Written by Cate Collings, MD, DipABLM, FACLM
As originally published on Medscape.com
Personal testimonies are powerful but research is beginning to back it up. Results of a recent survey published in the American Journal of Health Promotion found that the more lifestyle medicine that practitioners were able to incorporate into their medical practices, the less likely they were to experience burnout. The results "suggested that increased feelings of accomplishment due to improved patient outcomes and reduced depersonalization contribute to reduced burnout."
Other leaders in the lifestyle medicine community, like Liana Lianov, MD, MPH, approach physician well-being through the field of positive psychology and the emerging field of positive health. She is the founder of the Global Positive Health Institute, where the science of positive psychology and healthy lifestyles is applied by primary care and other specialists, including lifestyle medicine practitioners, across a spectrum of care delivery settings. ACLM has a member interest group and a special committee focused on happiness science and positive psychology.
Lianov, who was also lead faculty on ACLM's "Physician & Health Professional Well-being" 5-hour CME/CNE/CPE/CE- accredited course, makes the point that while quality self-care is not consistently delineated in the health professional well-being literature, the lifestyle medicine community refers to a defined set of healthy lifestyle interventions. The types and intensity of interventions should be personalized because they depend on the clinician's circumstances, environment, background, prior experiences, culture, and personality. Well-being strategies that combine interventions based in the science of lifestyle medicine and positive health support growth and thriving in the face of — or sometimes even as a result of — the adversities we face. As Lianov puts it, "Clinician well-being is a journey, not a destination."
To be sure, a lifestyle medicine–focused commitment to self-care does not resolve the system-level obstacles we face. It can, however, transform how we respond and cope with those frustrations, help us find deeper meaning in our work, and better shine our positive healing powers onto the patients we serve. ACLM's annual conference in October has a virtual attendance option that is an excellent opportunity for unfamiliar clinicians to dip a toe in the water and find out whether lifestyle medicine appeals to them. A post-conference virtual workshop will be offered on physician and health professional well-being and how you can lead workshops on this topic in your healthcare settings. Participating in these events could very well be the first step to rediscovering the joy and purpose too often missing from our profession.