The Science of Happiness
Presenter – David Bartram BVetMed, DipM, MCIM, CDipAF, MRCVS. Following three years in mixed practice, Mr Bartram has since worked in the pharmaceutical industry in both human and animal health sectors. Awarded the RCVS Diploma of Fellowship by Thesis, and a Master of Philosophy from the University of Southampton for his research into the mental health and well-being of the UK veterinary profession, Mr Bartram is a director of the Veterinary Benevolent Fund with responsibility for the Veterinary Surgeons’ Health Support Programme.
Being a vet can be a full and rewarding career, but it can also be tough. I see myself and some of my colleagues as perfectionists working in a career where perfection is hard to achieve. We work long and antisocial hours with financial rewards that are unlikely to match our piers within the medical profession. So I am not particularly surprised by data showing the suicide rate in vets is 3 to 4 times that of the general population and twice that of dentists, medics and pharmacists.
Last week’s veterinary webinar was led by David Bartram from the Veterinary Benevolent Fund and he discussed how we in the veterinary profession can help to maintain mental wellbeing and avoid becoming part of these tragic statistics.
Mr Bartram explained that our mental wellbeing is affected by genetics, circumstances and factors under our voluntary control. Whilst there is not a lot we can do about genetics and circumstances, we can alter factors under our voluntary control. Mr Bartram cited the pseudonym ‘GREAT DREAM’ to explain ten voluntary actions we can take which are key to maintaining our wellbeing.
G is for giving and Mr Bartram stated that giving support is often more beneficial than receiving it.
R is for relating to other people and affects our happiness more than any other single factor. Friendships are necessary but it is all about quality not quantity. It really doesn’t help to have hundreds of friends on facebook if those relationships are shallow and meaningless.
E is for exercise. The benefits of exercise are many-fold whatever our age, though it is thought that exercise in early adult life has a protective affect against severe depression later on. Any positive mental benefit reaped from exercise tends to be based on the amount rather than the intensity. Three 20 minute brisk walks a week can make a real difference.
A is for appreciating the world around you whilst trying to be accepting and non-judgemental.
T is for ‘trying out’ challenges that test our skills but are within our capacity.
D is for ‘direction’ and having a goal to look forward to.
R is for resilience by remaining optimistic even in the face of adversity and always trying to dispute pessimistic expectations.
E is for ’emotion’. The positive effects of emotions such as joy, gratitude, contentment, inspiration and pride should never be underestimated. We must always keep a sense of perspective and never be lured into the trap of perfectionism.
A is for ‘acceptance’ and being content with who you are and being yourself.
M is for meaning and involves engaging in activities that are meaningful to yourself. For example this could be religious beliefs, work or involvement with charities.
This veterinary webinar has really made me stop and think about trying to maintain a more positive outlook on life. We are lucky to have the Veterinary Benevolent Fund to offer support to vets who are struggling with ‘life’ but it is clear that further research is needed to determine why we, as a profession, suffer such a high suicide rate, so we can help improve the wellbeing of our future profession. In the meantime I intend to put into practice all I have learnt from this veterinary webinar and in the words of Eric Idle ‘..always look on the bright side of life…’.
The Stethoscope MRCVS
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