5 resolutions every doctor should make in 2020

By Liz Meszaros, MDLinx
Published December 19, 2019

Key Takeaways

Forgive us for skipping the requisite “lose weight, get in shape” resolutions that focus on physical health, but these should really just be a given year-round. Practice what you preach, doctor. Instead, we wanted to take the path less traveled and come up with some resolutions that will benefit your mental health (just as important as your physical health), to help you ring in the New Year—and new decade—and get them both off to a great start.

And not only will they benefit your mental health, they may also make you a better doctor all around. So, without further ado, here’s a list of some New Year’s resolutions you might want to try:

Meet new people. Resolve to meet as many new people as you can in 2020. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut of work-work-work, veg-veg-veg. Especially for doctors, who may have particularly grueling work hours. Not only will meeting new people be good for your mental health, it can help your career as well. You never know who you’ll meet. Try to push yourself to meet one new person a week, but if that’s daunting, shoot for one new person per month. Instead of vegging out in front of the TV, you can be making genuine connections with your neighbor from down the block who waves to you once in a while. They may introduce you to a new hobby you didn’t even know you liked, or take you to a secret spot in town that hasn’t yet been claimed by tourists and hordes of men in business suits. Besides, genuine connections are also good for mental health. Up to 47% of adults in America are lonely, and this carries a 26% increased risk for early mortality. Don’t let yourself become part of the statistic. What have you got to lose?

Give your manners a polish. Work on becoming more polite. Good manners make it easier to make connections with others and avoid the risk of offending those around you. A win-win for you, and them. And better manners will polish up your reputation as a good clinician, a good friend, and an all-around trustworthy person. Just think of what it could do for your bedside manner. A good bedside manner can take any doctor from just “good” to “great” in a patient’s eyes. Brush up on some etiquette, research ways to deal with rude people (this will come in handy, we promise!), and even learn about the social graces considered important in other countries and cultures. We promise this one will make you—and others—feel better about you.  

Spend more time with people who matter to you. One of the best ways to stay happy is to focus on the people we care about and who care about us. It sounds simple, but in practice, this one can be difficult to achieve. Especially for doctors, who are always, it seems, pressed for time. Set aside time for those you love, just to be with them. Work on being present in the moment when you’re with them—forget work schedules, patients, and your horrible day at the office. It doesn’t matter what you do together—take in a movie or sports event, take a walk in the woods, or do something you all love—it’ll go a long way towards your happiness, and theirs. And a host of research also supports the health benefits of spending time with friends and loved ones. In one study, researchers found that people who lack social ties were about three times more likely to die early than those with strong relationships with their friends and family. 

Volunteer. Helping others has health benefits for the body, mind, and spirit. And particularly for physicians—who face burnout, difficult patients, tight daily schedules, and demanding work hours—a little boost can go a long way. Many physicians, in fact, claim that volunteering can be refreshing, combat burnout, and help reignite their passion for medicine. In fact, in a study specifically focused on volunteerism for doctors, researchers found that physicians had positive reactions to their volunteering experiences, and reported that it offered them an escape from the pressures of their “regular” physician jobs. Volunteer opportunities are plentiful. Check out the volunteer boards for doctors, like the American College of Physicians’ Volunteerism Network, the US Peace Corps, and even the American Red Cross.

Pick up a new hobby. Be it woodworking, cross-country skiing, bird watching, survival training, or mountain climbing, there are all kinds of hobbies out there just waiting to be tried. Hobbies actually help relieve stress. They add interest to your life and give you something to look forward to. Because you need to be present and fully concentrating on whatever you are doing, hobbies naturally force you to refocus your energies. This, in turn, helps relieves stress. Think of it as taking a mental break. Something doctors always need. Find something you have always had a natural interest in and explore it. Incorporate it into your routine as regularly as you can, and reap the mental health benefits any hobby inherently offers.

Ring in the New Year with some new resolutions! You’ll thank yourself in the long run. The editors at MDLinx wish you a happy and healthy New Year! Welcome to 2020!

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