By now, my readers know of my fascination with the topic of what makes humans happy and specifically what makes physicians happy at work! This seems an especially relevant topic, given that all indicators suggest rising unhappiness in the physician workplace.
What is particularly interesting to note is how governments and nations are beginning to recognize the economic significance and impact of happiness and well-being at work. This perspective is reflected in the HBR article:
The key things which increase wellbeing are connection to friends, family and community; giving back and volunteering; being physically active; having life goals and continuing to learn; and taking notice and being engaged. These are what the New Economics Foundation think tank calls the "five ways to wellbeing," and they are now becoming central to UK Government policy...
... President Sarkozy asked Joseph Stiglitz to lead a policy review on these issues and, after his own review, Prime Minister David Cameron has set his Office of National Statistics the task of measuring and developing policy around wellbeing.
There is much we don't control in our environment – how much Medicare chooses to reimburse us, how many hours of call we're required to take, who the patients are that require our services and walk through our doors...
So we're left with figuring out how to control your "5 ways to well-being" as a physician on the job.
- Connection to others – what can you do to increase your sense of connection to your colleagues, your community, your family or your friends EACH AND EVERY DAY? Attending to just this one need alone is enough to boost your sense of happiness.
- Giving back and volunteering – while these sound like time-consuming activities, and you might feel short on time, how might you give back or volunteer simply within your work day? Could you take 10 minutes to explain something to a medical student or resident? Would you be willing to spend a little time with one of your staff members whose relative is ill with something? Can you adjust the medical bill of that financially strapped patient who's behind in his payments? There are so many little ways to volunteer and give back!
- Being physically active – having got up at the crack of dawn this morning to start a Boot camp, I can attest to the physical soreness and mental well-being of early morning exercise. Where in your day can you find 30 minutes to take a brisk walk in the neighborhood, do a brief yoga sequence, or go up and down 3 flights of stairs until your legs burn? All it takes is a little imagination and commitment!
- Life goals and ongoing learning – even if you're stuck in your job for now because of inescapable circumstances, there is nothing to prevent you from fostering dreams. I have always wanted to play the piano, but between work and parenting, there just doesn't seem to be enough time for lessons. However, I have an iPad and spend many an evening teaching myself to read music (quite successfully, I may add!) and to pick up some music theory. The only thing between me and those piano keys is my commitment and desire! What would you love to be learning? Where and how could you begin?
- Awareness and engagement – I suspect these are the greatest challenges. It's way too easy to get sucked passively into a TV program, to bumble our way through a day of mindnumbing routine, or to wallow in wishful fantasizing about the life we don't have, instead of focusing on the miniature marvels and miracles in the life we do have. Where do you want to remind yourself to keep putting your attention? What do you know keeps you engaged?
This upcoming weekend, I am excited to begin participating in the "Creativity and Personal Mastery Program" that I've written about previously. I anticipate happiness to be a key topic. Will keep you posted!
Philippa Kennealy ran a private family practice, and a hospital, before building her coaching business helping MDs launch and run successful practices and businesses. Visit her online at www.entrepreneurialMD.com to learn more.