Berkeley Dental Laboratory - April 2020

April 2020

The Bay Area Beacon

Two Cars Later ... The Scientifically Proven Power of Gratitude www.berkeleydentallaboratory.com | 510-525-0135

Happy April! It's National Stress Awareness Month, and while I know dentists don't really need to be more aware of their stress, reevaluating my stress has always helped me reduce it. I want to acknowledge some of the job pressures associated with being a dentist and a lab owner. As a dentist, you have to juggle patient appointments, treatments, staff member concerns, and insurance claims all at the same time. The push and pull in my line of work requires extreme focus and structured days. Whether crafting the perfect crown, scheduling cases to be completed, or ensuring we meet your requested due date before we can do our personal pickup and delivery, the pace of my day is busy but not normally chaotic. It wasn't a big deal, I figured. The car had a lot of miles on it anyway, and since it was not worth it to fix or salvage, I decided to donate it and use my personal commuter car for work to do our daily pickups and deliveries. My personal car was due for registration, and before it could pass the smog test, I needed to install an expensive catalytic converter. Everything was up to date and in order, and I was waiting for my fresh registration sticker to arrive in the mail. Maybe you can see where I'm going with this ... One morning while I was commuting to work on the freeway, a Freightliner behind me didn't brake and slammed into the back of my car, totaling it. I had just lost two cars. (You could say it's been "two cars" since my last newsletter.) To top it off, the accident happened on my birthday, if you can believe it. I was pretty shocked: How did I get this unlucky? How was I going to juggle However, that changed when the company car's head gasket imploded.

getting a new car and doing all of this legal paperwork on top of doing my normal job? I had to rethink how I was going to spend my birthday celebration with my family. And while waiting for the CHP to arrive and thinking about all this, I was not sure if my tight neck was because I just sustained a serious injury from the accident. A lot of business owners deal with unexpected roadblocks all the time; maybe that's why having consistent rituals can help us so much. Every morning, when I clean up and get ready for the day, I think about all the great things in my life. I absolutely always start off thinking about my girls: my wife and four daughters. Some think it's cliché, but our neighbor, the University of California Berkeley, has done research showing that practicing gratitude is beneficial. Of the few control groups in the UC Berkeley study, the participants who practiced gratitude wrote thank you letters to people in their lives. Mailing was completely optional. They found that gratitude "unlatched" these people from negative emotions — but not because it forced them to use positive language. Surprisingly, including positive emotion words and "we" words (first-person plural words) didn't significantly improve mental health. The most significant results came for those who decreased their use of negative language. When people shifted their energy away from toxic emotions (like resentment) to grateful emotions, it became much harder to dwell on negative feelings. Though a majority of the participants in the gratitude group didn't mail their letters (over 77%), the benefits still applied. So, you don't necessarily need to gush to everybody in your life to feel the positive effects of gratitude. The study also confirmed that

gratitude's benefits don't happen overnight. It was four weeks before most participants experienced a significant improvement in their mental health. The thing is, I don't think you need to write a letter to consider the value of your life and the people in it. After the 4-car pile up, I started to think: What if my girls were in the car? It's not unusual for me to drop them off at school. I felt an overwhelming relief that they weren't and realized how lucky I really was. And in that moment, when I really thought about it, nothing else mattered. Cars are just cars, you know? I'm still in one piece, and I am still able to see my family, continue to run my business, and help my customers. All this will work out, and I'll figure out my car situation, despite all the extra work on my end. In the end, stress can obscure what's really important in our lives. It can cause even daily tasks to feel more stressful. I understand that being a dentist can be stressful. Occasionally, if an impression is taken that is slightly distorted or a shade is chosen that is not a precise match, you might worry about how the lab may respond if there is a problem. You'll have a stress- and worry-free experience with us. We will work with you and do whatever is needed to make our patients happy. The partnerships we have with our dentists are built on trust and loyalty. We stand behind our work and will always be on your side.

–Darrell Lee

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