Adam Martin, PharmD, ACSM-CPT
Adam Martin, PharmD, ACSM-CPT
Dr. Martin is a licensed pharmacist, having earned his doctorate of pharmacy degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy in 2012. He is the founder of TheFitPharmacist movement, which strives to empower pharmacists and pharmacy students to thrive in their careers by overcoming stress and unhealthy habits using science-based principles and unmatched support. His passion for helping those in pharmacy led to TheFitPharmacist Podcast on the PharmacyPodcast network, where he and his fiancée provide practical tips for staying healthy while working at the pharmacy, along with interviewing professionals in the top of their respective fields to bring their knowledge right to your earbuds. He merges his passion of pharmacy with the experts in nutrition through being a licensed owner and nutrition consultant at The Diet Doc Pittsburgh North, with the company having over 25 years of success. Learn more and join TheFitPharmacist movement at www.thefitpharmacist.com.

How to Be A Happy Pharmacist

OCTOBER 22, 2017

How often do you meet a pharmacist who looks less than satisfied with their job? Maybe even...unhappy?

Every pharmacist, nurse, physician assistant, dentist, and you-name-it professional has their differences in the area of work they practice but there is one thing that ties us all together. One want, one desire, one aspiration that we have for not only ourselves, but for our children, spouses, and member of our family: to live in a state of happiness!

Now, it may seem that "some people are just happy" or "some people are lucky and have it good so of course they're happy,"but if you would not rate your own happiness level a 10/10 and these statements seem true to you, I beg you to differ your belief and be open-minded to what we're about to cover.

Let me explain why I am writing this: my mission is to spread the concepts of happiness to as many people as possible, because I want YOU and YOUR friends and family to be happy. Once you live a true life of happiness, you won't want anyone to live any other way! Life is too short, so all I ask is that you share this with someone that you care about or who has been going through a difficult time in their life. I can personally attest to the effectiveness from my own experiences of what I will list out for you in this summary and want to share them to help. Read on with an open mind, heart, and a genuine desire to change your life from humdrum to happy beyond your expectations.


Why is happiness important?

As pharmacists, we juggle A LOT in one shift, so we need to make sure we are really maximizing our time on any given task to give it the very best we can. So, what does that have to do with being happy?!?  Studies show that happy professionals are 12% more productive (giving them a competitive advantage) compared to their unhappy colleagues.

Happiness begets success! "But I'm not really happy in my life right now, does that mean I'm doomed to fail?!?"

Good news #1:  Happiness is a choice.

"But, I'm a pharmacist, my life is so stressful!!! How can I be happy if I'm stressed out all of the time?!?" 

Good news #2: Pharmacists can stress-proof their brains. 

Now that we have laid out the why of how being happy will improve your life in all areas, and that it can be achieved by anyone, let's dive into the specifics of happiness and learn how you can turn that frown upside down!

Believe it or not, happiness is our default state. 

Think about the last time you saw a young child. Were they stressing about the future, complaining about their neighbors, or arguing about the news and politics? Or, were they perfectly happy and content with the now they were in: loving life, playing with a toy like it was their everything, and wearing their emotions with a big smile on their face? Yes?

Guess what: they didn't study happiness, shadow a monk for a year, or even read this book on happy. Being happy is the natural state of a child. Yes, mind blown!

Take comfort in knowing this FACT: you were meant to be happy! This is how we were designed to feel on a daily basis.

Our default is happiness but when society causes us to have unnecessary expectations and desires, this makes it difficult to sustain our state of happiness.

You can even compare yourself to a brand new smart phone.

A smart phone has its basic needs in terms of what's on the phone (apps like calendar, calculator, etc), and that's it. It works PERFECTLY right out of the box. Over time, however, if we add app after app after app, this can slow down the phone, causes system glitches, or even cause it to become inoperable! This analogy can apply to expectations and desires (apps) we add to our own life (smartphone) that can wreak havoc on the optimum performance in the exact same way. "Apps" like comparing ourselves to others, fueling our ego, or needless obsessions/ materialism, mess with our default state (out-of-the-box setting) of happiness! 

Your search for becoming happy is NOT, therefore, creating a new version of yourself, but actually trying to get you back to where you came from in the very beginning! The goal to make this happen is to remove these harmful apps to return ourselves to our default setting: being happy!

*If you want to simplify what happiness is in its most basic form, happiness is feeling OK with life as it is. Put another way,

The moments you have felt the happiest in life were when life was meeting your expectations.

Happiness can actually be found by using a succinct formula that can be applied to every single person, the happiness formula, which is:

  • Eliminate the 6 grand illusions
  • Avoid the 7 great blind spots, and 
  • Anchor yourself in the 5 ultimate truths. 

Ignoring the pursuit of happiness and letting it fall to the wayside can be costly. Earlier we had said that employees who are happy are 12% more productive compared to their unhappy coworkers, productivity = work output, sales, revenue, and beyond! Challenges in your pursuit of happiness WILL come up, often times in the form of stressors.The best way to encounter these is to not ignore them, but to address them head on- through acknowledging them, you can work through them!

  • First you must understand where the problem (stressor) is coming from, if you are to ever create an effective solution.
  • Resolution to the current stressor is essential, as you don't want to move on carrying the unresolved stressor into your next endeavor.
  • Taking previous negative emotions to the current or subsequent situation will negatively influence your reaction and perception of the true reality

Make happiness personal.
Every person is different: something that makes YOU happy may have a different effect on someone else. Having a full staff of stellar pharmacy technicians may make a pharmacist elated, but if you were to offer this scenario to a banker, they would probably be quite confused. The thing to keep in mind here is individualization- that is why YOU must ask yourself, "What makes me happy?"

This does NOT mean to focus on material things such as a certain car, bank statement, or mailing address. The focus you want to hone in on is what particular activity makes you happy? That is, fill in the blank: When I am ____, I am happy

Another thing to focus on in uncovering what makes you happy is people:  who in your life makes you happy when you are with them? Again, awareness is the key to arranging your life to optimize your level of happiness!

*A simple exercise that would help you to uncover your own happiness is to make 2 lists- physically write these out:

  1. I am happy when I am:
  2. I am happy when I am with:

FOCUS on these lists from day to day. Ignore what does not make its way onto either of these lists. You get what you focus on!

What is happiness?
In the previous section, we said it was important to identify what makes YOU happy, because it is different for every individual. However, there is a way to identify happiness in a simple generalization that can be applied to everyone in terms of what happiness itself is: happiness is when reality meets or exceeds your expectations, that is, when your expectations are met.

What does this mean? Reality is your perception of it! Once you make the shift of living your life with the mentality of observing, rather than expecting this and that, you will feel happier overall. With this same thought, take this concept and apply it to your own thoughts; that is, reality doesn't exist without it being relative to your thoughts. However you choose to view the world- that is, the 'lens' you view it through, THIS is your reality!

To reinforce this truth: your reality comes from your choice of perception. Take this a step further: your happiness or unhappiness has very little to do with reality- it has EVERYTHING to do with your thoughts about reality! Control your thoughts and you will control your happiness. 

Let's apply that to a common argument unhappy people share: bad circumstances. There is no event that causes our happiness- it's the thought of the event that causes that feeling! Past events have no power over your present reality unless you grant them that power. So, if the mind is such a powerful thing that it determines our reality, can it affect our physical feelings? Let's take this to a controversial subject in the world of pharmacy: pain control.

Suffering vs. pain. 

Pain is a temporary sensation-in the physical sense, no matter how severe, it happens, then it eventually stops. The sensation is a useful biological tool used by the body to trigger responses as a means to help it fight off infection and promote the healing process. Suffering is a self-imposed sensation that serves no purpose and offers no benefit to the body or sense of self. You literally hold yourself prisoner in your thoughts! Putting this into perspective through an example, let's say you are going to have a root canal, and the dentist gives you 2 options:

  1. You get a standard procedure with a few days of recovery
  2. You get a root canal PLUS extra days of lingering pain

SO, why would you choose the second option?!? Those who choose this exemplify what it it like to live in a state of suffering. *The first step to getting away from this and living out of a state of suffering is awareness that your thoughts actually determine your happiness. Once the actual physical pain has ended, it's over- stop thinking about it! If you keep ruminating about it, you are imprisoning yourself with your own thoughts.

So we seem to have made it crystal clear that the path to our own happiness lies in our own thoughts. SO, how do we shift to the thoughts that make us happy? The first thing we need to do is identify the different types of thought patterns that exist so that we are aware of the implications that each hold.

The 5 States of Thought

  1. State of Joy: rising above the clutter of thoughts top choose continuous happiness. You choose to be happy regardless of your circumstances
  2. State of Happiness: spinning everything in a positive direction, because your expectations meet or exceed reality
  3. *State of Escape: suspending your thoughts such that you distract yourself with fun activities. There is nothing wrong with these, and they are encouraged, but these should be supplements to your reality, not the core identity of it. 'Fun' is a tool we use to silence incessant thought, but it is NOT sustainable as your primary focus: after the fun is over, your thoughts you distracted yourself with fun to avoid will inevitably come back. You CAN use this as an effective supplement to your happiness, and in so doing you should refer to your "What Makes Me Happy" list we previously described to provide you with the maximal
  4. State of Suffering: focusing your thoughts on negativity, because your expectations do not meet reality. Physical pain goes away when we are no longer unsafe; emotional pain, on the other hand, only goes away when you stop thinking about the past pain
  5. State of Confusion: falling below the clarity of thought because you are strongly affected by illusions. This state is exemplified by always thinking something is wrong- when we are so distracted by our own illusions of suffering that we can't even see when our expectations meet reality, blinding ourselves from happiness when it is actually happening!

We most often associate "happiness" with the state of escape- but as we described, that is just a supplement to assist in achieving true happiness.

In order to advance our state of thought to one that promotes true happiness, we must be aware of the things that are holding us back from making that happen. Of all the reasons, there are specifically 6 illusions that get in our way of progressing in our pursuit: the six grand illusions.


The 6 Grand Illusions

 

  1. The Illusion of Thought: you are NOT the thoughts inside your head! Re-read that and let it sink in- it is simple, but vey powerful and freeing. It's not, "I think, therefore I am", instead it is "I am, therefore I think." Here is a liberating fact about thoughts: you neither have to obey NOR even listen to your brain. That is, if you don't like a thought, try asking your brain for a different one- it really is that simple! Useless thinking is that incessant makes us suffer and has no impact on the world. Again, it is just as easy to be happy as it us to be unhappy- the difference is what you are thinking about.
  2. The Illusion of Self: you are not your physical body, ego or title. Not are you defined by your emotions, beliefs, name, tribe, family, or achievements. You are simply the observer, the person who sees and experiences all the things of life. Nothing happens for you, nothing happens against you- everything just happens! Positive emotions are all anchored in the present (love, compassion), while negative emotions are anchored in the past and future (regret, guilt, fear, worry). Solution? Live in the moment!
  3. The Illusion of Knowledge: real knowledge is knowing the extent of one's own ignorance- we never really "know" anything for sure.
  4. The Illusion of Time: time does not move, YOU move through time! More than 70% of the world keeps track of time based on events ~ Events-Based Time. Consider this: when you are on vacation or in deep conversation with someone you care about, time "flies by", but when you are doing a boring task you detest, "time stands still." There is no difference in the actual time that passes by, only your perception!
  5. The Illusion of Control: the only thing you have control over are your actions and your attitude- everything else is beyond your control. Understanding this- and acknowledging what IS under our control and what is NOT- will lead you to a state of efficiency and joy. If you live your life thinking that you have control over everything, you are doomed to a life of missed expectations, and therefore, unhappiness.
  6. The Illusion of Fear: there is no 'safe model'- the harder you try, the more you will fail. THAT IS OK! Fear itself is a conditional response, which in most cases, is highly exaggerated compared to the actual danger it is signaling. Fear and ruminating on a worrisome topic only persists if you let it persist!

Once we have an awareness to the six grand illusions shifting our focus away from what can truly make us happy, we also have to become aware of the seven blind spots that our own psyche naturally has to avoid them from keeping us away from our own happiness.

The 7 Blind Spots

Our biological brains have a tendency to focus on the negative, because in our primitive days, this kept us alive from threats of predators and peril. Today, we don't live own the same circumstances, but these tendencies remain! Here is a listing of what exactly they are, and how we can overcome them:

  1. Filters: our brain naturally filters out the good things and shifts focus to the negative or potential threats. Focusing on the doom and gloom all of the time will surely lead to unhappiness! Being aware that our brain ignores what it deems unnecessary will enable us to break this habit and avoid this blindspot.
  2. Assumptions: in line with the first blind spot, as a survival mechanism our brain assumes the worst in most cases as a way to prepare us should it occur. It can automatically view our assumptions as facts.
  3. Predictions: all too often our predictions are wrong, and can lead us to unintended/undesirable futures.
  4. Memories: while we may believe them to be true, memories serve as our personal record of what we think happened- but these are not the whole story. And as we know, working on these partial facts can get us into trouble.
  5. Labels: we quickly label events or people as a protective mechanism, without knowing all the facts.
  6. Emotions: our brain's tendency to use our emotions rather than our logic- acting on emotion can cloud our judgement
  7. Exaggeration: the severity of what we experience can tend to be over the top in order to fit our preconceived notions of reality. This can lead to false optimism and a split between expectation and reality, which we know cause is the cause of unhappiness.Being aware of these blind spots is the first step to overcoming them! Now that we have sifted through the false traps that our mind can play in keeping us from our own happiness, now let's shift to looking at what IS true by examining the five ultimate truths.


The 5 Ultimate Truths

  1. All of life is here and now. Don't worry about the past or future: live in the moment and embrace the positive emotions of the present!
  2. Change is constant. "Change is inevitable because it is allied with time, an irresistible force." Don't resist change, be grateful for the opportunities new experiences bring! By understanding this truth at the fundamental level, nothing will upset you anymore. Not being upset anymore?! Let's embrace that!
  3. Unconditional love is real. Given without expectation of anything in return, this form of love is not dependent on any circumstance happening or not happening.
  4. Death is real- we will not live forever, so that is why it is important to live your life to the fullest. Be aware of your mortality and use that as a motivator to make the most of your life!
  5. You are not that important- focus on giving to others rather than always taking for yourself. How can YOU make other lives matter more?

All of the above has been PROVEN through countless studies in research conducted by the author. Be EXCITED that you now have access the your formula for happiness!!! To summarize:

  1. Happiness is a choice. It is not dependent on your circumstances, only on YOU!
  2. Happiness is met when your reality is at the same level or better than your expectations. Unhappiness is always having high expectations that are never met.
  3. To get out of unhappiness, you must eliminate the 6 grand illusions, be aware of and avoid the 7 blind spots, and embrace the 5 ultimate truths

I hope these steps help lay out the groundwork and offer support in your quest to become the ultimate happy pharmacist! Best wishes on your endeavors to build the life of your dreams- feel empowered that it all is up to YOU and the choices you make! Reading this article was a great first step in your action plan to make your happiness a reality 

 

Reference:

Gawdat, Mo. Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy. North Star Way, 2018.



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