I don’t know about you, but I find that gratitude is a habit of happy people. We can always use more happy people in medicine. It’s amazing how one positive action can change so much in a person’s life—simply by giving thanks. Easy enough, right?
I’m not perfect, but I find that expressing gratitude has made me a really happy, optimistic person (even in medical school). Before I share my tricks of the trade, let’s talk about why gratitude is important. For one, gratitude allows us to celebrate the present and focus on the positives. By appreciating the value of something, we’re less likely to take it for granted. On the flip side, gratitude helps us block out the negative emotions that can destroy our happiness. Also, grateful people are not only more resistant to stress, but they also have a higher sense of self-worth.
Now, let’s talk about some ways to incorporate gratitude into everyday life even as a medical student:
- Write a thank you note. This is one of my favorite ways to express gratitude. Writing a thank you note/letter/text/email is small gesture that speaks volumes. Not only does it put a smile on your face, but it also nurtures your relationship with the person on the receiving end.
- Say “Thank you.” This is one of the easiest ways to express gratitude. If someone did something for you (even if it’s as small as opening a door), say “Thank you.”
- Keep a gratitude jar. Make it a habit to write down something positive each day, and add it to the jar. On a day you’re feeling down, go through the jar to see all that you have to be thankful for.
- Be grateful for challenges. If you’re facing a challenge, just remember there are those in far worse situations out there. Remember, every challenge is an opportunity to grow and to learn; it will only make you stronger.
“Everyday, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive. I have a precious human life; I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others; I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.” – Dalai Lama