We wanted to throw out some positivity this week. In our discussions around physician well-being, burnout, medical culture, etc., it can be easy to lose sight of all the good things, the things that are going right. Since today is Thanksgiving in the United States, gratitude is on many people's minds, so even though we're in Canada, we wanted to pay tribute to one of our favourite topics.
It's tempting to think that this 'practice of gratitude' we hear so much about is a gimmick - but it really isn't. In fact, it's well researched by people like Robert Emmons - the world's leading scientific expert on gratitude. He studies the impact of gratitude on our physical, psychological and social well-being. One of the key take-aways related to our discussions on psychological well-being is that being grateful can negate negative emotions such as disappointment, envy, fear, and regret. As Emmons says, "You cannot feel envious and grateful at the same time."
So why are we not running around saying we're grateful about everything so we can live in a constant euphoric state?
Let's back it up and do a reality check. First of all, we're human and as such we have a lot of other things to think about that grab attention for our thoughts and emotions in a day. Second of all, most of us have experienced the fact that we're most acutely aware of what we have to be grateful for when it's taken away. We can all think of life events such as an injury, illness, accident, where we express gratitude for all that we realize we had before the event and all that we had after. Then life goes on and we adapt and forget to be grateful.
That's why we need to make it a practice.
You may already have a gratitude practice in place that works for you which is great, but if not, we will offer you this simple strategy to try that has worked best for us...
Right before you go to sleep (or before you get into bed if you crash from exhaustion when you hit the pillow), think of 3 things in that moment or from the day you are grateful for. Be as specific as possible. Blanket statements don't necessarily condition us to attune us to the simple moments as they appear all around us. Some days are more challenging than others when we've had crap thrown our way. If so, it might be a day to get more basic and specific (i.e. I took care of patients today and wasn't a patient myself).
Happy Thanksgiving to our American friends.
“And it all starts with recognizing the beauty that surrounds you, flows through you, fills you with light. It all starts with getting on the frequency of gratitude.” ~ Pam Grout, Thank & Grow Rich