Being a healthcare professional can be stressful and I went through a phase where I questioned if what I did in the world made any difference.

I started to get discouraged, and I was headed toward a self-diagnosis of burnout. Not to mention my work in opiate addiction where the growth is so rapid, I can mentally get trapped questioning if what I offer is even worth it.

Specializing in mindfulness-based stress reduction, I took it upon myself to “know how to fix myself,” so I tried to sit more, yoga more and body scan more. After seeking advice from my own mentors, the instruction was to, “Meditate more.”

My formal mindfulness practice wasn’t working, so I revisited my original roots with mindfulness (informal practice) and found my solution in the practice of “hearing,” as taught by Jon Kabat-Zinn in  “Coming to Our Senses.” Formal practice is very important and has its place. I, however, have always been a strong advocate for the informal practices we can bring off the meditation cushion, into our waking lives and truth be told- when I don’t take the time to formally sit.

While at work, my awareness caught attention to my patients saying, “thank you,” every day, but I was brushing it off like it was nothing with a quick, “You’re welcome,” and calling in the next patient.

Using the practice of hearing, I started to capture those moments of a “thank you.” I decided I was going to be with those words fully–to pause, take a breath and linger in the moment of my gift.

Any questions of “Do I make a difference?” – the answer was always yes, but I wasn’t hearing it.  My clients were telling me, “yes, you make a difference” and they were telling me that sentiment with their “thank you.”

The practice of receiving a “thank you” is a true gift whether you are a healthcare professional or not. I now receive it from anyone and anywhere I can get it: the store clerk or my bank teller. It is a practice I offer to clients – helping them receive the gifts of their child’s laughter, of an, “I love you,” or a “You look nice today.”

These are moments in our day we tend to miss. They are moments of connection that have potential to elevate the seemingly mundane.

I have also learned to offer my, “You’re welcome,” differently, and to take a moment to put some meaning behind my words. In this way, I stay connected to what I offer in a deeper way. When I offer a “You’re welcome,” I am internally saying, “You are welcome to all that I have to offer. You are welcome to my education, knowledge, experience and to my hope for you. You are welcome to my time, my energy and all that I have to offer today.”

A mindfulness practice is much more than formal meditation sitting. Cultivating a mindful lifestyle (which flows into our clinical practice), includes informal practices such as mindful attitudes, qualities or awakening our senses. We can engage informal practices without a meditation cushion or yoga mat – where our practice is more about engaging differently with our lives and with our clients. For me, the practice was to awaken my hearing, and with that came the gift of receiving and a deeper connection to what I offer.

When someone tells you “thank you,” take a moment to look them in the eye, see them and notice what is happening before you. Acknowledge the words that have been spoken and allow the words to drop in–receiving the words inside of you. Receive it. It’s a gift.  It’s yours. You earned it in some way, shape or form.