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A Hundred Days to Happiness #31: Tough Times and Difficult People

Tinkerbell Crashlands

The dark and dull areas of my life enhance the parts that sparkle.

My natural reaction to my greatest failures, lousy luck and rude people was to be miserable myself. I might give up, withdraw or react with anger myself.

But somewhere along the way to growing up and growing older, I’ve gained a little perspective. It is the contrasts in life that give us its greatest joys.

Some of those contrasts may be neither good nor bad in isolation. A warm blanket hot out of the dryer feels so great on a cold winter day. Likewise, a cup of hot chocolate at the ice rink hits the spot. After mowing the lawn on a hot August day, a glass of ice tea and a cool breeze provide welcomed relief .

And it is people acting indifferently, dismissively or aggressively who enhance my appreciation of those who sparkle. I think you know who I’m talking about.

In each of our lives, there are people who make a big difference in the many lives they touch. They shine and sparkle like diamonds in the crowd. They do their best to make a positive difference where they can – with a cheerful smile, an encouraging word and just the way that they do more than what is expected of them.

They are the few who happily give more than they get. What they give is happiness.

Now, if everyone sparkled that way, the world would be unimaginably brighter, but we might not appreciate each of those special people quite the same. People going about their business looking after themselves at the expense of everyone else really help me enjoy the sparklers.

I’ve actually become grateful for people who are really rude because it’s made me appreciate others who make a positive difference in my life. It has almost reached the point that if someone cuts me off in traffic or honks for no good reason, I smile inwardly and say “thank you” to myself.

Instead of the more customary hand signals, I’ve been tempted to give angry drivers a thumbs up in appreciation, but I’ve held back, realizing that my happiness was not their original intent and not wanting to add fuel to their fury.

Your happiness exercise for today: Think of someone who sparkles in your life, and notice how much they stand out from the rest of the crowd.  You may be inspired to sparkle a bit yourself and tell them what a difference they make.

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Happiness Healthy Living Uncategorized

#28 Laugh Out Loud

Though we frequently text LOL (laughing out loud), I suspect that we use this acronym more often than we actually do the real thing. That’s pretty sad, and since my blog is all about happiness – in your life and in each of your days, we better do something about it.

To laugh is a pure and spontaneous way to express joy. Children laugh every day. They laugh and giggle just when they’re playing and having fun. They see the humour in the silliest things in everyday life.

Young kids don’t have to try too hard to laugh, but somehow along the journey to adulthood, most of us lose that natural, spontaneous silliness.

I don’t want to blame it on school, but when life gets too serious or rather when we take life and ourselves too seriously, humour takes a back seat and the laugh track of our daily lives is silenced.

My parents both had a terrific sense of humour and that went along with not taking themselves too seriously. I loved family meals not just because of mom’s great cooking but because of all the laughs.

We were able to laugh at ourselves. My dad loved to tell stories, but they were long and not necessarily good ones. One of us would eventually have to ask him to get to the point.

When the rest of us would reminisce about the past, my sister, the baby of the family with the most active imagination, would almost always add in the most precise details – even for events that occurred before she was born. We used to kid her about her “I remember” stories.

My brother, like my dad, was very inventive and always came up with innovative ideas and creative approaches to problems, but some of his innovations didn’t work as well as he envisioned.

My brother tried to fan the flame and speed up the cooking on our Hibachi barbeque using our Filter Queen vacuum cleaner in reverse. He managed to fry the picnic table instead.

When caught in a downpour while camping with his friends, he kept the equipment dry underneath the station wagon. He returned with a V-shaped Coleman stove that he had to hammer back into shape.

Your happiness exercise for today (and every day): Don’t let a day go by without having a good, soulful laugh. Laugh until you have tears in your eyes. If you haven’t done this for a while, try hanging around funny people.

Look for the humour in your day.

Think of the funniest things you’ve seen or experienced. Choose one so funny to you that you can’t keep from smiling just thinking about it.

Coming up: laughing at ourselves.

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Awareness Happiness Positive Change Positive Potential Uncategorized

A Hundred Days to Happiness #27: Am I moving closer or further?

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“Happiness,” said Gandhi, “is when what you say and what you do are aligned with what you believe in.” To be truly happy we must know our deepest values, discover our life’s purpose, and live accordingly.

We are all imperfectly human and we all fall short of our own ideals, and an important part of finding peace and being happy in this world is to accept those imperfections in ourselves and others.

Like life itself, in spite of imperfection, we are still beautiful and worthy of love and happiness.

When I look back, the times in my own life when I felt most unhappy were not due to the circumstances of life or the actions of others. Though I may have blamed them at the time, my happiness was not caused by bad luck, injustice or the ill will of others in my life.

The greatest unhappiness was when I didn’t act according to my deepest values – when I could have said the right thing but didn’t or when I could have made a big difference but didn’t. These were the times when I failed to achieve my potential – when I failed to seize the day and instead let opportunities slip away.

Now don’t be down on yourself just because you’ve done the same thing; we all have. It’s part of being human. We go about our days semiconscious and distracted by competing priorities. Our personal values compete with those around us, and even in our own minds, consciously and subconsciously, we have opposing motivations.

This happens so often without our awareness that we sometimes don’t realize why we may be feeling unhappy even when – for the moment – things seem to be going well on the surface. But when there is dissonance between what we say and do and what we truly believe in, we cannot shake a gnawing unease.

So it’s helpful to reflect on your greatest values and to discover your calling in life. Once you have this foundation, it can be the measure of your words and actions each day.

I practice meditation through mindful living. At times throughout the day, I pause and reflect on my inner and outer activity, asking “What am I feeling? What am I thinking? What am I doing?”

And I measure the integrity of my activity at the moment by asking, “Am I moving closer or further from my ideals, my calling and my deepest beliefs.”

This serves as a correction when I’ve strayed, and an affirmation when I’m fully aligned.

Your happiness exercise for today: Reflect upon your deepest values and your calling. Throughout the day, ask yourself, “Am I moving closer or further?”

At any time you must make a difficult decision or find yourself where you didn’t expect to be, ask the same question, “Am I moving closer or further?”  The solution may be the answer to the question, “What will bring me back into alignment with my true self and my calling?”

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Emotions Happiness stress management Uncategorized

A Hundred Days to Happiness #21: Happiness in the Face of Stress

Prague Castle
Prague Castle

 

Stress is an essential part of everyday life. In fact, we need positive stress, or what Hans Selye called eustress, to move forward, grow and achieve our potentials. My son needs that little extra help to get out of bed on a school day; otherwise, he’d be in bed all morning.

Distress, however, is from negative stress or stress that overwhelms us. This can affect us mentally and physically. It can take the form of competing demands from your work, school, home or social lives, an abusive or adversarial relationship, or situations that seem beyond your control.

We function at our best when the challenge of our activities matches our resources and abilities. An example would be the perfect job that absorbs all of your attention, engages your talents and provides you with the time and support you need.

When your abilities far exceed the task at hand, you’d be underachieving and you’d feel bored. You need enough challenge to bring out your best.

If the demands of the situation are beyond what you can manage, you experience increasing stress. A common example is a job in which you’re doing the work of two people, there’s not enough time to get everything done and you don’t even have time to take your lunch break.

Chronic mounting stress can lead to burnout. If we feel that the mounting stress is exceeding our abilities, we begin to feel helpless, and that helplessness commonly results in anxiety. We will have difficulties relaxing, sleeping and enjoying each day.

Over time, continued overwhelming stress can lead to feelings of hopelessness, and this can eventually lead to depression. At this point, we lose our motivation, enthusiasm and capacity for positive experiences. Even if we’re not teenagers, we might have difficulty just getting out of bed.

The key is the locus of control. We are most distressed and unhappy when we feel powerless in our lives – if our actions feel futile, if our dreams are repeatedly shattered, if our feelings are not acknowledged or if our voices are not heard.

This is important for teachers and parents to recognize – that we must listen carefully to hear a child’s voice.

Your happiness exercise for today:

Ask where you are on the spectrum of stress. What are the major stressors in your life and how are you coping? Are you experiencing enough challenge in school or work? Are you feeling fully engaged? Are you growing and moving forward?

Or are you feeling distressed by your situation or your workload? If you are, what aspects of the situation are under your control? What are your choices?

Categories
Compassion Empathy Happiness Love Parenting Positive Potential Purpose Uncategorized

#17 What makes your day?

A walk through Central Park, Burnaby
A walk through Central Park, Burnaby

What are the essentials of your day?

These are the things that make the difference between living fully and just living. At school or at work, are you just putting in time or having the time of your life? What makes the difference to you?

I’ve written of the three tasks I gave my kids each day as I dropped them off at school: learn something new, help someone else, and have fun. I trust their teachers in looking after the three R’s.

I emphasize the three L’s: learn, love and laugh.

At our family dinnertime (an essential of my day), each of us (mom and dad included) shares what we have learned, what kind or loving act we’ve done for someone else (as well as the great things others had done for us) and how we have had fun (What was the most enjoyable thing in our day?).

We share at least one good laugh a day (even if I have to make it at my own expense). I’m always struck by how thoughtful and kind people can be. Today, my patient brought freshly baked pudding for Chinese New Years.

I love to hear how they combine creativity with kindness, seizing an opportunity to do what they can to help someone else and make their day. That might be giving someone a hand at the moment it’s needed or just choosing the right words at the right time.

I’m glad that I have my kids to keep me accountable because it is so easy for grown-ups to forget about the three L’s. We sometimes forget that we ought to be lifelong learners and we keep on repeating the same mistakes year after year. We can get by with fewer expressions of love though we all could use more hugs, and it’s no surprise that adults have less fun and fewer laughs than most kids.

But it has a lot to do with how we look at our lives. When I drove my daughter to school one day, I reminded her how lucky she was to be a kid and to have so much fun every day.

“What do you mean?” she said. ” Grownups have a lot of fun! You get to drive real cars, you can go anywhere you want, and you can eat whatever you like.”

It’s funny how our children can teach me so much about love and laughter.

Your happiness exercise for the day:

  1. Make a list of the essentials of your day – the things that make your day and make you feel complete; the people, the activities and the experiences that bring you happiness.
  2. Before the day is over, make sure you check off every item on your list.

Have a happy day (and I really mean it)!

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You are what you eat

If you’ve ever said “I feel like a bacon double cheeseburger”, you probably forgot about the old expression, “You are what you eat.”

Too often, we reflexively eat what we crave and think of food as a means to satisfy our hunger. Over the past month, most of us have indulged in treats and feasts, and to burn off the extra pounds many will be heading to the gym. This will be a busy month at our gyms, community centres and pools.

We really are what we eat, and it’s not just the extra calories and weight that we should worry about.

If you had a car that you relied upon to safely transport your family, you wouldn’t use cheap, contaminated fuel nor would you accept inferior replacement parts. Your body is even more valuable and cells that make up your body are constantly being replaced.

The food you eat is digested and metabolized not only to provide you with the energy for the day’s activity but also to supply the building blocks for the cells that make up every organ in your body.

A healthy diet can provide you with the essential nutrients to support your immune system, prevent cancer, improve cognitive function, remain active and feel well. Significant deficiencies can result in anemia, osteoporosis (thinning of the bones and fractures) and skin conditions. Excessive salt can raise blood pressure. Unhealthy and excessive fat intake can promote heart disease. Excessive sugar can result in obesity and in some, diabetes.

My upcoming columns will review the essentials of a healthy diet and provide tips on enjoying a healthier daily lifestyle, but just to get the New Year started, take the one-week healthy eating challenge. If you don’t already do so, eat at least 5 servings of vegetables and fruit (not including juice) each day and forgo unhealthy snacks, such as potato chips, donuts, pop or fast food. Note how you feel after just one week of healthier eating.

On Friday, January 16th at 7 pm, I’ll be speaking on the topic of healthy eating at the Confederation Centre at 4585 Albert Street in North Burnaby (near the Eileen Dailly Pool and McGill Public Library).

This free presentation is sponsored by the Burnaby Division of Family Practice. Register online with lcullen@divisionsbc.ca or call Leona at (604) 259-4450.

As a family doctor, I enjoy a privileged relationship with every patient in my practice. But over recent years, the circle of concern for the average family physician has expanded. Thoughout the province, the GPSC (General Practice Service Committee) has supported the creation of non-profit organizations made up of the family physicians serving each community. The Burnaby Division of Family Practice is one such organization whose members are the family doctors of the Burnaby. Our goal is to work with the public and other stakeholders to improve primary healthcare and the health of all members of our community.

Our organization has launched the Empowered Patient public health education campaign. Our goal is to provide unbiased information to help you live a healthier life and get the most from the healthcare system.

At various venues including our community centres, schools and libraries, family physicians will be providing free public talks on a variety of practical topics. I’ve already delivered presentations on improving the patient-doctor relationship, screening tests and achieving your personal health goals.

As topics are presented, we’ve made the key practical information available on the BDFP website at divisionsbc.ca/burnaby.

Dr. Davidicus Wong is the Physician Lead of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice. To learn more about upcoming health education events, see the BDFP website at divisionsbc.ca/Burnaby.  

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Making the Most of Every Medical Visit – a free public lecture

The Burnaby Division of Family Practice presents

THE PATIENT-DOCTOR RELATIONSHIP:  MAKING THE MOST OF EVERY MEDICAL VISIT

Dr. Davidicus Wong is presenting a free public lecture on Thursday, December 18th, 2014 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Byrne Creek Secondary School  7777 – 18th Street, Burnaby.

RSVP to lcullen@divisionsbc.ca or call 604 259-4450

Dr. Wong will discuss:

  • How to work with your doctor to achieve your goals.
  • The key information you need to know about every prescription, test and treatment.
  • What you should know about your medical history.
  • Screening tests – What tests do you need and when?
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Empowering Healthcare Medical Ethics patient-doctor relationship Uncategorized

Three keys to a better hospital stay

Prague Castle
What happens if you try to run in a hospital gown (Prague Castle)

If you’re admitted to a hospital, you may lose your sense of control over your own healthcare.

You’re expected to wear a gown instead of your own clothes. Many people pop into your room unannounced, and they write notes in a chart that you can’t see. You may be given medications but not know what they are for, and sometimes, you may not know who is making decisions for you.

Yet autonomy is a cornerstone of medical ethics. Capable patients must be sufficiently informed in order to make the best decisions for their own care.

When you visit a physician, nothing is done without your consent. After listening to your concerns, asking more questions and performing an examination, the physician will offer a working diagnosis and suggest some options for investigation or treatment.

In order to make informed decisions, you need four key pieces of information: (1) the purpose or reason for the treatment or investigation, (2) the common side effects or risks, (3) the serious, including life-threatening, side effects or risks, and (4) alternatives to the proposed treatment or investigation.

Here are three keys to improving your hospital experience.

  1. Stay in control. If you are capable of understanding your situation and treatment options, you should continue to make important decisions about your care in the hospital. Ask the four key questions for any proposed treatment or investigation.

Ideally, you should express your wishes before you find yourself in the hospital. Consider writing an advanced medical directive. If you become ill or incapacitated, what types of treatment would you want? If you were no longer capable of making your own decisions, whom would you entrust to make decisions on your behalf? Discussing these issues ahead of time will make things easier for your family and will make it more likely that your wishes will be respected.

  1. Know the team. There are so many people working in the hospital that many patients don’t know who is who. It doesn’t help that many health care workers wear surgical scrubs (or “greens”) and white lab coats.

What could be easier than getting up and changing from comfy pink sleeping pajamas to comfy green pajamas? If we all did this, no one would buy pajama jeans.

You could try to read the nametags, but if you’re not sure, don’t be shy. Ask for each person’s name and their role (i.e. nurse, respiratory technician, pharmacist, dietician or doctor). If it’s a doctor, what is their specialty (i.e. internal medicine, hospitalist or surgeon)?

Most importantly, you need to know who is the “attending physician” or “most responsible physician.” This is the physician who is directing your care throughout your hospital stay. It is possible that this might change from day to day which of course is less than ideal.

  1. Set up a channel of communication with your attending physician. Some hospitals have white boards in every patient’s room indicating the plan or schedule of tests or procedures, the results of tests and the expected length of the hospital stay.

If this isn’t the case, you should have a large pad of paper at your bedside so that this information could be written down for you. You should prepare your own list of questions for your doctor. Try to find out when that doctor is expected.

Like the traveller forcing himself to stay awake on the plane so he won’t miss his meal, patients dread falling asleep and missing the doctor during daily rounds.

I’m hoping you won’t find yourself or your loved ones in the hospital any time soon, but if you do, follow these three steps to maintain control of your care.

 

 

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Compassion Friendship Happiness Love Relationships Uncategorized

What the world needs now . . . is unconditional love.

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In Homer’s Iliad, Odysseus commands his crew to tie him to his ship’s mast so that he can hear the beautiful but tempting song of the Sirens. With their ears covered, the crew has been ordered to ignore Odysseus’ demands when he is under the influence of the Sirens.

In psychiatry, a patient with bipolar disorder may request an Odysseus contract whereby he agrees to be admitted if he is manic and unable to make appropriate decisions for himself. In other words, he tells his family and doctor, “Don’t do as I say when I am not of sound mind”.

I wonder if Homer was warning us of the pitfalls of lust and love. Perhaps young people should not be allowed to marry when they are madly in love. Before they sign their lives away at the end of the wedding ceremony, they should at least produce a doctor’s note certifying that they are capable of making rational decisions.

Joseph Goldstein has called infatuation and desire the near enemy of love, and by love, I mean unconditional love – agape, metta, lovingkindness or brotherly love. The former is obsessive and possessive. It seeks to take, to hold and control. Unconditional love is giving, forgiving and letting go.

Pleasure and the satisfaction of our material wants are worldly counterfeits of true happiness. Unlike enduring happiness, they soon give way to emptiness and disappointment. So too do infatuation and desire – counterfeits of real love – give way to disappointment, disillusionment and ill will.

It’s okay to enjoy a delicious meal, a cup of coffee and a relaxing massage but don’t expect pleasure alone to give you a complete and meaningful life. It’s okay to fall in love as we all do, but that alone is not enough to sustain meaningful relationships over a lifetime.

Romantic love is a lens that creates a distorted image of another, magnifying positive qualities and blurring the rough edges that will later prickle us. Unconditional love allows you to see and accept the whole, appreciate beauty and genuinely want the best for the other.

My children have taught me how to love unconditionally. Becoming a father and holding in my arms a helpless and beautiful child who is completely dependent on parental care has helped me grow in love. As each of my children grow, stumble, fall and succeed, the most important thing that I can teach them is that I see the best in them and love them completely just as they are.

Sometimes as parents, our children may feel that our love is dependent on their innate qualities or their behaviour, and being human, egos can get in the way and we may love imperfectly. But in the end, the wellbeing of our children takes precedence over our own.

Real happiness and the meaning in our lives come from our relationships. The purpose of our lives is to accept love and learn to love more fully. We are given a lifetime.

My parents surrounded their three children with love. They saw the best in us and this inspired us to be our best, and their circle of concern extended far beyond our family.

Love is limitless. Unlike its near enemy that can only be given to few and for a limited time, our love can extend and benefit many even beyond our lifetimes.

When I think of our potential for love, I use the metaphor of the water cycle. Water is a key constituent of our bodies and we share it with the whole world. Water is excreted and evaporates from our bodies. Water condenses into clouds. It falls as rain and snow. It flows in rivers to lakes and oceans. We drink it and it sustains physical life.

Throughout our lives, we receive love in many forms from countless people. We depend on the kindness of strangers, our teachers, coaches, parents, mentors, friends, and the people of the past who have worked to create the places we live and the systems that sustain our lives.

Love is not ours to keep for our selves or share with just a few. It has been freely given to us to give out and give forward.

In your life, what gifts great or small have you received that you cannot fully give back? How are you paying this forward?

 

Categories
Burnaby Division of Family Practice Empowering Healthcare patient-doctor relationship Uncategorized

What you need to know about confidentiality and your doctor

EMR
Confidentiality is crucial to the patient-doctor relationship.

Without the assurance that whatever you tell your physician will be kept confidential, there would be no trust, and you would hold back important information that your physician may need to give you the best care and most appropriate advice.

In turn, your physician trusts that you provide all the information needed to understand your situation and make a correct diagnosis.

Physicians are taught to accept without judgment all that their patients share, including excessive drinking, smoking, the use of recreational drugs and other risky behaviour. Of course, we are rooting for them to make the best choices for their health and prepared to offer support for them to make positive changes.

Be aware however, that our profession requires us to appropriately document all important information even if you would prefer it to be “off the record.” Your medical record must be complete.

Doctors cannot reliably remember everything you tell them, and information about your history and habits impact on your risk for potentially dangerous drug interactions and serious conditions such as sleep apnea, hypertensive crises, strokes, cardiac arrhythmias and heart attacks.

In your usual medical care, who else may see some parts of your medical record?

The nurses or medical office assistants who assist your physician may access your records but are also well versed in confidentiality. They will look at those portions of your record necessary for them to perform their work. If a family member inquires on the nature of your recent visit, they will not disclose any information without your permission. In fact, they understand that they cannot even confirm with parents the recent appointments made by mature teens.

When teens are capable of making their own health decisions, doctors should have a frank discussion with the family clarifying respect for the mature child’s confidentiality and autonomy. If this is not clear, parents may continue to make inquiries about their teen’s health without permission and teens may attend a walk-in clinic instead of their family physician’s office.

Other physicians who share in your care may have access to a portion of your records. This includes the physicians who belong in your doctor’s call group, doctors who are covering when your doctor is away from the office and specialists to whom your doctor refers you.

When you are injured in a car accident or applying for insurance, you may sign a consent for the release of your medical records. You should read carefully and ensure that you understand what information has been requested.

If you are injured at work and have a Worksafe claim. Medical information pertaining to this may be released to Worksafe. The same applies to ICBC claims.

There are two cases where confidentiality may be breached without your consent. If you were suicidal or homicidal – at real risk of harming yourself or others, your physician may inform others (e.g. police, family, psychiatrists) in order to protect the life of yourself or another. The other exception is a court order – where a physician is required by law to produce your medical records.

With these facts in mind, you can trust that your physician will respect your confidentiality, and you may share crucial information about your health with confidence.

On Monday, June 2nd, I’ll be speaking at the Metrotown branch of the Burnaby Public Library on “The Patient-Doctor Relationship: making the most of each visit with your family doctor.” For more information, please phone the Metrotown branch at (604) 436-5400 or register online at http://www.bpl.bc.ca/events.

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician at PrimeCare Medical. His Healthwise column appears regularly in Now newspapers and the Vancouver Courier.