Here’s to your heart

World Heart Health Day

Today is World Heart Health Day, a global initiative that focuses on cardiovascular disease.

As providers who care for each other, I want to be part of encouraging my colleagues to care for your heart by caring for your whole self: physically, mentally, and emotionally. I would like to share some things I have put into daily practice that have helped me live a more balanced, happier life.

The Happiness Advantage

In the book Happiness Advantage, author Shawn Achor noted that the best predictor of your professional success is your level of individual happiness. Seriously! The two weren’t mutually exclusive – rather, there is a lot of research conducted on employees at Fortune 500 companies that demonstrates that feeling fulfilled individually makes an incredible difference in your professional endeavors.

To me, that meant that I should take vacation and use my PTO. I should coach Little League or ski in Lake Tahoe with my children. No guilt! By doing so, I would be a better physician for my patients, a better colleague to my friends, a better father to my two daughters, and a better husband to my wife, who also is an emergency physician.

Daily Practices

I’ve incorporated a few daily practices that have been helpful in forcing my brain into healthy habits.

First, most of us have some type of interaction with our phone each morning. I do, too. When I first wake up, I type out in my iPhone notes three positive things that happened the day before, three “wins” – a successful outcome for a patient, something I accomplished from my to-do list, that type of thing. Then I write down three things I am grateful for today. Finally, I express appreciation to someone, usually through a quick text or email.

Why focus on the positive?

When direct your brain to focus on the positive, it creates a physiologic response toward relaxation and appreciation, literally changing your brain chemistry. I’ve made these habits a part of my daily routine for about 8 years now, and they’ve certainly made a difference in my mental health and my relationships with others. Happiness is important to me. Patient satisfaction is important – but so is provider satisfaction, and provider satisfaction starts with what is happening even before you get to the hospital.

What habits do you need to establish to make sure you’re at your least stressed, happiest, healthiest self?

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To learn more about habits, consider the books:
Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg
Atomic Habits, James Clear