Happiness is a widely discussed and sought-after topic. This dream, or the ideal world of happiness, is something many people claim they want but struggle to find. So, what exactly is happiness? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, happiness is a state of well-being and contentment.
Do you remember your happiest moments? As I write this, I reflect on my happiest moments—such as the birth of my first child. Then, as I look back, my happiest moments were years before, during my “carefree” years of young adulthood and adolescence. Those years were happier because I was younger and had a carefree sense of life. I knew what I wanted to do but wasn’t bogged down with the minute details. I enjoyed going out, had weekends to myself, and fostered good relationships. I wasn’t overly concerned about societal expectations, nor was I worried about someone else’s timelines for my life.
I encourage you to look within and ask yourself, are you truly happy? Do you have that youthful exuberance of a young child or the excitement of a 16-year-old who just got their driver’s license? When was the last time you laughed a full laugh where your face lit up and your eyes twinkled? When did you last laugh so hard that your cheeks or belly started to hurt?
I encourage you not to take yourself so seriously, even though you feel your work requires you to be serious. In my career, I recognize the importance of a smile and a warm welcome when I open the exam room. When interacting with my younger pediatric patients, I allow my goofy, silly self to come out—I’m playful, I make lots of facial expressions, but I still convey calmness and gentleness with professionalism. My older patients get the same version, though it might be toned down depending on the situation.
Choose joy, confidence, patience, and a listening ear in your clinical interactions, as it will make a positive difference in your life and the people you interact with.
Allow me to share five practical ways to infuse happiness into your clinical life:
Connect with your patients on a personal level. Take the time to get to know them beyond their medical conditions. Show empathy and genuine interest in their lives, which can help build a stronger rapport and increase patient satisfaction. Patients sometimes feel like just another number, but that is far from the truth. In primary care, I get the privilege of having continuity of care with my patients, remembering seemingly small details about them—things about them as a person, not just medical diagnoses.
Practice self-care. As a physician, it’s easy to get consumed by work and neglect your well-being. I’ve been there, where I went months and sometimes years without doing activities just for me, activities not related to my medical career. Prioritize self-care by ensuring you get enough rest, exercise regularly, eat healthy, and engage in activities that bring you joy. Taking care of yourself will make you a happier and more effective physician.
Find gratitude in your work. Instead of focusing on the challenges and stress of being a physician, consciously shift your mindset to recognize and appreciate the positive aspects of your job. Take time to reflect on your impact on your patients’ lives and find joy in the progress and successes you witness.
Foster a positive work environment. Surround yourself with colleagues who uplift and inspire you. Seek out opportunities to collaborate and support one another. Creating a positive work environment fosters a sense of camaraderie, which can significantly improve overall happiness and job satisfaction.
Continuously learn and grow. Engaging in lifelong learning can increase job satisfaction and happiness as a physician. Seek out new knowledge, attend conferences, participate in workshops, and stay up-to-date with your field’s latest research and advancements. The sense of personal and professional growth can bring fulfillment and a renewed passion for your clinical work. In my professional career, my love for learning has brought amazing opportunities for further growth, and I’ve met similar individuals who share similar values and interests. Stepping away from the clinical world of practicing medicine and participating in growth activities that fuel my passions has been recharging.
The pursuit of happiness is an active process that requires us to step out of our comfort zones and routines. This pursuit requires us to make new goals that push us beyond our current “limitations.” Happiness can manifest even in the face of challenges, defying conventional logic. It’s a choice we make every day. Here’s to your health and happiness—may your pursuit of happiness be fulfilling and joyful.
Tomi Mitchell, a family physician and founder of Dr. Tomi Mitchell Holistic Wellness Strategies, is not only a distinguished international keynote speaker but also a passionate advocate for mental health and physician’s well-being, hosting her podcast, The Mental Health & Wellness Show. With over a decade of experience in presenting, public speaking, and training, she excels in creating meaningful connections with her audience. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn and book a discovery call.