Physician burnout continues to rise and happiness levels have dipped since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Medscape surveyed 10,000 physicians for their 2022 Physician Lifestyle & Happiness Report and found that 81% of physicians were somewhat or very happy before the pandemic. There were no differences in happiness between male and female physicians.
Now, only 59% say they’re happy as the situation continues. How can you avoid the downward spiral? The survey also revealed ways physicians stay happy, despite new stressors in their lives. With a little effort, a few small changes to your routine can boost your happiness at home and at work.
Spend time with loved ones.
Spending time with family and friends tops the list on this year’s survey, with 68% indicating this is a top priority. Nearly 85% of all physicians are in a committed relationship and 82% also report their relationship is good or very good. These positive feelings about relationships indicate that spending time with partners and loved ones is a big factor in physician happiness. Which doctors have the best relationships? Otolaryngologists, allergists, dermatologists, and rheumatologists top the list. Plastic surgeons and critical care doctors report the lowest satisfaction with their marriages, but a whopping 75% still report being pretty happy.
Make time for hobbies.
When your workload and stress levels increase, it’s even more important to keep doing the things you love outside of work. Two thirds of physicians report that their favorite activities help them maintain their mental health. Gardening, cooking, and reading were popular hobbies that can easily be worked into a daily routine. Don’t have a hobby? Try taking an online class on your own or with friends or family. The novelty of learning new skills is energizing and provides an activity to look forward to when the work day is done.
Exercise a few days a week
The survey showed that 67% of physicians exercise at least twice a week. Many workout to lose weight, but a lot of doctors use physical activity to burn off extra energy and relieve stress. Experts say exercising after a shift can help you transition from work to your personal life. Taking a break for fitness is also a great way to unplug from technology, enjoy the outdoors, and take a break from your thoughts. Some physicians have found that regular exercise even motivated them to encourage their patients to live healthier lifestyles.
Get enough sleep.
Happy physicians love catching a few extra z’s. Sleep is a priority for 49% of physicians who are snoozing more to stay happy. Long hours are a given in the medical profession, especially during a pandemic. Try to get the recommended 6 hours, so your body can recover from the day and operate at its best tomorrow. This valuable sleep time also gives your brain and hormones time to reset. Stress levels can normalize and your glymphatic system can clean your brain to keep your cognitive abilities sharp.
Make time for mental health care.
Spending time on personal well-being was listed as a priority by 35% of the physicians in the Medscape study and 9% reported that therapy was beneficial to their happiness. Mental wellness is vital to a physician’s work, no matter how you go about it. If therapy isn’t your thing, you can try other calming practices like meditation, yoga, or tai chi. A doctor in a different study reported that she sets positive daily intentions to raise her happiness level.
In the Medscape study, 69% of doctors said they’re religious and another report shows that more than 40% of physicians actively participate in religious practices. Regardless of where your spiritual beliefs lie, staying connected to your spiritual side can help reduce stress and improve your empathy and compassion at work. Spiritual practices are often done in group settings, which can boost happiness levels by fulfilling social needs. If you’re looking for opportunities to explore your spiritual side, you may want to ask your fellow physicians for recommendations.
Physicians don’t just give of themselves at work. Nearly two-thirds of all doctors do some kind of volunteer work. If helping others was the reason you became a doctor, volunteering will give you even more of the happy vibes you thrive on. Many doctors choose to use their skills to provide free medical services locally or with international causes. Volunteering with religious organizations, tutoring, and counseling are other popular volunteer roles where you’ll find other physicians donating their time and talent.
Take a vacation.
Hobbies and family time keep physicians feeling good day to day, but sometimes you need to get away from your routine for a full happiness reset. 40% all physicians take 3 to 4 weeks of vacation and 20% take five weeks or more. Why does vacation make physicians happy? A change of scenery removes everyday stressors and provides more time and space to relax. Anticipating a vacation can even make you feel more optimistic, so get your 4 to 5 weeks on the books right now.