Last year leading up to Thanksgiving I found a candy dish and colorful tiny Post-it Notes and asked my family to write a few things down. I wanted them to write down people, things and experiences from the past year (the year of the Pandemic) that they are grateful for – big or small.
My kids, husband and I all wrote down as many things as we could think of with a goal of filling the candy dish to the brim. On Thanksgiving Day, we read them outloud to one another. I loved the exercise because it really forced us all to look for the positive and bypass that part of the primitive brain that focuses on scarcity and lack and all the things that didn’t go as planned or expected.
In addition to the primitive brain and it’s focus, as physicians we have also been trained to look for the abnormal. As an emergency physician, I was taught to always prepare and anticipate the worst case scenario and always rule out any life or limb threatening emergencies.
While it helped me catch many diagnoses, this type of thinking and mindset crept into everyday life. It put me on high alert for all the abnormalities and unexpected things in day to day life. This included in my relationships and even in how I looked at and thought about myself. We can easily become really good at finding all the ways in which we are failing and feel like we are not enough. It led me to be highly critical of my circumstances, others and even myself.
When I think about those times in my career which were the darkest, I know my mind was looking for and finding evidence of all the negatives in life. I noticed a significant change when I implemented the practice of gratitude journaling. When my focus shifted, I started to retrain my brain to look for the positive.
As Neal Donald Walsh says “The struggle ends, when gratitude begins.” And truly my struggles with burnout did start to improve with daily gratitude journaling among other things.
This experience is why Amber and I created a gratitude journal specifically for women doctors called the Burn Bright Journal. It teaches you to look for 10 new things each day that you are grateful for. It also has space for you to write down patients who showed you appreciation and wins from the day. It sounds so simple, I know. But I promise by just taking 5 minutes a day to reflect on all the positives, you can change and uplift your life and career.
So, Sister Doc, as we approach Thanksgiving, I’d like to ask you, what are you grateful for?
And if you’d like to start getting in the practice of daily gratitude journaling, get a Burn Bright Journal today.
Archana Shrestha, MD is a physician, life coach, speaker and entrepreneur in Chicago. She is the Cofounder and Chief Wellness Officer at Women in White Coats and co-author of “The Chronicles of Women in White Coats” book series. Learn more about her by going to MightyMomMD.com. She can be followed on Instagram @MightyMomMD