Why I Still Believe in Santa

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We live in an age of disbelief.  In a season traditionally of reverence and celebration, in recent years some may have found under their Christmas trees, Richard Dawkins’ book,“The God Delusion” and Christopher Hitchens’ “God is Not Great (subtitled “How Religion Poisons Everything”).

At age 7, my wide-eyed daughter had been troubled by doubt.  It started after visiting Santa at the mall.  Because she hadn’t decided what she wanted for Christmas, Santa told her, “When you’ve made up your mind, tell your mom and dad.”

After that, she began entertaining conspiracy theories and doubting her own parents.  “It’s you, isn’t it,” she’d challenge me.  “You’re Santa, right?”

I explained to her that the Santa in the mall was just one of Santa’s look-alike helpers and that Santa’s local representatives are human and may misrepresent him.  I have to confess my first thought had been to sue Santa.

Why would he say such a thing?  Was he intentionally downloading his job onto parents?  Are we supposed to e-mail letters to Santa ourselves or line up at the mall again just to tell him what our kids want?

I didn’t return to the mall.  Even with the photo, I’d never be able to identify the right Santa.  They all look the same to me.

Santa’s not the problem.  Like other icons of belief, it’s the abuse of his image by individuals and organizations that confuses and misleads the world.

A child’s belief in Santa parallels cognitive, emotional and spiritual development.  To young children who understand the world in black and white terms, Santa’s an old man in a white beard who lives far away at the top of the world, watching and judging everything they do.

This version of Santa for the simple of heart and mind is a bit petty; he only gives presents to good little boys and girls. In the old days, noncompliant kids would get a lump of coal, which we now know to be carcinogenic. Authority figures such as parents and teachers sometimes leverage this simplistic understanding in order to get kids to behave.

Eventually, most children realize that life doesn’t follow such simple rules.  Some keep getting presents no matter how naughty they’ve been while many nice kids get no presents.

Like parents, commercial institutions seize the Santa image for their own purposes – in this case, to make a profit.  By so doing, they poison everything and contaminate a child’s simple faith.

Many lose faith when they don’t get what they’ve hoped and prayed for.  Commercialism has blurred the distinction between our wants and needs.  We are conditioned to crave for the latest games, toys and fashions.  In the big view of real life, we ultimately receive what we need though it may not have been what we wanted or expected.

As children mature, they scrutinize adult behaviour.  The advice to “do as I say and not as I do” convinces no one.  Many a child has lost their belief in the Tooth Fairy because of a parent’s disbelief.  Again and again, fathers are caught with their hands under their children’s pillows because they themselves could not believe she would come.

As I grew up, I realized that my conception of Santa was too limiting.  Although it’s comforting to imagine his traditional image, I knew he must be more than he appeared to be.  That chubby old man would have died from diabetes or a heart attack centuries ago.

My faith is not dependent on a fantasized image of the North Pole.  If I were to venture to the far north and find no elves, reindeer or Fortress of Solitude, my worldview would not be shattered.

I see Father Christmas all around me, here and now.  My faith is renewed when I engage in the endless exchange of kindnesses and when I witness gifts given from the heart – with special thought, in appreciation of others, and with unbridled and unconditional affection.

Christmas present is not a material thing but it is material to our daily lives.  It is the gift of the moment – what we have now and the relationships before us.  It is the potential of the past realized.  It is tomorrow’s memories in the making.

It is the recognition of the divine in our present lives – in others and in our selves.  It is the acceptance of what is – naughty and nice, faith in the good within us, and love unconditional.

In an age of disbelief, I am a believer.  My faith has been tempered by a questioning mind and emboldened by experience.

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician. His Healthwise Column appears regularly in the Burnaby Now, Richmond News and Vancouver Courier. For more on achieving your positive potential in life, read his blog at davidicuswong.wordpress.com.

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HOW to Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

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Since its debut in 1944, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” has been a bittersweet favourite of the holiday season. In the movie, Meet Me in St. Louis, Judy Garland sang it to cheer up Maureen O’Brien before the family’s plan to move to a new town.

The song evokes the mixture of emotions the holidays bring.

But how can we each find more happiness and peace in a season of stress and sometimes sadness?

1. Manage your expectations. As a kid with very specific requests for Santa, I made myself miserable on at least a few Christmases past when I didn’t get exactly what I wanted.

I soon learned that my parents and Santa didn’t always give us what we want but they knew what we really needed.

I eventually learned that the key to enjoying holidays with the people I loved was to appreciate their presence and our relationships. Presents – and the thought and care they represent – are just reflections of love.

2. Look for the light. Mankind has survived (so far) because of our brain’s negativity bias. Picking out what’s odd, wrong or dangerous, helped our ancestors survive.

But our brains still maintain this Negativity Bias. As neuropsychologist, Rick Hanson has said, our brains are Velcro for the negative and Teflon for the positive.

The Negativity Bias helps us avoid danger but makes us miserable. We emphasize what’s wrong with our lives (and other people) and dismiss the positive. Not only do we see the cup half full but we come across too critical of others.

One key to happier relationships is to look for the positive in each other and express our appreciation. We need to look for and express at least five positives for each negative just to come out even.

If we all remembered this, we’d think twice before making another negative comment.

Look for the best in your circumstances and the people around you. These include the qualities and kindnesses we take for granted – the very things we may miss looking back from the future. Are we missing out on enjoying the “good old days” while they’re still here?

The holidays are an opportunity to express our appreciation for those who make a difference in our lives. Putting into words the affection we feel may be the best gifts.

3. Make allowance for the expected challenges of the season. There will be heavy traffic, little parking, long lineups, items out of stock and lots of Christmas music. We are part of the traffic and the crowds; we’re all in this together. Strike up a friendly conversation with those in line with you. Bring your own playlist and sing along while you wait in traffic.

4. Remember the three potential solutions to a challenging situation: leave it, change it or reframe it.

No one deserves abusive relationships but many need help to get away safely.

Assuming there is no abuse, before an argument has you walking out of a family dinner, might you be able to transform the situation through new ways of relating?

Wrapping and framing make a world of a difference. A good frame and border can bring out the best in a painting. Pretty wrapping can make a gift all the more special.

The most challenging people come from a place of suffering: their home. The rest of their family suffer. They have to live with themselves 24/7.

5. Define your mission.

During the holidays, we can get distracted by the busyness, mixed emotions and difficult relationships. Some of us are missing loved ones no longer with us; I miss my mother most at this time.

Some of us have no one with whom to spend the holidays. Remember them and reach out with compassion where you can.

What is your personal mission for the holidays? Getting everything done and avoid going (deeper) into debt? Just surviving? Avoiding recurring family arguments?

My wish for you this holiday season is health and happiness. May we appreciate our imperfect but lovable human selves, fully present to one another as we celebrate our connections.

Accept the unique and precious gift of this season though at first it may seem routine. Our loved ones’ most irritating quirks are the qualities we may miss when they are no longer in our lives. Love them today.

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician. His Healthwise Column appears regularly in this paper. For more on achieving your positive potential in life, read his blog at davidicuswong.wordpress.com.

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The Root Cause of the Problems of the World: A Limited Sense of Self

Tapestry Talk

What might be the root cause of the great problems of the world: poverty, homelessness, crime, violence, war, racism, discrimination, hunger and global climate change?

I contend that it is a case of mistaken identity: a false sense of self.

We each see ourselves as separate individuals – single selves distinct from other human beings, our neighbours, nature and the world. And with this illusion, we seek first what is best for our selves.

Even in our most significant relationships, discord arises with our differing views and competing needs; love and good will can be displaced by anger and resentment.

From the vantage of our separate selves, we create the illusion of the Other.

We can judge others in an instant, emphasizing differences (gender, age, body shape, colour, ethnicity and accent) with which we categorize them into groups of others.

They are then seen as competitors, enemies or threats whom we regard with fear, anger and hatred. Often we simply ignore them and treat their unmet needs and rights with apathy.

These attitudes widen the gulf between us and ultimately contribute to the problems of the world.

How can we close this gap and create a more cohesive community?

  1. We must first recognize that every human being has a personal story but also the same fundamental needs as you. We all need food, clothing, freedom, education, safe housing, meaningful activity and a sense of belonging.

We each share the same range of emotions. We all have our dreams and goals. We have all experienced disappointment, loss and heartache. We all want to be happy.

Only by seeing beyond our personal prejudices and recognizing the three-dimensional human being behind outward appearances can we foster empathy and care.

  1. We must recognize our shared connection and interdependency. None of us can survive without others. We take for granted public education, healthcare, safe streets and neighbourhoods. These are the products of the ongoing planning and work of countless individuals working for the greater good. Consider all the people who have contributed to you having food on your table – from farms to processing plants to warehouses and to stores.
  2. We must identify our shared challenges and not blame others as the enemy or the scapegoat. The problems in our community, including homelessness, hunger, injustice and crime, can only be solved with our collective creativity and collaboration.
  3. We can then begin building and strengthening our personal and social connections. This requires the support of our institutions, including our government, but it begins with each of us.

Where is the need? Who among us feels alone and needs help? What can we do together?

What is a stranger? Someone you don’t yet know.

When you are irritated by the lineups and crowds in the shopping mall or the traffic on our roads, ask yourself “What is a crowd?” and “What is traffic?” Lots of people just like you. You are part of the crowd and traffic.

When you ask “What is the world coming to?”, ask “What is the world?” You are. We are the world.

You are not just an individual. You are an integral part of a greater whole – a partnership and a family, a network of friends and a community, a part of humanity, nature and the world.

On Thursday, December 6th, 2018, I’ll be giving a free talk at the Bonsor Recreation Centre in Burnaby from 7 to 8:30 pm. The topic: The Positive Potential of Your Relationships. I’ll discuss how healthy relationship and social connections are essential to your happiness and wellbeing; the qualities of healthy relationships; recognizing and managing challenges, and how we can foster a greater sense of belonging and connectedness in our community. It’s part of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s Empowering Patients health education program. To register, email Leona at lcullen@divisionsbc.caor call (604) 259-4450.

 

 

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Your Health Depends on Your Relationships

 

Burnaby WWYD 1

What determines your health and happiness?

We know that it is much more than timely access to a good healthcare system. In the 2009 report of the Senate Subcommittee on Public Health, only 25 per cent of the health of the population was attributable to the health care system, 15 per cent was due to individual biology (i.e. genetics) and 10 per cent to environmental.

The remaining 50 per cent was due to a variety of social determinants, including poverty, work conditions, housing, diet and community factors.

One of the key determinants of physical and emotional health – and therefore, happiness itself – is our sense of belonging – our connection with our community.

Among the interesting findings of the 2013 My Health My Community survey were the responses to two questions addressing social connectedness. Only 45% of residents in metropolitan Vancouver had four or more people to confide in; 6% of residents had no one. Only 56% of metropolitan Vancouver residents felt a strong sense of community belonging. Not surprisingly, recent immigrants had lower rates of community belonging.

What can we do to nurture our social connections at a personal and community level and improve both our personal health and happiness and that of everyone in our community?

On an individual level, we could make our relationships a priority. Of course, at the end of every life, it is our relationships that were primal. Yet we all tend to take our most important relationships for granted.

Without daily care and attention, we can fall into conflict, become distant and neglect our most important partners in health and wellbeing. We spend more time and attention invested in work, school, personal goals and entertainment; they can take over our daily lives, leaving little for what and who matters most.

We must prioritize time each week and every day for the people in our lives. We must nurture positive interactions to offset our human brains’ natural negativity bias.

As neuropsychologist, Rick Hanson has said, our minds are Velcro for the bad and Teflon for the good. We hear criticisms and demands from others more loudly than affection and appreciation.

Your child, friend and partner need to hear five positive comments to balance out one negative just to come out even.

We need real – not electronic – face time with one another. Our lasting happiness has nothing to do with experiencing transient pleasures and acquiring more material things. Happiness can only be enjoyed in the moments we are fully present, connected with our lives and the people that are an integral part of it.

You are not just an individual. You are part of a greater whole – a partnership and a family, a network of friends and a community, a part of humanity, nature and the world.

We can help others feel more connected in our community by getting to know our neighbours, recognizing what we have in common and offering assistance when and where it is needed.

As a community – at work or school, in our neighbourhoods, and in our church and social groups – what are we doing and what can we do to reach out and connect with others? We are all a part of a greater whole, and we each play a role in the health and wellbeing of our community.

On Thursday, December 6th, 2018, I’ll be giving a free talk at the Bonsor Recreation Centre in Burnaby from 7 to 8:30 pm. The topic: The Positive Potential of Your Relationships. I’ll discuss how healthy relationship and social connections are essential to your happiness and wellbeing; the qualities of healthy relationships; recognizing and managing challenges, and how we can foster a sense of belonging and connectedness in our community. It’s part of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s Empowering Patients health education program. To register, email Leona at lcullen@divisionsbc.caor call (604) 259-4450.

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Keys to a Better Hospital Stay

Illnesses and accidents are unpredictable and we can’t always predict when we may end up in a hospital. Here are some tips to prepare and how to maintain a sense of control in the mysterious world of the hospital.

PREPARING FOR YOUR HOSPITAL VISIT

  1. Always wear clean underwear but don’t count on it staying clean if you’re surprised by an accident.
  2. Don’t miss an opportunity to use a washroom.
  3. Remember to wash your hands!

 

WHAT TO PACK

Essential Medical Information

  1. Your Medical History A one-page summary should include: allergies, chronic conditions, past illnesses and surgery, and family medical history
  2. Your Medicationsdrug name, dose, directions

and reason for taking it

e.g. Brand name: Tylenol

Generic name: acetaminophen

Dose: 325 mg

Directions: one tablet twice daily

Reason: for knee pain

  1. Your Preferences: An Advance Directive is a statement of what kind of medical care you would want in the event that you are unable to make your own decisions.

What procedures do you want?

What procedures do you refuse?

Under what conditions?

Who do you choose to make decisions for you?

e.g. You may not wish to have CPR (chest compressions, assisted breathing, a tube down your throat, electric paddles on the chest) if you had an irreversible, terminal condition with no hope for a return to an acceptable quality of life (by your standards).

You may not wish to be kept alive on machines if you were in a persistent coma with no hope of recovery.

TIPS:

Always plan in advance.

Talk it over with your family and friends (to avoid difficult family conflicts).

Choose someone you trust to respect your wishes.

Inform your doctor.

Put it in writing.

For more information: google “My Voice”

http://www.health.gov.bc.ca/library/publications/year/2013/MyVoice-AdvanceCarePlanningGuide.pdf

 

Comfort Items ear plugs, music, reading, word puzzles, eye mask for sleeping, toothbrush and paste, warm socks, non-slip slippers, a sweater

 

To Keep You Oriented a calendar,a quiet inexpensive clock

 

For Communication a pad of paper, pens, your glasses, hearing aid and teeth

 

What NOT to bring expensive jewelry, watches, electronics, wallets, purses, credit cards, your nicest clothes and shoes, and other prized possessions

 

Don’t bother with perfume or cologneYour neighbours may have allergies and respiratory problems

 

3 KEYS TO A BETTER HOSPITAL STAY

  1. Stay in control (and informed)

4 Things you need to know about every test, procedure and treatment

  1. The purpose or reason
  2. Common side effects or risks
  • Serious side effects or risks
  1. Alternatives (e.g. other treatments)
  2. Know your team
  3. Ask for each person’s name and role

(e.g. nurse, respiratory technician, dietician, physiotherapist, occupational therapist)

or specialty (e.g. family physician, hospitalist, surgeon, internist)

  1. Ask who is your attending or most responsible physician
  2. Set up a channel of communication

Prepare your list of questions.

Find out when your attending doctor will visit.

Key questions: What is the plan? The working diagnosis? The schedule of tests or procedures?

The results of tests? The expected day of discharge?

 

This information could be shared on a WHITE BOARD in your room or a large pad of paper at your bedside.

 

Make sure your family doctor knows you are in hospital and that hospital reports are sent to the office He or she can provide important medical information to your hospital care team

Preparing for Your Hospital Stay https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cR0qs4lY19Q&feature=youtu.be&list=PLAWTWe0JNCdHrKBo0F03pjLdDeENFrctX

Three Keys to Improving Your Hospital Stay https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1t3qDTQ48I&index=2&list=PLAWTWe0JNCdHrKBo0F03pjLdDeENFrctX

The Lonely Patient’s Guide to Hospital Land  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uu08JBbNKe8&list=PLAWTWe0JNCdHrKBo0F03pjLdDeENFrctX&index=3

 

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a physician in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

                

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What You Should Know About Diabetes

Are you at risk?

Risk factors for diabetes:

  1. Family history of diabetes
  2. A personal history of diabetes in pregnancy, polycystic ovary syndrome or metabolic syndrome
  3. Aboriginal, Hispanic, South Asian, East Asian or African descent
  4. Overweight
  5. Sedentary
  6. High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol
  7. Over 40 years of age

If you think you might be at risk, ask your doctor or take the Canadian Diabetes Risk Questionnaire (CANRISK)

http://www.diabetes.ca/take-the-test

When to test for diabetes (CDA guidelines)

Screen every 3 years in individuals over 40 years of age or at high risk using a risk calculator (e.g. CANRISK)

How do you screen for diabetes?

  1. Hemoglobin a1cover 6.5%
  2. Fasting glucoseover 7.0 mmol/L
  3. 75 gm 2 hour glucose tolerance testwith a fasting glucose over 7.0 mmol/L or

2hr glucose over 11.1 mmol/L

Know your numbers – What everyone with diabetes needs to know about their lab tests

  1. Hemoglobin a1c:reflects your average glucose level over the past 2 to 3 months; does not require fasting; not equivalent to glucose levels in mmol/L; Goal: less than 7.0% which generally corresponds to blood sugars under 7.0 mmol/L before breakfast, lunch & dinner AND under 10.0 mmol/L 2 hours after meals.
  2. LDL cholesterol: the “bad” cholesterol correlated with plaque clogging arteries;

Goal: under 2.0 mmol/L

  1. HDL cholesterol:the “good” cholesterol; reduces plaque in arteries; raised by eating fish and exercising; Goal: over 0.9 mmol/L for men and over 1.1 mmol/L for women
  2. Total cholesterol/HDL ratio:a measure cardiovascular risk; Goal: less than 4.0 mmol/L
  3. Microalbumin:a test for small amounts of protein in the urine; associated with potential early kidney disease; Goal: ACR under 2.0
  4. Blood pressure:a separate risk factor for vascular disease; Goal: under 130/80
  5. Estimated GFR:a blood test ordered as “creatinine”; a measure of kidney function; Normal: over 60

What physical examinations are important for people with diabetes?

  1. Complete Physical Examination

At least every 2 years to detect early complications

  1. Foot Examination by a Physician

Every year to check for damage to nerve sensation or circulation

Check your own feet every day for sores, injuries or infections.

  1. Eye Examination by an Optometrist or Ophthalmologist

Every 1 to 2 years to assess the retinal blood vessels 

What and how to eat for diabetes

  1. Don’t skip breakfast or eat one big meal at night!Frequent, smaller meals keep glucose levels more even.
  2. Healthy portion sizes.

Half the plate:Vegetables

¼ plate:starches (rice, potatoes, pasta)

¼ plate:lean meat, beans and other protein sources

One portion of fruit:e.g. one apple, ½ cup of berries

Avoid sugar-containing drinks

  1. Attend to the Glycemic Index (GI) a measure of the ability of a food to raise your blood sugar. Consume foods with a low GI in preference to those with a high GI

The GLYCEMIC INDEX (GI)

Low GI Foods to choose most often:

100% stone ground whole wheat

All Bran, Bran Buds

pasta, noodles

parbroiled or converted rice

sweet potato, yam, legumes

Medium GI Foods to choose more often:

whole wheat, rye, pita bread

oatmeal

couscous, brown & basmati rice

popcorn, green pea soup

 High GI Foods to choose less often:

white bread, kaiser roll, white bagel

bran flakes, corn flakes

white rice

russet potato

pretzels, french fries

soda crackers, rice cakes

(Source: The Canadian Diabetes Association) 

For more information read Rick Gallop’s book, The GI Dietor see the Canadian Diabetes Association’s website http://www.diabetes.ca/diabetes-and-you/healthy-living-resources/diet-nutrition/the-glycemic-index

 

The importance of PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

Some physical activity (such as walking or housework) after each meal will reduce after meal blood sugars

Guideline recommendation: 150 minutes of exercise/week or 30 minutes/day.

 

The Four Foundations of Self-Care

  1. What you eat(What you put into your body).
  2. What you do(physical activity and rest).
  3. How you feel(emotional wellbeing).
  4. How you connect(healthy relationships). 

Keys to Achieving Your Goals

  1. Choose wisely.A goal that matters to you.
  2. Visualize yourself having achieve your goal.Reprogram your subconscious and prime the pump for success.
  3. Break it down from supersized to manageable morsels.You’ll gain confidence with early successes.
  4. Write down the details
  5. Anticipate and prepare for roadblocks.
  6. Enlist support. Choose a coach or a teammate – your partner, friend or neighbour. Consult your family doctor.

Create the SMARTEST Goals for Yourself

Be Specific.What are you going to do? Eat more fruit and vegetables? Where and by when?

Measurable.How many fresh fruit/day? One salad every day? Two glasses of skim milk each day?

Achievable.Set realistic goals that are do-able.

Relevant.The goal has to be important to you and your health.

Time-specific.What day will you start, and when will you finish?

Evaluate.How did you do? What did you learn?

Stepping Forward. What will you do next? What will you do differently?

Together.Who will work with you next? Who will you share with?

 

Your Positive Potential

I believe that we each have a unique potential in life, and it is our duty to realize that potential and help others achieve theirs.

With knowledge, engagement and support, we can manage chronic health conditions and lives well.

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a physician in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

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The Patient-Doctor Relationship: Making the Most of Every Medical Visit

Prepare for your medical visit by:

(1) making a list of your concerns,

(2) sharing it with the staff when you call for an appointment,

(3) briefly reviewing that listat the beginningof your visit with your doctor and

(4) bring a pen and paper to write down the things you wish to remember.

 

The 4 things you should know about every medication, treatment or investigation a doctor recommends:

  1. Indication (What is it for?)
  2. What are the common risks(or side effects)?
  3. What are the major risks (or side effects)?
  4. What are the alternatives?

 

The key details you need for every drug:

  1. Indication (What is it for?)
  2. Potential Interactions (with food or other drugs)
  3. Brandname& generic name
  4. Dose (e.g. mg) and frequency (e.g. twice daily)

 

5 things you should know about your Medical History:

  1. Allergies
  2. Family History
  3. Hospitalizations, Major Illnesses, Operations
  4. Chronic Medical Conditions
  5. Medications

 

KEYS TO ACHIEVING YOUR GOALS

  1. Choose wisely.Make it a goal that matters to you.
  2. Visualize yourself having achieved your goal.Use the power of attraction to reprogram your subconscious mind and prime the pump for success.
  3. Break it down.Turn that daunting supersized goal into manageable morsels. Gain confidence with early success and progressive achievement.
  4. Write down the details.

 

SMART goals are:

Specific.What are you going to do? Cycle, swim or run? Where will you do it? When will you do it?

Measurable.How many minutes? What distance? How fast?

Achievable.Realistic goals that are do-able for you.

Relevant.The goal has to be important to you and your health.

Time-specific.What day will you start the change? When will you finish?

  1. Anticipate and prepare for roadblocks.
  2. Enlist support.Consult your family doctor, choose a coach you’ll answer to, or get a friend to join you.

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a physician in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. 

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