Making time for the little joys of life amid the bustle of medicine

“Small daily indulgences spark inspiration, spontaneity, gratitude, awe and wonder, captivating us back into the present moment,” writes Stephanie Lee, OMS IV.


In the current pace of the world we live, it may be common for our minds to move faster than our bodies, until one day we realize how far our mind has traveled away from us. As we come back to ourselves, we may feel out of alignment. This is particularly prevalent for medical students and physicians, who grapple with multiple deadlines and demands on their time.

As a med student, I’ve found that slowing down and making an effort to stay in the present moment helps me feel centered and grounded. One way I do that is by indulging in what I call my “little joys of life.” Small daily indulgences spark inspiration, spontaneity, gratitude, awe and wonder, captivating us back into the present moment.

Preserving this magic is what makes life more meaningful to me. And weaving time into my studies and rotations to indulge in joy provides greater purpose for other tasks within and outside the realm of medicine.

Below, I have shared some of my “little joys of life.” I hope that by sharing them here, they will inspire you to engage in a passion or indulgence to preserve your zest and fervor for life.

Nature walks

Throughout my time in nature, I have learned that many of our questions in life can be answered by observing Mother Earth. The perseverance of flowers budding in the spring despite rainstorms, winds and wildfires show us strength. The hard shell surrounding the little seed that must crack open to sprout one little shoot teaches us the meaning of growth in vulnerability. To maintain a hard shell over us as we move through life means we might miss the opportunity to experience our full potential, and leading with vulnerability can open many more possibilities for growth.

A flower and a bud at Ault Park in Cincinnati are shown here.

Being immersed in nature brings us closer to ourselves as we realize we also function as a small part of the entire ecosystem. In Ault Park in Cincinnati, I snapped a photo of a flower and a bud. The words that came to me in that moment were “all in its own time,” as there was a fully blossomed flower next to a flower bud that had yet to blossom. In a world of manmade timelines, we must remember that we each move at our own time and pace.

What could work for someone else may not be what’s best for you. Trust in the process.

Dancing in the rain

Yes, maybe you hear a parent or adult’s voice saying, “you could get sick,” but I absolutely love the feeling of rain on my face, dampening my clothes and then laughing at my silliness and splendid innocence. It is a rare opportunity to free yourself so much that you forget others are watching. Dancing in the rain has taught me the beauty of renewal and is worth the risk of a runny nose every once in a while.

Some days our mental health struggles more than others, but what follows are small rays of light peeking through the clouds that remind us life is not linear, giving us hope to keep going and be patient with ourselves.

Sleeping and waking up early

Have you ever woken up when the world was quiet and your neighbor’s lights were out, and you felt like you were the only one awake on this side of the Earth? Did you feel like you could do anything you ever wanted?

This feeling of creativity, confidence and empowerment stays with you throughout the day, and it has helped me move with greater intention in my studies, patient rounds, workouts and relationships.

Meditation and journaling

How often do we unpeel the layers we wear when we are finally alone? Upon entering my late 20s and early 30s, I have found greater peace and solace in solitude, as I have chosen my inner world to be my greatest love story. Often, we seek fulfillment and self-esteem through our achievements, recognitions and income, but true meaning comes from the quality of the relationship we build with ourselves, allowing us to be more present and intentional with the world around us. 

Making desserts and sweets

Lee's chocolate-covered raspberries filled with almond butter are seen here.

I fancy homemade meals over restaurant foods because I know what I am putting into my body and have been more carefully reading food labels over the past few years. Preparing food with my hands helps me appreciate nature and what it provides for us.

I recently made some chocolate-covered raspberries filled with almond butter. This refreshing treat has made my intermissions between work and studying much more enjoyable. At most, the dessert took 25 minutes to make. Wanting to spread the joy, I also shared the sweets with others in my community.

When I’m making food, my mind is fully immersed in the experience and nowhere else. This photo captures the excitement I felt after making half of the chocolate-covered raspberries and almond butter for the first time as I quickly took the photo without a care for the angle or aesthetics.

For those also interested in treating themselves (and their bellies!): Take some raspberries and compress them with a fork. Then add a pinch of almond (or any nut) butter on top. Freeze for 20 minutes. Melt your favorite chocolate and cover the frozen berries and nut butter. Place in the freezer again until you are ready to enjoy! Believe me, it is worth it.

Please share your little joys of life

I hope this has left you with some ideas for how to spend some time in between life’s demands. Please share in the comments how you stay present and come back to yourself.

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of The DO or the AOA.

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My quest for immortality: I wanted to always be around so I could take care of my brother

How I boxed my way through boards

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