by Carrie Jurney DVM DACVIM (Neuro)
So, in my class on the science of happiness, the first thing they do is define happiness. Sounds scientific right? To study something, we must first understand exactly what we are studying.
But, as happens occasionally in science, there are a range of definitions given by different experts. Don't believe this happens in veterinary medicine? Try to go look up exactly what that disease we called "Wobblers" is officially called. Yeah, last time I tried I found at least seven names. Anyway- I digress.
Anyway, so many of these definitions try to balance the dichotomy of meaningful behavior, and its contributions to life satisfaction with more passing pleasurable emotions and sensations. My favorite discussion of this in the course talked about Nobel prize winner Danny Kahneman's structure for understanding happiness, in which there are four types of happiness:
1) Well Being - think of this as things that contribute to meaning and life satisfaction
2) Traits - For instance, a naturally enthusiastic or cheerful person.
3) Emotion- This is a more in the moment thing- feeling joy, or other positive emotion
4) Sensation- The pleasure of sun on your skin, a hug, eating a good meal, etc.
So, the one that I'm focusing on today is meaning. I think that one is pretty accessible to me as a veterinarian. It is easy for me to find meaning in the work we do. That meaning doesn't always come with pleasant emotions or sensations. I find a lot of meaning in helping a dog walk again, but I do not particularly enjoy getting urinated on. But in the span of a lifetime, I can look back at my life and find satisfaction in that work.
And in that vein, the good people of this course gave us an exercise to do. Can you take a minute and snap a picture of something that adds meaning to your life? Your pets? Your kids? Your business? Your family? A hobby? Share it with us.
The Admin Team of NOMV is a group of veterinarians dedicated to improving veterinary mental health.