Reducing Frustration and Increasing Fulfillment: Mindfulness


Would you rather go to work each day feeling stressed, rushed, and distracted or fully present, engaged, and fulfilled? You have a choice.

Fam Pract Manag. 2017 Jul-Aug;24(4):28-32.

Author disclosure: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.

Family medicine should be one of the most satisfying professions. We enjoy close relationships with our patients and their families, we learn and apply ever-changing science to help serve others, and although physicians in some other specialties earn higher salaries, our average income puts us in the top 2 percent of people in the United States (and the top 0.04 percent in the world).1,2,3 Yet, more than 60 percent of family physicians are burned out.4

Certainly, much of the solution to this problem involves addressing complex issues at the health system level, as well as reducing inefficiency and improving workflow in our practices. Another part of the solution, one that individual physicians have greater ability to control, involves skills you can start using today to become less frustrated and more fulfilled. In the first article of this two-part series, we will cover mindfulness, and in the second article, we will cover reframing – two techniques that can dramatically improve both physician and patient satisfaction.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness has been studied for thousands of years, and yet it is a popular “new” topic in psychology. In general, mindfulness is simply being aware, present, and engaged in the moment. In the medical office setting, this means being fully present and connecting with each patient, efficiently reviewing labs and messages, calmly returning phone calls, clearly communicating with staff, and so on.

In contrast, when we are not mindful, we often feel rushed and annoyed, and we just want to get our day over with. We spend a lot of time complaining (to ourselves or to others) about how the present moment should be different. We may think, “I wish I didn't have to wake up so early,” “Why is traffic so heavy?” “I wish my children would behave better,” “Work is way too busy!” “My colleagues just don't understand,” and on and on. Compare those moments with your best moments – seeing the ocean for the first time, looking into the eyes of your newborn baby, skiing in fresh powder, etc. If you were to superimpose a complaining mindset onto your peak experiences, they would no longer be peak experiences.

For example, imagine two people walking on the beach at sunset. One is fully present and is having a peak experience. The other is thinking about work or family problems and is feeling miserable. Both people are in the same circumstance, but they are having different experiences. Similarly, two doctors may have similar schedules, similar staff, and similar patients, but one might feel burned out while the other feels challenged and fulfilled.

What helps create peak experiences and fulfilling moments is mindfulness – the moment-to-moment, no

About the Author

Dr. Winner is a family physician for Sansum Clinic in Santa Barbara, Calif., where he also is founder and director of the clinic's Stress Reduction Program. He lectures on stress reduction and burnout prevention and is author of Relaxation on the Run.

Author disclosure: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.



show all references

1. Van Dam A. What percent are you? The Wall Street Journal. March 2, 2016.

2. Global Rich List website.

3. Laff M. Family physician salaries continue to rise at rapid clip. AAFP News. June 17, 2016.

4. Shanafelt TD, Hasan O, Dyrbye LN, et al. Changes in burnout and satisfaction with work-life balance in physicians and the general U.S. working population between 2011 and 2014. Mayo Clin Proc. 2015;90(12):1600–1613.

5. Lutz A, Greischar LL, Rawlings NB, Ricard M, Davidson RJ. Long-term meditators self-induce high-amplitude gamma synchrony during mental practice. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2004;101(46):16369–16373.


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