How to boost your wellbeing by managing your connections with the people in your life

It’s extraordinarily hard to remain positive and upbeat in the NHS at the moment. It’s so easy to become disheartened and to lose sight of your dreams regarding your career and your life, especially if you are surrounded by other doctors who are exhausted and have given up on their goals. 

As the saying goes “Be careful of who you listen to.” Often people are well intentioned, but their goals are often not in alignment with your own.

Negativity and stress are super-contagious. Our brains have a natural negativity bias to prepare us for possible threats. The people around us can affect our moods and in turn our wellbeing.  This is because during each interaction, we will instinctively mirror their behaviour, body language and even facial expressions.  This is thanks to our mirror neurons and our amygdala’s drive to belong and be connected to others, to fit in and be part of the “pack”. We also often mirror their emotions too, which we can internalise and take away with us thanks to transference.  So often at the end of an interaction with a colleague or a consultation with a patient we can feel many emotions.  We may feel joy, we may feel energised or we may have a heavy heart or a heartsink feeling.

If you want to sustain your medical career for the long haul, you need to prioritise looking after your wellbeing. One way of doing this is to spend as much time as possible with others who enhance our wellbeing rather than deplete it. It’s essential for our psychological wellbeing to “catch” uplifting emotions when they are around us.

The first step is to identify the type of connections you have with the people in your life. These connections are variable and will fall into the 4 categories below. 

1.     Very Wise People (VWP)

These people ignite your passions, your dreams, and your vision.  These are coaches, mentors, trusted friends, and advocates who are your cheerleaders, supporting your personal and professional growth in skills and wisdom.   These people always make a positive contribution to your world and your energy levels.  You feel inspired, lighter, and energised after spending time with them.

2.     Very Important People (VIP)

These people share your passions, dreams, and vision.  These can be close friends, partners, colleagues, or team-mates.  They offer a positive contribution to your world, and you feel energised after spending time with them. 

3.     Very Nice People (VNP)

These nice people enjoy your company however they want to benefit from it.  They are often encouraging of your passions, visions, and dreams however they do not offer you the same energy back.  Instead, they drain your energy somewhat as it is not a true two-way relationship of give and take. Have you ever had a night out and come away feeling “meh, that was ok, but I didn’t really enjoy it/that wasn’t the best night out” and wondered why? Well, this is why- you have most likely been in the company of a VNP.

4.     Very Draining People (VDP) or Energy Vampires

These people zap your energy and drain you.  Do you have one particular friend of colleague who regularly has news of a self-constructed dilemma or conflict and is in a drama triangle? These people will try and suck you into their drama triangle, to get you to solve their (unresolvable issues) and slowly drain your life energy leaving you feeling lethargic and heavy, with your mood lower than before you talked to them.

7 Top tips for Managing your Connections with the People in your Life to Boost Your Wellbeing.

1.     The first step is to identify your VWP, VIP, VNP and VDP amongst your friends and colleagues.

2.     Then it’s about making sure you are spending your time with the right balance of people in your life to feel energised. Spend more time with those who increase your energy, mood, and wellbeing- your VWP and your VIP.  These people lift you up, so see them more often and make sure you spend enough time with them!  Lean into and savour their uplifting emotions and infectious positive vibes!  These people always make you feel better than you did before speaking to or seeing them! Most doctors have this superpower and are therefore are VIP for their patients 😃

3.     Spend less time with your VNP- limit the time you spend with them as they will either do nothing for your precious energy balance or they will reduce it. You will feel a bit worse for wear after seeing them.

4.     VDP.  If you can’t cut them out of your life, reduce your physical and emotional distance.  Minimise face to face contact, reply in a top-level manner to their needy texts/emails as the chances are, no matter how much you try to help, they are unlikely to change as being in the drama triangle will bring many advantages to them.

5.     Try to replace energy sappers like VDP and VNP with energy boosters/zappers like VRP and VIP.  

6.     Join clubs and classes that attract like-minded people who are autonomous and focussed on being forward thinking and not stuck in their own drama triangle. Make friends with people who elevate you rather than those who might hold you back, bring you down or worse still, unconsciously wound you. 

7.     Set your intentions and boundaries using the phrase:

I choose to…..spend no time/less time with my VNP/VDPso that .. I can spend more time with the VIP in my life”.  

Or “I choose to spend as much time as possible with the VWP and VIP in my life so that I boost my wellbeing”.

As Rumi wisely said:

“Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames”.

This is your life and your dreams, and no one has the right to extinguish them. If some people in your life are not fanning your flames, make the choice to spend far less time with them. Instead, spend more time with the people who light you up as these very important people in your life will come round with kindling, matches, logs and an abundance of hugs when your flames start to fade. 

The good news is that happiness is super-contagious too!  Use these two simple questions to choose who to spend your time with so that you enhance your wellbeing.

Which people in your life elevate your mood?

Who sparks your flame and increases your energy?

Enjoy spending your time with these people!

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