Right now, wherever you are, whether you’re reading this at work or on the bus ride home, take a moment to reflect. Breathe in, breathe out. Imagine three people you are grateful for — who are they? What have they done for you? Why are you grateful for them? Now, envision three experiences you are grateful for — something that surprised you? Or left you in awe and wonder? And lastly, think of three places you’re grateful for — is it a place where you feel a sense of belonging and purpose?
During my psych rotation, I was able to sit in on a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) session, and this was one of the exercises we did. The facilitator, an occupational therapist, explained how gratitude can be three things: a thought, feeling, and an action. He said we can cultivate a spirit of gratitude. Looking through a lens in which we acknowledge the good amidst the ups and downs of life. We can ask ourselves to take a step back and think: what have I learned from this? How have I changed through this challenge? Is there a silver lining in everything, even in the gray?
As I pass the halfway mark of my third year of med school, I have learned many things along the way about medicine, about the people I meet in the clinics and hospitals each day, about all the things I didn’t learn in a textbook. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the challenges: the shelf exams, late night studying, 5 a.m. alarm clocks, bureaucratic systems, bearing witness to suffering. How can I keep on going?
I have learned to use gratitude to spur me on. Reignite a spark. Motivate me.
I remember the sacrifices of my parents. Their own late nights at work, saving money for my education, providing and caring for me and my brothers, helping me every step of the way. I remember the encouraging words of my teachers, both past and present: their uplifting handwritten notes, their kindness in staying after school to help me understand the inner workings of Punnett squares and photosynthesis. I remember the support of my relatives. From those in the Midwest all the way to those in the Philippines, cheering me on. I remember the patients I’ve met — even if it was just for a few minutes, a snapshot in time, they have impacted me, teaching me what it means to be a humble student. Gratitude gives me the strength to persevere. It is not just a word, but a way of living.
Perhaps I may not see it now, but from my experiences — whether it was a high or low — I hope to be changed for the better, even in small ways. If it means gaining more patience or understanding, practicing kindness and joy, for me personally I hope and believe that all things work together for good.
As the holiday season approaches, I’m seeking to intentionally and actively immerse my heart and mind in a spirit of gratitude. To be thankful in all circumstances. To breathe in and out, reflect and recharge, and keep on going.
Anna Delamerced is a medical student at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, she enjoys exploring the crossroads of writing and medicine, and listening to patients tell their stories. Anna is also a 2018–2019 Doximity Author.