Once a year, we all take the time to think about all of the things in our life we’re grateful for. I’m choosing to post this article the week after Thanksgiving for that exact reason. I encourage you to practice gratefulness everyday, all day until it becomes second nature. Here are a few of my tips to get you started --
[ 1 ] Reflect on one thing you’re grateful for at the beginning and end of each day.
I know it's cheesy, but how you start and end your day anchors your day. If you start and end your day thinking about all of the things you need to do, should have done, and don't want to do, you're going to have a shitty day/sleep. Instead, make an effort to start your day with something that brings a smile to your face. Your thoughts don’t have to be grand. In fact, I think the most important aspect of practicing daily gratitude is to not focus on the grand moments. That amazing, once in a lifetime moment shouldn't be what gets your through Wednesday. Instead, that funny meme your best friend sent you on Tuesday should help you start your Wednesday on the right foot. You're lucky to have such a funny friend who gets your sense of humor, you know? Last week in clinic, I mentioned to one of our amazing nurses that I was so tired. He then force fed me his sweet tea. It was such a sweet gesture because he stopped drinking it and insisted that I drink it instead. Also, no one in New York drinks sweet tea so it really felt like he was giving me a piece of home in the middle of our busy Manhattan clinic which meant a lot to this chronically homesick young doctor.
[ 2 ] replace “i have to” with “i get to."
I got this from Laura Lacquer's post on practicing gratitude and I've used it ever since. It's especially helpful for me when it comes to working long hours and making sacrifices. For the most part, I love my job, but residency is hard. I am not only a functional and productive employee but i'm also learning every second, which means that I make mistakes and I don't know a lot of things and I feel overwhelmed and I feel dumb... a lot. It's in these moments that I remember that I am getting to do my dream job in my dream city with dream friends at the prime of my life (although, I really do think my 30s will be better than my 20s).
It also helps with working out. Seriously - what a fucking luxury that I can go spend an hour tricking my body into thinking it's doing hard labor as I listen to Beyonce.
[ 3 ] When things go wrong, remember all of the things that had to go right for that one thing to go wrong.
For instance, say you just finished a long day at work. You’re exhausted and starving and you can’t wait to get home, but your car won’t start. That’s a bummer - but instead of focusing on how terrible your current circumstance is, take a second to remember that you are employed, you are healthy, and you have a car! Things break. That’s a fact of life, but don’t let the rare bad things outshine all of the amazing things you have going for you every day (also, make sure you have insurance on the things you can't afford to replace!)
[ 4 ] Compliment people! ... but only if you mean it!
I can’t speak for you, but there are so many people that make my life so much easier. Telling people kind words makes them feel appreciated and noticed, but it's also a reminder to you. It's easy to get so caught up in your long to do list of life that you become oblivious to all of the things other people are doing around you to make your life easier, better, more efficient, and full of joy.
Speaking of other people doing things for you, do nice things for other people. I'm sure our nurse didn't think he was making a grand gesture by giving me his tea, but here I am three weeks later and it still brings the biggest smile to my face - so much so I'm immortalizing that moment in this blog post.
All that said, don't be a phony. Don't tell people their bag is cute if it's ugly. That's not nice. That's being an asshole. Also, don't be afraid to give criticism if your goal is to help that person become a better employee/coworker/friend/wife/etc.
[ 5 ] Surround yourself with the right people
I feel very strongly in the principle "you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." Look around your friend group. Do you routinely feel inspired or judged by your friends? I strongly stand by the statement "I have the best friends in the world." I can't write a post on gratitude without bragging on my friends. I'm going to list a few things that happened this week, but feel free to skip to #6.
- Jonathan is one of the most caring individuals I have ever met. In the past two weeks he's said two phrases that have stuck to my heart and made me continually proud to call him my friend. A couple of weeks ago, I asked him his type and he went on and on about how he doesn't have a type because he's too chill then he goes "the only thing that makes me upset is injustice." It was hilarious and I made fun of him because we were out drinking at a bar on a Sunday and it was such a cliche thing for a lawyer to say, but I love it because I know him and I know it's actually the truth. The second thing happened last week when we were discussing a personal dilemma of mine at dinner to which his final note on the conversation was "whatever happens, you have friends who love you." How can a girl not follow her dreams with friends who say stuff life that at Monday night casual dinner.
- Last Friday, I thought I lost my very expensive dermatoscope. I looked pretty carefully for it but ultimately went home to cry (I hate losing things!). I texted some friends to cancel plans for that night and the next day. My coworker Kumar had to go back to work to drop something off and spent extra time searching every room of clinic looking for my dermatoscope and checked lost and found (which I didn't even know existed). He didn't find it, but his effort meant so much to me. My other friend cheered me up with thai food, mescal, and neighbors 2. (I later found the scope on Monday afternoon after a very moody weekend).
- Gabby and Sarah allowed my fellow first year and me to leave clinic early in order to make a wedding. They stayed behind in clinic another 2.5 hour seeing patients by themselves.
- Girl talks with Lana and Alexis have kept me sane the past couple of weeks. They are incredibly empathetic and see the nuisances in everyday life decisions. On the other hand, Rhonda keeps me on the right and right because she will call me out on everything I do.
[ 6 ] Do good work
Find a cause that you care about and support it with your time and talents. The reality of doing good work is that it's not always fun or satisfying in the moment, but it's important that you have something in your life that when you take a step back, you're proud to have left your fingerprint on.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article.
Sending you love and light.