far more bountiful than we realise. “We need to avail ourselves of the opportunity [for gratitude], it is the key to happiness.” Think of it like crossing the street: “Stop. Look. Go.” It can be as easy as setting a daily reminder to stop and find something to be grateful for; you could be surprised at what you uncover.
Write a ‘living’ eulogy for a loved one.
In Keka DasGupta’s TEDx Windsor talk, she describes the sense of loss she experienced when she missed the opportunity to tell her now-deceased father what he really meant to her. Not wanting to experience that feeling a second time, she was determined to write her mother a “living eulogy”. This eulogy was a litany of everything Keka admired about her mother, as well as the impact she’d had on her life. Her mother was, of course, very moved by this. Writing a living eulogy is a form of gratitude that will help you to realise positive things about the recipient that you won’t have otherwise considered.
Express that you would like to be thanked
The power of gratitude works both ways, of course. Laura Trice’s TED talk discusses why it’s okay and important to ask for thanks and gratitude. For one thing, it might not have occurred to those around you that you’d appreciate it. “I know a gentleman, married for 25 years, who’s longing to hear his wife say, ‘Thank you for being the breadwinner so I can stay home with the kids,’ but won’t ask”, Laura explains. This need doesn’t have to be expressed in an egotistical or self-absorbed way, try framing your request by asking others what they’ve wanted to hear from you.
There endeth doctor’s self care for this week, courtesy of some fascinating TED speakers. You may find expressing gratitude to provide some unexpected and surprising outcomes!
At Ochre Recruitment, we place a premium on ideal working conditions for doctors. If you would like to discuss how we can provide you with a permanent or locum role that accounts for work-life balance, contact us today.