Make Time for Your Bucket List

My community centre, gym and pool are busiest these first few weeks of the year.

It’s time to take up a sport, learn a new language or sign up for a course, and if you’ve enjoyed some extra calories over the holidays, you could start fresh with some healthy new habits.

My friend and med school classmate, John amazes me with his passion for lifelong learning. In recent years, he’s taken up dancing, public speaking, guitar and singing. Yesterday, he asked me what new challenges I’m planning for 2018.

We can all start with that personal Bucket List – the long or short list of incredible experiences we want to enjoy before we die but rarely get around to planning and doing.

If we’re more serious, we add them to the end of the To-do List. These are the important things we really intend to do but procrastinate. We get so caught up with all the urgent activities that occupy each day and week that after another year, many of the same items remain on that ever lengthening list. Sometimes, feeling guilty, we just give up and cross them off.

A proven strategy to eliminate the To-do List and accomplish the top ten of the Bucket List is to use the calendar. We can’t wait for a lottery win or retirement to find the time to accomplish what our hearts desire. We have to set a date, schedule the time and do what it takes to make things happen.

So what will you do with this year – and the precious time of your life?

Begin with your values and where you find meaning.

To make this hit home, consider the hopefully distant future when you are lying down for your last nap or last sleep from which you will never awaken. Looking back on your life, ask: What did I enjoy the most? For what am I most grateful? What would I want to do at least one more time? With whom? What have I always wanted to do but always put off because I didn’t have the time or courage?

And very finally, ask yourself: How would I like to be remembered? Where did I commit my time and energy? When I am gone, what will be my legacy?

If it is a legacy of love and caring in which what you have given will be given forward to others in the future, that indeed would be gratifying.

So I’ll share John’s challenge with you. Make the most of this precious time of your life.

What are your greatest values? What do you need to do? Will you move it from the Bucket and To-Do Lists to your calendar this year?

Tapestry TalkTo buy yourself more time and delay the likelihood that your final big snooze will be anytime soon, make your health a priority. Life can be unpredictable but of the things under your control, the best predictors of your future health are the habits you practice today. I call them the four foundations of self-care: healthy eating (everything you put into your body including food and non-food substances), healthy physical activity, healthy relationships and emotional wellbeing.

I’ll be continuing my free public talks to help you with your own self-care. The Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s Empowering Patients health education program will soon be expanding in different languages. Check our website for updates, access to practical health information and our YouTube videos https://www.divisionsbc.ca/burnaby/empoweringpatients.

Dr. Davidicus Wong will be giving a free public talk, What You Should Know About Diabetes at the Tommy Douglas Branch of the Burnaby Public Library at 7311 Kingsway (near Edmonds) at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, January 16th, 2018. To reserve your spot, register in person, by phone (604 522 3971) or online https://www.bpl.bc.ca/events/what-you-should-know-about-diabetes. For more on achieving your positive potential in life, read his blog at davidicuswong.wordpress.com.

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Posted in Burnaby Division of Family Practice, Empowering Healthcare, Positive Change, Positive Potential, Procrastination, Your Calling, Your Goals | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

With Each New Year, Review the Old One

When we’re young, New Year’s Eve is another good reason to have a party but as we age, it may no longer seem such a big deal – just another night signifying the passage of time. The new calendar can just signify the passage of time.

This Christmas, one of my favourite families of patients gave me an hourglass. For those of you too young to have ever owned a watch (because your phone always tells you the time), the hourglass was once the timepiece of choice between the sundial and the clock.

The hourglass vividly illustrates the unstoppable flow of time as the grains of sand stream from the upper to lower spheres. It reminds me of the power of gravity and time. Older patients referring to changes in their skin and body contours often ask, “Is this due to age?” I comfort them, telling them, “It’s due to sunshine and gravity . . . over time.”

At some point in your life – well, midlife, you will notice that the sand in the upper sphere has become ever smaller in proportion to the mound in the sphere of past time. You have lived most of your life, and the years ahead are numbered.

When we’re young, we are energized by our dreams. It seems we have unlimited time to achieve them. As we age, time seems to move more quickly. It really doesn’t.

Time becomes more precious. We must use what remains more wisely.

We create the list – the bucket list – the places we’d love to see, the activities we’ve always wanted to do and the crucial words we must say. We long to become the person we were each meant to be.

When I became a parent, I started a New Year’s tradition. With three busy children, we recorded on our kitchen calendar the schedule for school, sports, music and dance lessons, dinners, shows and other family events.

Before tossing out the old calendar in the New Year, we would walk through its well-worn pages remembering the school concerts, movies, parties and graduations – the activities and milestones that we have lived together.

Though this is an annual tradition, I am always amazed with what we have done and how much happens in just one year.

But the passage of time – the living of our lives – is so much more than the busyness of our activities. The most important part of our year-end ritual is the reflection.

What have we learned? What did we enjoy? What did we survive? How did we help others, and how were we helped?

In answering these questions, we come to appreciate how we have endured and grown from challenging experiences. We are always learning. We may be rewarded with success but at other times, we learn from our failures and mistakes.

With gratitude, we remember who has helped us along the way – those who have been our constant companions, reminding us that we are never alone and those who have given support when it was most needed. Remembering how we have helped others, strengthens our identity as being connected to a greater whole.

Recognizing that time is precious – the hours in a day and days in a year are limited, how will we allot our time in the coming year?

What will we do more of (the activities that give the greatest value)? What should we do less (activites that bring less value)? What should we eliminate from each day’s activities (those things that give little value and are really a waste of time)? What can we create (something new that will transform our lives)?

This is your year. This is your day. What will you do with your time?

Dr. Davidicus Wong will be giving a free public talk, What You Should Know About Diabetes at the Tommy Douglas Branch of the Burnaby Public Library at 7311 Kingsway (near Edmonds) at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, January 16th, 2018. To reserve your spot, register in person, by phone (604 522 3971) or online. For more on achieving your positive potential in life, read his blog at davidicuswong.wordpress.com.P1080884

Posted in Burnaby Division of Family Practice, Empowering Healthcare, Positive Change, Positive Potential, Your Goals | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Have yourself a mindful holiday season

Christmas tree at the Edmonds Community Centre, Burnaby - Davidicus Wong

Christmas tree at the Edmonds Community Centre, Burnaby

I wonder if Santa knows how many adults dread Christmas. Mrs. Claus certainly does; she manages the North Pole and their social calendar.

We are definitely stressed by the debt of spending, the busyness of doing everything that needs to be done, checking off every item on an endless list and obligatory social events.

Unhealthy eating and excessive drinking stress the body. With others celebrating around them, those who are missing out, alone or hungry suffer even more.

Many families gather together but without the harmony of a Bing Crosby Christmas special. Instead of singing favourite Christmas carols or playing out the Nativity scene, family members sing sad and angry songs of years gone by and take on the old family roles dating back to childhood.

But we don’t have to carry through the holiday season the same old ways. There is a way to enjoy this time of the year with less stress and more joy. At the heart of all tradition is intention. Let’s celebrate more mindfully.

At each year’s end, I review the family calendar and I am amazed at all that has happened in just 12 months. This past year, my daughter started her second year at UBC. My wife and I enjoyed our longest trip away without the kids, my two sons landed positions at Amazon as software development engineers, and my oldest moved out of town.

As we act through our usual holiday traditions, we are reminded of holidays past and how our lives have changed, who is here and who is not, and how relationships evolve. We are reminded of our connections with one another in the past and present and in our exchanges of good will, our connectedness with all humanity.

When we are mindful, we appreciate that everything changes. Our lives are finite, relationships end, we grow and we grow older. All things good and bad will pass.

When I think of wish lists, I am reminded of all the things I wanted when I was younger, thinking that they would bring happiness, but craving for what we don’t have never brings lasting satisfaction. All things grow old. There is always something new or better.

There is a pervasive myth that we will be happy when we get what we want – the perfect gift or when everything is just right – the perfect life. In mindfulness, we learn to accept all things in this world just as they are. We don’t have to like everything but we have to accept reality and what we can’t change. We can still work to improve our lives, our relationships and our world.

We can love our selves and one another just as we are: imperfect and human.

You can forever pursue happiness by wanting what you don’t have, or you can appreciate what you have and be happy today. What we take for granted today is what we will miss tomorrow.

This will be our 15th Christmas without my mom, but instead of feeling blue, I’ll remember how she celebrated the holidays better than anyone I’ve ever known. She infused an unmatched depth of love and thought into each card she wrote, present wrapped, meal prepared and hug given.

She inspired me to pass the same love forward in all that I do.

This year, have yourself a mindful holiday season. Be present for every moment for it will come and go too fast.

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician in Burnaby, British Columbia. His Healthwise columns appear regularly in the Burnaby Now, Vancouver Courier and Richmond News. 

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The Healing Power of Gratitude

My dad was born during the Great Depression in Cumberland, near Courtney and Comox on Vancouver Island. He lost his father in early childhood, and his mother was left with six children to raise on her own. Though she was uneducated, my dad remembers her as being very good with her hands, a skilled chef and seamstress. She managed to make ends meet and raise each of her children to be independent.

My dad worked throughout his childhood to support his family, finished school, studied automechanics and worked at Vancouver Motors downtown. He saved enough to go to university. When he talks about his childhood, he never complains about the prejudice he endured or the hardship his family suffered. He talks about wonderful life experiences, his lifelong friends and the kindness of so many people along the way.

He told me of one bachelor in his hometown who – whenever he saw poor children who had worn out or outgrown their shoes – would buy them new ones. I wonder if people so moved by the spirit of generosity realize the power of their acts to inspire gratitude and further acts of kindness for generations to come.

I have heard others who have come from a place of poverty, misfortune, loss and mistreatment tell quite different stories in which they remain victims; they are left with feelings of sadness, anxiety, anger or resentment.

The human brain has evolved to have a negativity bias. The negatives in our environment stand out and are remembered best. This was important for the survival of our species – to quickly recognize danger and learn from bad experiences. But in modern times, it fosters anxiety, depression and interpersonal resentment.

My father’s gracious approach to life may be the best fix for our natural negativity bias. Psychologists tell us that in order to balance out our brains’ negativity bias, we have to think of five positive observations to balance out one negative – just to come out even. So the way out of a bad mood (the natural end result of the negativity bias unchecked) is to actively search for the positive in our lives.

PCMsink

This is especially true in our relationships. If your boss or coworker has a habit that irritates you to no end (such as leaving his dishes in the sink at the end of the day for someone else to clean up), you may be able to give some constructive feedback and encourage behavioural change – or you might not. If you can’t change the situation – and you can’t leave it, you can reframe it. Think of five qualities in the other person that you like or admire. You might feel less irritable and may even work even better together.

Sink

Seeking – and expressing – the positive you see in others is even more important at home. As a parent, it’s so easy to tell our kids what they’re doing wrong or what we want them to do. If we don’t balance our words with appropriate praise or appreciation, not only will we feel more negatively towards our kids but they will see us as the constant complainers that we are. We will also be reinforcing negative self-talk that our children will carry into their adult lives.

For every negative comment to your child or partner, express five positive qualities that you appreciate. By actively searching for the positive, through the power of neuroplasticity – the ability of the brain to rewire itself by practising new habits of thought, you will see the best in others more easily. You can transform the atmosphere in your home. You will be happier and so will everyone else.

When we are thankful, we are happier. When we express thankfulness, those we appreciate are happier.

I raised my own kids to begin and end each day with a prayer of thankfulness for the blessings of life and the gifts of the day. With an attitude of gratitude, they would begin each day with their cups half full and by day’s end, their cups would overflow

Davidicus Wong is a family physician and his Healthwise columns appear regularly in the Burnaby Now and Vancouver Courier.

 

Posted in Forgiveness, Friendship, Grace, Happiness, Letting Go, Parenting, Relationships | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

What you need to know about high blood pressure

Aneroid BP

On Monday, August 21st at 7 pm, I’m presenting “What You Need to Know About High Blood Pressure” at the Tommy Douglas Metrotown Library in Burnaby. This free presentation is sponsored by the Burnaby Division of Family Practice and the Burnaby Public Library. Because seating is limited, please register by phone at 604-436-5400, in person at any branch or online at http:// http://bpl.bc.ca/events/what-you-should-know-about-high-blood-pressure-0

Do you have high blood pressure?

If you’re an adult, you have a one in five chance, and your lifetime risk for developing hypertension is 90%. Your risk may be even higher if you have a family history of high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney failure or strokes.

Blood pressure is the measurement of the pressure of blood inside your blood vessels, specifically, the brachial artery of the upper arm. A normal blood pressure of 120/80 (“120 over 80”) represents a systolic pressure of 120 mm Hg (when the heart contracts) and a diastolic pressure of 80 (when the heart relaxes).

But blood pressure is more than just a number.

High blood pressure damages the delicate inner walls of arteries throughout the body, including the kidneys, brain, heart, eyes and extremities. Over time, it contributes to atherosclerosis (narrowing of arteries), manifested as progressive kidney failure, loss of circulation to your feet and legs, dementia, loss of vision, erectile dysfunction, heart failure (weakness in the pumping of the heart) and angina (chest pain due to impaired circulation to the heart muscle).

The catastrophic end results are premature heart attacks, strokes, blindness, kidney failure requiring dialysis, amputations of toes and feet, aneurysms (the expansion and rupture of blood vessels in the chest, abdomen or brain) and end stage heart failure.

Unless you have it measured, you won’t know your blood pressure. Most people with high blood pressure feel perfectly fine. That’s why it’s recommended that all adults have their blood pressure measured “at appropriate medical visits.” I recommend at least once a year.

High blood pressure may be caused by medical conditions such as kidney disease or an overactive thyroid, by medications including ibuprofen or an unhealthy lifestyle; however, 95% of people with high blood pressure have essential hypertension that is often genetic. Blood pressure also increases with age.

White coat syndrome is a real condition wherein a person’s blood pressure is much higher when taken by a doctor or nurse than at home. For this reason, many clinics now rely on automated office blood pressure machines. The operator sets it up, leaves the room and allows the machine to take three measurements. I ask my patients to measure and record their home blood pressures with a reliable machine (that we compare to our office equipment).

If blood pressure is never high at home or work, we don’t prescribe medications. However, some people have significant rises in their blood pressures with stressful situations, including their work. If the blood pressure is high at least 8 hours/day (i.e. at work) in addition to the medical clinic, it should be treated.

I coined the term “White Collar Syndrome” when I discovered that my patient – an accountant – had the highest pressures when he was at work.

As a physician, I want my patients to maintain safe blood pressure levels and avoid long-term complications. Medications have a potent effect in lowering blood pressure but they are not addictive and don’t make the body dependent any more than before they are started.

I have many patients who have been able to reduce the doses and numbers of medications they take through major lifestyle changes. Some now have normal blood pressures without any drugs.

These potent lifestyle changes include quitting smoking, limiting or stopping alcohol, increased physical activity, weight loss (if overweight), eating more fruits and vegetables and less red meat, and limiting sodium (salt) in the diet.

On Monday, August 21st at 7 pm, I’m presenting “What You Need to Know About High Blood Pressure” at the Tommy Douglas Metrotown Library in Burnaby. This free presentation is sponsored by the Burnaby Division of Family Practice and the Burnaby Public Library. Because seating is limited, please register by phone at 604-436-5400, in person at any branch or online at http:// http://bpl.bc.ca/events/what-you-should-know-about-high-blood-pressure-0

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician. To learn more about upcoming health education events, see the BDFP website at divisionsbc.ca/burnaby.

Posted in Burnaby Division of Family Practice, Empowering Healthcare, Healthy Living, Preventive Health, Screening Tests, Self-care | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Healthy Physical Activity . . . One of the 4 Foundations of Self-Care

WWYD sign

In celebration of Burnaby’s Move for Health Day this Wednesday, May 10th, join our family doctors and community members of every age for the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s 2nd annual Walk With Your Doc.

I’ll be presenting a free talk, “We Were Made to Move” at 6:30 pm at the Confederation Community Centre. This will be followed at 7:15 pm with an easy Walk With Your Doc around the Confederation Park track. You’ll learn about the benefits of exercise, how it can improve your enjoyment of life and your ability to do everyday activities, and how you can make daily physical activity a new healthy habit. All members of the public of any age are welcome to join our team of Burnaby doctors as we walk the talk! Each participant at the walk will also get a free pedometer (while quantities last).

Burnaby WWYD 3

Most people – including patients and healthcare providers – may think of healthcare as what doctors, nurses and other allied health professionals do for you. Although it is our role to partner with you, giving you the support, knowledge and resources to make informed decisions and achieve your personal health goals, I believe the bulk of your healthcare is self-care: what you do for yourself – when we’re not watching.

The four foundations of healthy self-care are (1) healthy eating (or consumption) – what you put into your body, including alcohol, drugs and tobacco; (2) healthy physical activity, (3) emotional wellbeing and (4) healthy relationships. Think of your self-care as what you eat, what you do, how you feel and how you relate.

Regular physical activity is so essential to health that doctors will be walking the talk during the week of May 10th – the World Health Organization’s Move for Health Day.

The Doctors of BC is supporting doctors for the annual Walk With Your Doc events in communities across the province. Physicians are volunteering their time to walk and talk with their patients and other members of the community of any age.

The message is simple: physical activity is important to your health, and walking is one form of activity that most of us can do.

Over recent years, more doctors are literally writing prescriptions for exercise, and there’s even a global organization called Exercise is Medicine. A typical dose is 30 minutes of moderate exercise (such as walking) in single or divided doses 5 days a week. Of course, every prescription has to be tailored to individual preferences and conditions.

The key message is that regular exercise can be as potent as pills in preventing disease, maintaining your health, managing chronic conditions and extending your life. But some of my patients would rather pop a pill than start exercise to lower their blood pressures.

Yet you don’t have to wear running tights, cycling shorts or a swimsuit, and you don’t have to go to the gym. The variety and range of healthy physical activity is broader than formal exercise alone.

To many, exercise is a dirty word. They associate it with work, pain and the school gym classes of their childhoods.

You can reap the benefits of physical activity doing many of your regular household chores: mowing the lawn, doing the laundry, gardening, raking, mopping, sweeping and vacuuming.

All these activities get your feet moving and use big muscle groups. Watch out for marathon sessions of chores. Mowing the long grass for the first time in the spring, raking and composting can be a grueling triathlon. To avoid injuries warm up, stretch and pace yourself. Break up big jobs into smaller ones. Take breaks and stay well hydrated.

Walk whenever you can – up and down the stairs, around the block, to visit your neighbours, to run errands and get to the park. Dance to your favourite music.

To celebrate Move for Health Day in Burnaby on Wednesday, May 10th, Burnaby’s Healthy Community Partnerships Committee has organized a variety of health-related events. During the day, the school district has planned a community walk with some elementary school students and Moscrop school will have a health fair for its own students.

For all adults, we have a Community Wellness Fair from 2 to 4 pm at the Confederation Seniors Centre at 4585 Albert Street in North Burnaby. There will be great displays, people and resources to help you lead a healthy, active life.

Burnaby Parks and Recreation offers a variety of free activities at our pools and community centres throughout the day and evening. For more information check online at burnaby.ca.

I’ll be presenting a free talk, “We Were Made to Move” at 6:30 pm at the Confederation Community Centre. This will be followed at 7:15 pm with an easy Walk With Your Doc around the Confederation Park track. You’ll learn about the benefits of exercise, how it can improve your enjoyment of life and your ability to do everyday activities, and how you can make daily physical activity a new healthy habit. All members of the public of any age are welcome to join our team of Burnaby doctors as we walk the talk! Each participant at the walk will also get a free pedometer (while quantities last).

To register or learn more about the Doctors of BC’s Walk With Your Doc events in communities across the province, check walkwithyourdoc.ca.

Burnaby WWYD 1

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a Burnaby family physician.

 

Posted in Burnaby Division of Family Practice, Empowering Healthcare, Exercise, Healthy Living, patient-doctor relationship, Physical Activity, Preventive Health | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Your Story and How You See Yourself: Implications for Personal (and Global) Wellbeing

 

Tapestry Talk

On Friday, April 7th, 2017 at 7 pm, I’ll be speaking at the Vancouver Convention Centre East, 999 Canada Place in Vancouver as part of the Tapestry Foundation for Health Care’s public presentation series. My topic: Going Beyond Old Stories – Exploring, Engaging and Evolving into Our Positive Potentials.

I’ll talk about exploring your personal story and the stories of others, engaging in the understanding and unfolding of your life story, and how our understanding of self, others and life can evolve as we transform our selves and our world towards our positive potentials. See more at http://www.tapestryfoundation.ca

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

Yet most of us go through our lives as distinctly separate individuals. Siblings compete with one another (as do spouses). We begin our lives in school focused on individual achievement (or failure). In sports, we compete with an “us versus them” mindset.

Competition spreads to every part of adult life. We compete for jobs to earn more and get ahead. We compete for our homes. We fight traffic in our daily commutes. What is traffic? Other people.

We compete as we compare ourselves with others, and we judge others – just as we know others are judging us – by the clothes we wear, the cars we drive and the symbolic prestige of particular mundane items of utility – phones, shoes, purses and watches.

When we follow this mainstream way of thinking, the natural conclusion is we all lose. By the end of this life, you will lose all you have gained. Everything you have built will one day be gone, and in a few generations, your name will be forgotten. What’s the point of it all?

How you tell your personal story – how you see yourself and how you relate to other people and the rest of the world – impacts your emotional wellbeing and your capacity for enduring happiness.

The inescapable truth is this: you are not a separate, independent individual; you are a global citizen interdependent with every other person on this planet. Your wellbeing is dependent on the wellbeing of others.

The “me against the world” and “us versus them” story disconnects us from others and dehumanizes them; they become objects in the way or objects to be used. In reality, we have more in common with every other being on this planet than we realize.

We each have hopes and dreams, pain and pleasure, joys and sorrows. We experience the same range of emotions and we are all subject to illness, misfortune, aging and death. We can unconsciously adopt maladaptive core beliefs and get stuck in narrowed points of view, yet we each have the capacity to change and grow.

This recognition can awaken compassion. We share our vulnerability, and we share our responsibility.

The big problems of our society and the world will never be solved by people – and countries – looking out for themselves. As long as we see one another as separate and competing individuals, we will continue to see abuse, crime, homelessness, hunger, terrorism and war.

When more of us realize our interdependence and connection with the global community and all life on this planet, we will see the positive evolution of humanity and life on Earth. It begins with you. Together let us be the change we wish to see.

On Friday, April 7th, 2017 at 7 pm, I’ll be speaking at the Vancouver Convention Centre East, 999 Canada Place in Vancouver as part of the Tapestry Foundation for Health Care’s public presentation series. My topic: Going Beyond Old Stories – Exploring, Engaging and Evolving into Our Positive Potentials.

I’ll talk about exploring your personal story and the stories of others, engaging in the understanding and unfolding of your life story, and how our understanding of self, others and life can evolve as we transform our selves and our world towards our positive potentials. See more at http://www.tapestryfoundation.ca

Posted in Compassion, Growth, Happiness, Healthy Living, Positive Change, Positive Potential, Purpose | Tagged | Leave a comment