Mastering Your Emotions

I will be speaking on the topic of finding inspiration on Saturday, March 3rd at Century House 620 Eighth Street, New Westminster. Century House’s annual Inspiration Day events run from 10 am to 1 pm. Tickets are $8.00 ($6.50 for Century House members). Please call 604-519-1066 for more information.

inspiration-day

Everyone wants to be happy.

While we consume much of our time, attention and energy in the pursuit of happiness, the experience of happiness may seem transient and fleeting; we may enjoy pleasure, satisfaction and even joy for a time but these feelings always fade, and we’re back on the hunt for happiness.

Although emotional health is as important as physical health, most of us haven’t been taught how to foster emotional wellbeing. We recognize when we are sad, angry, anxious or happy but we usually ascribe the cause of these emotions to our circumstances.

We are sad when we suffer a loss, angry when we are insulted, anxious when facing adversity and happy when luck comes our way. Sometimes our emotions can be so strong that they narrow our thoughts. When anxious, we overestimate the challenges before us and underestimate our ability to meet them. When depressed, we think negatively about our selves, our situation and the future. When angry, we can only see our own points of view and how we have been harmed.

Our emotions exist because they helped our ancestors survive in the primitive world of the past. They have served important functions. Sadness helps us appreciate what we value most. Anger moves us to defend our selves and our loved ones. Anxiety alerts us to potential danger.

When a situation arouses our emotions, the less evolved early mammalian areas of the brain (the limbic system) are activated, highjacking our higher cortical functions, including our thoughts. That’s why judgment can be so impaired with anger . . . or when we fall in love.

The drama of human history and our own personal narratives arise from the sea of our emotions in which we toss and turn under the apparent influence of outside forces – what happens to us by circumstance or the actions of others. And throughout history, we have sought relief outside of our selves by consuming alcohol and other mood-altering chemicals.

Today we have reached a momentous time in history. Although we see daily in the news the best and worst in human behaviour, neuropsychology has essentially unveiled the user manual for the human mind. The established therapeutic approaches of mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy have been shown to change how our brains function and help us manage our own thoughts and emotions.

In upcoming columns, I’ll share these proven strategies to tame our emotions and foster emotional wellbeing.

I’ll be speaking on the topic of Emotional Wellness on Monday, March 5th at 7 pm at the Bob Prittie Metrotown Branch of the Burnaby Public Library in a free presentation put on in partnership with the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s Empowering Patients public health education program. I’ll talk about how emotional health is as important as physical health, affecting every aspect of our lives; recognizing the symptoms of stress, anxiety, mood and other psychological conditions; key emotional health skills including emotional awareness and mindfulness, stress management and the managing of thoughts and feelings; and where to find help. Because seating is limited, please register online at www.bpl.bc.ca/events or in person at any branch. For more information, call 604-436-5400.

Davidicus Wong

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Posted in Burnaby Division of Family Practice, Emotions, Happiness, Healthy Living, mindfulness, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Screening for Adults: What Tests When?

Most adults don’t know all the screening tests they should be getting and at what age and frequency. Regardless of their presenting concerns, I take a moment to review each patient’s chart before entering the room. I’ll make sure that they’re up-to-date with any screening tests; if they’re overdue, I’ll remind them or write the req.

I’ve put together a poster of screening tests that’s easier to read than the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care website. I’ve invited my colleagues to post copies in their exam rooms to use in their consultations with patients.  Download the poster >

This morning, I ran through a summary of these tests on Global TV.

 4 minute video on Global TV

Our Burnaby Division of Family Practice put together a more detailed presentation on screening tests and important symptoms. You’ll find even more practical and unbiased health information on our Empowering Patients section on the Division’s website.

It’s important to remember that screening tests are intended for the average adult with no family history or symptoms of these conditions.

If you have a family history of colon or breast cancer, you may be at increased risk and require these or other tests much earlier and more frequently. This requires a discussion with your physician.

If you feel a lump or feel pain in part of a breast, see a physician immediately. Likewise, if you see blood in your stools.

In the Empowering Patients section of the Division’s website, you’ll find more educational videos, including my series on symptoms that may require a visit to your doctor.

https://www.divisionsbc.ca/burnaby/empoweringpatients

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician in Burnaby, B.C. He is the lead of the Empowering Patients health literacy program and a board member of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice.

 

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How Words Can Transform Your Life

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7 Mantras (Davidicus Wong)

There is power in words.

They have the power to harm or heal. They can incite an uprising or inspire a revolution. The right word at the right time can change the tone of your whole day or alter the trajectory of your life.

I grew up surrounded by books. My parents were very literate. Scrabble was a favourite family board game, and dinner conversation often centred on the correct spelling, usage and origin of particular words. My dad kept his university dictionary by the kitchen table under the fish tank.

I learned to read with the Dr. Seuss books my parents ordered by mail. As a preschooler, I would eagerly await the next monthly delivery much like online consumers today await their smiling Amazon packages.

Later my parents would subscribe to numerous magazines to satisfy our growing minds. I had already finished reading every volume of our World Book Encyclopedia many times over. The McGill branch of the Burnaby Public Library was our second home. My mom and I would reach our borrowing limits of 20 books each week.

The books I read were transformative. They opened my mind to whole new worlds of knowledge barely touched in my classes at school. I learned about the beliefs and lived experiences of people around the world and throughout history.

I was moved by the poetic mastery of great authors including Dickens, Shakespeare and Hemingway. In creative and original ways, they used words to portray the human experience. As a teenager, I was uplifted and inspired by the classic self-help books of Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, Maxwell Maltz and Wayne Dyer. Appreciating how I had been enriched and helped by these books, I imagined how wonderful it would be to inspire and help others through my own words.

We each wield potential power with the words we use. The words of our thoughts are our self-talk. They shade how we see reality – our circumstances, our lives and our relationships. They can limit or enhance how we conceive our selves and one another.

Your first thoughts in the morning can shape your mood throughout the day. So choose them carefully, and as each day unfolds, consider the impact of your words on others.

Here are some ideas to get us started each morning for the next few weeks:

Today, what can I do to make someone smile?

Finally I will express gratitude to an unsung hero in my life.

I’ll tell others how they make a difference to the world . . . and to me.

I’ll say to someone, “I’ve always admired this quality in you . . . .”

How can I make someone else’s day?

I belong here; I am a part of a greater whole.

Being young means a future of surprises, wonder and potential. Being older means having enjoyed the gift of many decades of adventure, learning and love.

Today, I will take one more step in the direction of my dreams.

I am an agent of positive change . . . in my life . . . and in my world.

Words have the power to heal or harm. What will I say today to heal another’s pain, support our relationship and lift our hearts?

I’ll be returning to the McGill branch of the Burnaby Public Library on Saturday, February 10th, 2018 at 3:30 pm to give a free talk as part of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s Empowering Patients public health education program. The title of my talk is “Healthcare is Self-Care: Achieving Your Positive Potential for Health.” I’ll talk about preventive and proactive care, the keys to a healthy lifestyle, screening tests and tips for making positive changes in your life. You can register online or at any BPL information desk. For more details, call (604) 299-8955 or online https://www.bpl.bc.ca/events/mcgill?page=2

 

 

Posted in Empowering Healthcare, Happiness, Positive Change, Positive Potential, Wisdom | Tagged , | 3 Comments

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.

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.

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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.

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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 , , | 7 Comments