Issue: BCMJ, vol. 66, No. 2, March 2024, Page 37 Editorials

Gratitude can be your gateway to a joyful life.

After a few years in practice, I witnessed some of my older colleagues give up their hospital privileges. I recall listening to their stories at the time. They did not express any joy in their work. They were disillusioned and no longer felt valued for the work they were doing in the hospital. I remember thinking that I could learn from their experiences to try to avoid feeling what I now realize was probably them feeling burned out. I don’t think I was familiar with the concept of burnout at that time. Although the term was coined in the 1970s, it was not part of my lexicon in the 1990s.

I tried to avoid overworking by pacing myself. I took a day off during the week, and I still do. Starting out in practice is nerve-racking. The worries are endless. The natural inclination is to build up a patient panel as fast as possible. I was fortunate to have some amazing mentors in my medical career. Dr Jerry Danielson, for whom I did a locum in Shellbrook, Saskatchewan, taught me not to accept every new patient who walked through my door into my practice. That saved me a lot of headaches and is a pearl I now pass on to younger colleagues. Jerry taught me to pace myself.

I also try to keep a positive attitude, which I learned from my late dad, who is my most treasured mentor. My religion has taught me gratitude, which can reduce toxic emotions such as resentment, frustration, and regret and makes depression less likely.[1] One study of Vietnam War veterans found that those with higher levels of gratitude suffered lower incidences of posttraumatic stress disorder.[2]

When dealing with the illness and death of my patients, I naturally feel sad. What pulls me up from the sadness is feeling grateful that it is not I or someone I love who is going through that. I have had many days when I have gone home after work and hugged my children out of love and gratitude. After reading Dr Caitlin Dunne’s editorial in the October 2023 issue of the BCMJ, it got me thinking about the type of father I was to my children when they were younger. It made me question whether I had been present enough in their childhood. I was relieved to hear them express gratitude to me recently for being there when it mattered to them.

Dr Mark Sherman, a family physician in Victoria, is a mindfulness coach who runs workshops for physicians on mindfulness in medicine, burnout, and resilience. I was privileged to attend one of his workshops and am on his mailing list. In his January 2024 newsletter, he states: “Gratitude is the entry point to living a joyful life. While it can be easy to take for granted the blessings that abound near and far from the immediacy of our lives, when we slow down we can better see the grace that has been here all along. Amidst the challenges and tribulations there is, as well, so much beauty. Can you see it? Perhaps for you it is the health or vitality of your body, or the creative capacity of the mind. It might be the many blessings of relationship, or the resonant beauty of Nature. Whenever we look with the discernment of presence, we more easily slip into this place of gratitude.”[3]

I am grateful for my health and for the people I love and those who love me. I am grateful for my friends and colleagues. I am grateful for the work that I do—for the ability to help patients in their time of need, especially the grateful ones.
—David B. Chapman, MBChB


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1.    The Rabbi Sacks Legacy. The power of gratitude. Accessed 17 January 2024.

2.    Kashdan TB, Uswatte G, Julian T. Gratitude and hedonic and eudaimonic well-being in Vietnam War veterans. Behav Res Ther 2006;44:177-199.

3.    Sherman M. Sacred responsibility. Living this moment blog. 8 January 2024. Accessed 17 January 2024.

David B. Chapman, MBChB. Grateful. BCMJ, Vol. 66, No. 2, March, 2024, Page(s) 37 - Editorials.

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