This Simple Practice is Guaranteed to Make You Happier

This Simple Practice is Guaranteed to Make You Happier

Last week, I read a blog post written by a women physician leader. It caught my attention because she was talking about the benefits of being a physician-the ability to save a life, pay her mortgage and have respect in the community. That’s not what most physicians are thinking or talking about in their overwhelmingly busy workday. Yet many don’t realize that when you practice gratitude, it is guaranteed to increase your happiness and work fulfillment.

The Power of Gratitude

Long-term studies support gratitude’s effectiveness, suggesting that a positive, appreciative attitude contributes to greater success in work, greater health, and a higher sense of well-being.

But while we may acknowledge gratitude’s many benefits, it still can be difficult to sustain. Physicians are trained to notice what is broken, undone or lacking in our lives. And for gratitude to meet its full healing potential in our lives, it needs to become more than just a Thanksgiving word. We have to learn a new way of looking at things, a new habit. And that can take some time.

That’s why we need to practice gratitude. When we practice giving thanks for all we have, instead of complaining about what we lack, we give ourselves the chance to see all of life as an opportunity and a blessing.

Gratitude isn’t a blindly optimistic approach in which the bad things in life are whitewashed or ignored. It’s more a matter of where we put our focus and attention. Pain and injustice exist, but when we focus on the gifts of life, we gain a feeling of well-being. Gratitude balances us and gives us hope.

There are many things to be grateful for: colorful autumn leaves, friends who listen and really hear, warm jackets, the ability to read, roses, our health. What’s on your list?

Some Ways to Practice Gratitude

  • Keep a gratitude journal to list things you are thankful for. You can make daily, weekly or monthly lists. Or use your creativity and draw or paste pictures. Greater frequency will be better for creating a new habit, but just keeping that journal where you can see it will remind you to think in a grateful way.
  • Practice gratitude around the dinner table or make it part of your nighttime routine.
  • Make a game of finding the hidden blessing in a challenging situation.

As you practice gratitude, an inner shift begins to occur, and you may be delighted to discover how content and hopeful you are feeling. That sense of fulfillment is gratitude at work.

How Will You Measure Your Life?

How Will You Measure Your Life?

A few weeks ago I was flying home from a conference for women physicians where I had been a speaker. I had more than met my goals, but I was still doubting myself. Why? I was feeling self-doubt as a physician, and comparing my workshop to the polished delivery of the keynote speaker.

According to Mark Manson, author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*, I was falling victim to the “tyranny of exceptionalism”. We are flooded with stories about the truly extraordinary all day long. The extremes get all the publicity, so we believe being extraordinary is normal. Being “average” has become the new standard of failure. No wonder we experience self-doubt!

Physicians Feel the Constant Pressure to be Something Amazing

For women physicians, there is the added social expectation to be an extraordinary mother, spouse, and friend. Who really has the bandwidth to become exceptional at everything?

You may be exceptional at one thing, but the chances are you’re average or below average at something else. If we’re not okay with being average in some areas of life, we risk experiencing self-doubt and even shame.

Comparing yourself to others is normal. We may not stop measuring ourselves against others anytime soon. The ticket to emotional health and resilience is to decide which yardstick to use. Mark Manson makes the distinction between good values and bad values to measure success.

Good values are socially constructive, achieved internally and controllable. I had set two goals as a speaker: to be present and to use my experience to help others apply the principles to their situation. I had control over these goals. There was no external comparison and they were in service to my workshop participants.

Bad values are socially destructive, not controllable, and rely on external events. If your yardstick is material success, not only will you find someone with more stuff, but one day you’ll be lonely. Comparing myself to the keynote speaker, an external event I could control, was also a superficial comparison. Our objectives were different.

Not expecting ourselves to be extraordinary at everything frees us up to be amazing where it matters. The next time you are feeling self-doubt about your results, check for a comparison. How will you measure your life?

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