In veterinary medicine, we are seeing more and more issues surrounding our quest for feeling fulfilled. We hear about unrealistic expectations, work/life balance, compassion fatigue, burn out and depression. These are all very real and tangible issues in the field. The issues all stem from a lack of feeling happiness and fulfillment in our lives. We are seeing a shift for the repeated need for instant gratification. These things used to come from building a dynamic with your team or praise from our clients.

Now we don’t have to work as hard for it.  Have questions about a case? Put it on the VIN message boards. We have drug calculation apps on our phones which sit nestled in our scrub pockets. We join online groups to talk about work when we aren’t even at work. Friends message us on our day off to ask why Fluffy doesn’t want to eat her breakfast this morning.  All these stimuli come with their own little ding or zap to get our attention and alert our brains that we are important and someone, somewhere is thinking of us.

In a profession where we have only so many hours in a day, using and participating in social media is a way to connect or feel connected almost immediately. We use it to plan our day, put lunch money on our child’s school account, schedule our appointments, reconnect with old friends and network with our colleagues. By using it we feel efficient, productive and at times loved. Why do our devices, social media and the endless access to information control us so?  Well for starters, it’s easy. Most of us have one if not two devices that channel us into a world outside of our own. We are busy professionals and it’s become far easier to send off an email, text or generate a memo than it is to sit down and have a conversation with another human being.  Especially when we have been talking to clients or coworkers all day.

Often after a busy day in the clinic, I retreat to my desk to get some quiet and not have to speak to someone for a little bit. Instead of listening to the silence or watching the sunset, my phone is in my hand. I am still bombarding myself with stimuli. I tell myself I am catching up on current events. Then I read the comments on a news article and leave feeling possibly more drained then when I started. Sometimes having endless information at your fingertips, doesn’t  allow us to decompress. A word to the wise, never read the comments folks. After a rough day, a comment thread on even the most insightful story can be a direct portal to hell or at least make you consider checking into a mental facility.

Why do we feel so drained with the world in our hands? Let’s talk about dopamine! Because science, right?! As those involved in the medical profession, many of us heard stories about rats who would intentionally get zapped to revel in the glow of dopamine release. Humans aren’t so different from rats, some so similar, they prompt my retreat to my deck….. I digress. Humans have the same basic urge to find pleasure and ride the dopamine wave. In these modern times with a barrage of notifications, texts, emails and friend requests we create a heightened release of dopamine. Dopamine triggers the reward system in our brain which then causes us to repeat these behaviors to continue to seek happiness and pleasure.

Instant gratification for a profession that is busy, fast paced, to the point and needs answers now. Excessive social media use can create excess release of dopamine which can result in a reduction of dopamine transporters in the brain. Meaning the constant feel good we are seeking rewires our brain to be less happy. We are in a constant mode of seeking. Looking to feel good and validated.

The problem with living in an age of instant gratification is that we can end up stuck in a perpetual loop of searching.  We lose our patience and often find investing time in achieving a goal, finding our place at the right job or in life, even connecting with clients or coworkers to be an inconvenience.  Gratitude just doesn’t mean as much as it used to. Good things come to those who wait. Well damn it, I want it now.  The social media age has solidified that thought in many of us. Our constant quest is exhausting.

Our value isn’t measured in likes, notifications or viral tweets. It is measured on investing the time to find what makes us happy in this world. On connecting with real people. On taking joy out of a job well done and not for the instant gratification. Doing it because it is in your blood and it is your passion. Turn off your phone. Get out there and make your own happiness. The kind you can’t find on the interwebs. The kind that comes from listening to the silence and really seeing all the colors in the sunset. The kind that results from building genuine connections and investing the time in seeing those connections evolve and flourish.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the editorial team.


Jade is a licensed technician of 9 years who lives in Port Orchard, Washington. She enjoys emergency and critical cases, dentistry and creating a bond with her clients and team. During her off time she is busy keeping up with her two crazy Basenjis!