Strategies for enhancing and sustaining individual well-being

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Content courtesy of Dr. David J. Bartram; edited by Malinda Larkin

1. give

Do things for others. Being kind and of service to others on a regular basis is a key ingredient of happiness. There are health and longevity benefits associated with helping behavior so long as it is fulfilling but not overwhelming. Practicing random acts of kindness enhances one’s own well-being. 

2. relate

Connect with people. This affects happiness more than any other single factor, enabling one to confide and discuss problems and generating a sense of belonging and trust.

3. exercise

Participate regularly in a physical activity you enjoy and that suits your level of mobility and fitness. Exercise has been shown to increase a positive outlook and has been used successfully to reduce depression and anxiety.

4. appreciate

Notice the world around you. Reflect on, savor, and be grateful for the good things in your life. Consider keeping a daily gratitude journal. Research demonstrates that writing down and reflecting on three good things that took place that day can bring long-term increases in well-being and decrease depression.

5. learn

Keep learning new things. Learning encourages social interaction and increases self-esteem and feelings of competence. Set yourself a challenge you will enjoy achieving, such as rediscovering an old interest.

6. find direction

Engage in activities that are meaningful to you. Practice those that motivate you, offer security, present a challenge, and provide some autonomy. Find an activity in which you can take pride. If your work is not a calling, pursue a purpose elsewhere, such as through volunteer work or teaching. Have peripheral interests, avoiding the vulnerability of allowing your life to revolve around a single component.

7. be resilient

Find ways to bounce back. Learn to challenge automatic negative thoughts, dispute pessimistic explanations, and reframe situations in a positive light. Try to keep a sense of perspective in life. Experience shows that negative feelings pass; we learn from them and begin to enjoy life again. Do not be lured into the trap of “perfectionism”—self-defeating thoughts and behaviors associated with unrealistically high goals. Be satisfied with “good enough”; only going for “best” when it really matters.

8. be optimistic

Take a positive approach. Learn to be optimistic while remaining realistic. Give yourself regular treats, but don’t be trapped in the shallow pursuit of pleasure by doing only those things that bring immediate gratification and pleasurable feelings.

9. accept

Be happy with who you are. Caring solely about other people’s approval will make you forever their prisoner. Identify your talents and character strengths, and live life in a way that enables you to use them to the fullest extent.

The Peer Assistance and Wellness area on the AVMA website provides
information such as a list of state committees organized to
assist impaired veterinarians, a stress checklist,
and a work-life balance reading list.