I was walking through the hospital in the evening, when suddenly a thought popped into my head: “I wonder how many people have died in this building”. I wasn’t surprised at the thought, because Mrs. DA and I had been discussing death after one of her patients died, despite the CPR performed by her and her team.
Death is an inevitable companion in my chosen field. Sometimes it is welcome, like the example of an elderly man in pain, surrounded by loving family who are sad to see him go, but are happy he won’t be in pain much longer. Other times it sneaks into homes and snatches away lives before they are ready. The one thing death has taught me is that there is no guarantee of a long life. This thought bothered me, because I have very long term goals in life: Graduate medical school, survive residency, start a family, pay off my school debt, save money, pay off a house, and retire gloriously in a mountain biking paradise. Your goals may be different, but I am sure that they, like mine, require initial sacrifice in order to end up where you want to go. Sacrifices might include taking on debt, moving away from family to go to school, studying endlessly for a string of tests, putting off entertainment and other opportunities in order to rock the boards, spending less time with loved ones because you need to be in the hospital, and many, many more.
We hope our sacrifices yield jobs, happy families, warm homes, opportunity, travels, and the list goes on and on! In short, we hope our sacrifices yield happiness. And we should hope! But as the preacher in pollyanna declares, “Death comes unexpectedly!” This is why Mr. DA is not only a fan of life insurance policies, but he is offering you the secrets to his own “Happiness Insurance” policy.
As with any insurance policy, there are consistent premiums that must be paid. Here are the 5 happiness insurance premiums that must be paid on a consistent basis:
1: Exercise Daily – Your future happiness is not worth your health. PERIOD. I don’t care about the importance of the test, the stress of the rotation, or the bone freezing coldness of winter. In a perfect world you would have plenty of time to work out at your school’s free gym. But when, not if, your busy schedule doesn’t allow you to flex in front of your classmates in the weight room, you can still find ways to stay fit. Try an insanity workout at home, do pushups, go running, DO SOMETHING! To have come this far in life you had to have been a smart and creative person. Think of a way to still get a workout, even if that means waking up a little earlier. This leads nicely into the next step.
2: Get Sleep! – Anyone who has known a doctor, or even seen a medical soap opera, knows that the field of medicine is notorious for flogging its workers past a medically approved wake-sleep cycle. I believe this is due to a combination of things, some legit: “Sick people need doctors, and emergencies happen”, and some completely stupid: “This is how we trained when I was a young doc, so I’m going to insist you do the same”. While your work schedule may be out of your hands during training, it is important to take advantage of your time off to rest up. It’s not freshman year in college anymore, and people are no longer impressed with your ability to pull all nighters while guzzling energy drinks. Make sleep a priority, even if it means you study a little less.
3:Do Something to Build a Meaningful Relationship Everyday – The demands of medical school and residency place a heavy burden on familial relations and friendships. However, these relationships are what bring the most happiness, and sacrificing them for your long term goals is equivalent to not paying your gas bill and then wondering why your house is suddenly cold. Do something everyday to serve your loved ones. It doesn’t have to take much time. It can be as simple as picking up a flower for your significant other on your bike ride home (Mrs. DA was thrilled).
4: Meditate/Ponder/Unplug – I have already written about the danger of screens, so this is important. Take time away from your laptop, phone, and books everyday. I suggest at least 20 minutes. Use this time to think. For me, this often involves aspects of my religion, including prayer and personal introspection. If you are not religious, use this time to meditate. Think about what’s important to your life. Examine your beliefs, both political, religious, and otherwise. Use your extra large frontal cortex and have original thoughts. In short, take time to be a thinking, breathing, human being, instead of an organic robot trained to memorize facts.
5: Laugh Everyday – If you have nothing to laugh about, then your life sucks and it’s your fault. Harsh words, but what I’m trying to say is that the only person in charge of your attitude is you, and healthy laughter is a good indicator of a happy disposition. Some say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Mrs. DA says that’s stupid, because lemonade without sugar is still sour. So laugh about the sour lemonade and then make your own sugar! This is the hardest happiness insurance premium to hit on a consistent basis, and will require honest self evaluation and effort. One of my favorite quotes is, “Most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”
Pay your happiness insurance premiums, and have the best ride possible!