MH23-06. Dr Greg Hammer’s Resolution to Improve Mental Well Beingness

Mental Health Awareness with Sara Troy and her guest Greg Hammer M.D, on air from February 7th

  • Why do you think the #1 resolution for 2023 is to improve mental health and well-being?
  • People are experiencing a prolonged period of chronic stress that’s unprecedented in their lifetimes.  The pandemic, global food shortages, climate uncertainty, and the war in Ukraine and ongoing threats of war all contribute to this stress.
  • Many people feel like they weren’t able to prioritize their mental health while focusing on their physical health during the pandemic.
  • Gen Z is driving the push towards prioritizing mental and emotional well-being.  They’re realizing that health is a holistic pursuit that includes the mind as well as the body.
  • What is it about winter that makes us feel more prone to anxiety, depression, and burnout?
  • Decreased sunlight lowers our vitamin D levels which can lower serotonin and can cause feelings of depression.
  • Staying indoors can also feel isolating, which can contribute to anxiety and depression.
  • “Winter Burnout” is the physical and emotional exhaustion that is caused by chronic stress over a prolonged period of time.  Over time, the above two issues and other stressors can contribute to feelings of burnout.
  • Many people struggle with feelings of anxiety, depression, and burnout during the winter.  What is the first thing that you would recommend they do?  
  • Sleep, exercise, and nutrition form the tripod that supports our physical and emotional wellbeing. Chronic stress causes a deterioration in all of these, but improving even just one leg of this tripod can begin a new trend towards overall wellness.
  • Weather permitting, get outside to increase your vitamin D levels.  Even a short walk will help.
  • Winter is an especially difficult time for mental health so practice Nonjudgment to limit self-blame and be Intentional about finding 3 minutes a day to prioritize your well-being.
  • How does just 3 minutes a day improve negative thoughts and rewire our brain?
  • The key is daily practice over time.  When you start the day by focusing on the 4 pillars of GAIN, you’ll begin to recall them in daily life and in various situations.
  • For example, you might have a difficult commute and start to get upset with other drivers.  But then you’ll remember that you promised to Intentionally choose Nonjudgment and Accept those around you and your current circumstances.  You can even be Grateful that you have a place to go and are healthy enough to travel!
  • What are the 4 pillars of the GAIN Method and how is it used in a 3-minute meditation? 
  • (Take a few deep, calming breaths before you begin)
  • G: Breathe in the Gratitude for the richness in our lives, our loved ones, and even simply being alive this day.
  • A: Accept the painful experiences we cannot change. Open our hearts and bring this pain closer and closer until we merge with it until there is no separation. We often find that the pain is less than we thought.
  • I: Use our Intention to re-wire our brains away from our negative bias and obsession with the past and future. Practice being present, which is where happiness lives.
  • N: Become more Nonjudgmental. The world around us does not have to be labeled as good or bad. This goes for the people around us and even ourselves. Dropping self-judgment is difficult, but we can learn to do this through daily practice with small, baby steps.

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Greg Hammer, MD is a Professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, pediatric intensive care physician, pediatric anesthesiologist, mindfulness expert, and the author of GAIN without Pain: The Happiness Handbook for Health Care Professionals.

A member of the Stanford WellMD initiative, Dr. Hammer is the former Chair of the Physician Wellness Task Force for the California Society of Anesthesiologists. He has been a visiting professor and lecturer on wellness at institutions worldwide and teaches GAIN to medical students, residents, and fellows at Stanford. 

Dr. Hammer’s clinical focus is in pediatric cardiac anesthesia and pediatric critical care medicine. His research is in developmental pharmacology and immunology, and he has an active laboratory with multiple ongoing studies in these areas. He has published widely on topics related to pharmacology and perioperative care of children undergoing cardiac and thoracic procedures as well as organ transplantation. Dr. Hammer is a health enthusiast and meditator, utilizing a non-duality and mindfulness-based approach, including the GAIN method.  



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