Distorted negative thinking simply displaces any room for gratitude. After years of self-reflection, prayer, and therapy I now recognize that peace of mind is an inside job and that no job title or acclaim can match the peace of self-acceptance and connection to one’s higher power.
The brain is plastic and its inner circuitry can be changed . Past history, genetics, traumatic experiences, and years of learned behaviors can be neutralized with a decision to practice gratitude. The brain can literally be rewired to more easily transmit circuits associated with generation of good feelings. A willful and deliberate focus on all that is good in one’s life will shift one’s baseline temperament and increase feelings of well-being. But it requires a decision, and it requires practice. Author Angeles Arrien  refers to this practice as “Grateful Seeing.” When we decide to focus on all that is working in our lives without denying current burdens, we cultivate more-positive thinking and thankfulness. This practice lowers the threshold for feeling-good circuits to discharge in our brain and raises our baseline happiness index .
A decision to direct our attention to positive and realistic thoughts, in addition to considering all we really do have in our lives, will increase awareness of how blessed we really are.
Heal the Brain and Quiet the Mind
I make the daily decision to reprogram my brain. Raised in a home where criticism and fault finding were the orders of the day, I purposefully extend compliments to staff, residents, friends and most importantly, my family. Compliments can best promote healing when they are true and precise. In other words, merely telling a resident “good work” will not be nearly as effective as, “You did a great exposure of the axillary nerve.”
In addition, I have dedicated my life to being a love finder rather than fault finder. There is good in every person and event. When we decide to look for good, it will manifest.
Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practices slow brain activity and lessen the intrusion of negative thoughts . Evidence is mounting that our natural, authentic state is one of peace and gratitude . True and lasting happiness can only be attained when we can quiet out minds and the demons of dysfunctional thinking are tamed.
Keeping a journal of all that is good in one’s life will boost your mood and increase productivity. Simply entering an entry a day of something or someone to be grateful for will help divert one’s mind from negativity . The gratitude journal should delve into detail and should focus more on people than things. Each entry should be regarded as a true gift. The journal should be referred to often so that the subconscious mind has time to truly absorb and incorporate these positive messages.
Apparent misfortunes can be reconsidered in a different light. Difficulties and challenging times always hold a blessing and lesson—if we decide to look for it. A decision to restructure occurrences and transform them into blessings is possible in any event. The infection after that ACL procedure may carry the reminder to drape more carefully in the future. The nagging cough, which doesn’t seem to go away, may instruct one that rest or vacation is in order. Even a lawsuit may herald a reexamination and reaffirmation of basic core values and motivations for becoming a surgeon.
Einstein once stated that the most important question one could ask was, “Is the universe friendly?” . That is, a belief that every event is rigged to ultimately serve some benefit.
In any event, ask “Where is the gift?”
Tomorrow, try this:
Spend 10 minutes a day engaging in a practice to quiet your mind, whether it be prayer, yoga, or deep breathing.
Keep a gratitude journal and make five entries every week about something or (even better) someone to be grateful for.
Begin the habit of thanking your OR team after every case, regardless of the outcome.
Thank your partner, friend, spouse, or significant other every day for his or her commitment to the relationship.