The Secret to Healthy Living

The Karma AppleAs a family physician, I see patients of all ages and different medical backgrounds. Unfortunately, with obesity and chronic diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes on the rise, I do not see as many healthy patients seeking preventive care.

With people living longer these days, I also care for many patients who I like to call “less young.” Certain medical problems can also arise with age. Nevertheless, I have met many patients over the age of 80 who are healthy and hardly look their age. When I encounter these individuals, I always ask what their secret is, and each person has told me essentially the same thing:

“I never smoke or drank.”

“I grew up eating healthy food.”

“I always stayed active. I still exercise everyday.”

“I always try to make the best of everything.”

A patient with dementia once even told me “The Golden Rule.”

Most responses I have gotten revolve around the same theme: a wholesome diet, exercise, healthy lifestyle and a positive attitude. Not once has anyone said, “Well Doc, I just took all my pills like you told me to.”

The Real Secret to Health

When you dig deeper into these responses, you will find that there is a much more powerful force at play.

KARMA: Do good things for your body and mind, and in return you keep your body and mind healthy.

It seems so glaringly obvious, yet there are many people out there who don’t realize that their health issues are primarily caused by the choices they (knowingly or unknowingly) make. They then take pills for these self-created issues, and often in addition to not feeling better, end up experiencing more problems related to side effects from these pills.

Health is a Choice

The leading cause of death in the USA is heart disease, which continues to rise, due to an an increase in poor lifestyle choices. These lifestyle habits include smoking and alcohol use, as well as an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise, both which lead to obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol. What’s interesting is that heart disease can be reversed by adopting healthier lifestyle habits, as demonstrated by this study. In fact, according to the CDC, the most common diseases are not only the most costly, but can be prevented just by eating a healthier diet, being more physically active, moderate alcohol use and not using tobacco.

Chronic Disease

What about a positive attitude? I truly believe that happiness creates health, and that emotional health is just as important as physical health. Positivity is highly underestimated in its role in health. This great article explains the power of the mind in healing.

Regardless of what health issue(s) you are dealing with, it’s important to be aware of how you may be contributing and why? Until the root cause of illness is identified, no amount of pills or doctors is going to make you healthy.

Old Wive’s Tales

I have taken the advice of my healthy and happy older patients, and guess what? I am healthy and happy, and you can be too. It’s simple, doesn’t come in a pill bottle, and it ultimately starts with you. Remember, do to yourself as you would want done to you.

Share your secrets for health or what you have done to become healthy again in the comments below.

 

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Why Jealousy is Bad for Your Health

Jealousy is a terrible disease, get well soon.Jealousy, envy, hating, whatever you want to call it. It all implies one thing: You don’t value yourself.

Think about it. Those with money or accomplishments weren’t sitting around worried about what someone else had. They believed that they too could achieve their dreams. They didn’t knock their colleagues. They collaborated with the best for even better. No one who values themselves has the need to devalue someone else. Confident people know that no one person is better than anyone else, but that everyone has strengths and even weaknesses to bring to the table.

Jealousy works the opposite way you want it to

From Lululemon Athletica

Unfortunately jealousy is rampant. Social media is laced with nasty comments about celebrities and even non-celebrities. How many actually personally know those people? How many actually deep down wish they could have what those people have? How many could have used that time spent with hatred and negativity doing something better with their lives? Why not just take a neutral stance or be supportive of someone else’s accomplishments? Jealousy is different than preference, however. Certain pop stars (a few quickly come to mind), for example, may do things that annoy us, but even then it’s just something you let roll off your shoulders.

Unless someone personally harms us whether it be physically, mentally or emotionally, there is no reason to hate. Even in those cases, we can choose to forgive and move on and keep people out of our lives.

So how can jealousy affect one’s health? Anytime someone does not value themselves, there is a chance they may not value their health either, and in turn not take care of themselves. A lack of self-appreciation will inevitably show up in different areas of our lives, whether it be relationships, jobs, or our health. Constantly complaining about our health issues or bringing others down because of their healthy lifestyles does nothing to improve our own lives. Having a positive attitude not only creates a stress-free, emotionally/mentally healthy life, but allows us to focus on the measures we can take to create the lives we want.

Your outlook on life is a direct reflection of how much you like yourself.

From Lululemon Athletica

So anytime you feel jealous, take a step back and try to find out why you don’t believe you have the capability to have or be what you want. Don’t judge these feelings but do find the strength to shift your attitude in that moment. Whatever is within, will inevitably reflect without.

 

 

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Preview for upcoming first episode of #HealthyVibes with Dr.

Sneak Preview

 

Dr. Aunna’s first episode of #HealthVibes airs next week. What will it be about? Sign up for email updates if you haven’t already. Tune in for more…

Me and my Starbucks Soy Latte

All Years Resolutions- Part 3

Dream big and reach sky high.

Dream big and reach sky high. Me and my iced soy latte.

This post is the last in a 3 part series about why we face challenges in achieving our New Years Resolutions and how to be successful in accomplishing our goals. (See All Years Resolutions- Part 1 and All Years Resolutions- Part 2). I am a firm believer that we create our own obstacles to growth but that that we can overcome them and live an amazing life! Often the difficulty is created by our mind, rather than the task itself.

During any time of reflection we tend to look at all the “mistakes” we made. This brings up many different emotions such as not feeling capable of improving our lives or regrets as to why we let some things get to the point that they have. This is natural. If we did not have these feelings, we would not think about making any changes. It’s very important to allow ourselves to feel the emotions, but to not get stuck dwelling in regret and become angry or depressed. We tend to avoid uncomfortable feelings and repress them only for them to come up again. These negative emotions lead to us avoiding making positive changes or having the clarity to find solutions.

“Embrace that your perfection lies in the fact that you are imperfect.”

Another way we become stuck in our bad habits is by focusing on an issue and making it an even bigger issue. If you feel pressure from yourself, monitor your self- talk. Anytime you feel you have to/need to/should do something, you will likely feel resistance to it. Often wanting to change something prevents us from taking steps to change. Let go of wanting to change and start changing, NOW. Here are a few other ways we may subconsciously be sabotaging our path to success:

Self-Pity: It’s important to accept that we are responsible for our lives, so this means accepting our part in whatever we have gotten ourselves into (nobody forces us to eat unhealthy food or smoke) and to stop blaming others. So if you feel stuck in regret, it’s ok. After letting yourself feel the sadness or regret for a limited period of time, tell yourself, “I made some mistakes, I am human. I accept and forgive myself for what I did in the past. The past is in the past and I am going to pick myself back up and make positive changes.” Remember, life is filled with negatives and positives and without mistakes and failures we would not learn for the better. If we can accept that fact, life will be a lot easier.

Not wanting to change: Many people want different things but feel resistance to changes. We like easy and comfortable, but remember, insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. Change takes effort. It means stepping out of our comfort zone. Changes are only difficult if we think they will be. In order to make room for the new in our lives, we need to let go of the old. This may mean letting go of old household items, old habits, old ways of thinking, or even relationships with certain people; things we hold on to even though they are the very things that create the unhappiness we feel.

Fear of failure: Fears are self-fulfilling prophecies. If you never try, how will you know? And what happens if you do not achieve your goals? Life will go on. Learn from the experience and try again with a different approach. Remember we all make mistakes. Look at “mistakes” as learning experiences, not failures.

If you get off track, don’t be hard on yourself. Chances are you have given up and look at where it has gotten you. Pick yourself back up and try again. Never give up on yourself. You are worthy of living a happy and healthy life.

Avoid thinking that you can’t either. How will you know if you don’t try? If you have tried and could not, try changing your approach. It took Thomas Edison several times before he invented the light bulb, but imagine if he stopped trying because he didn’t think he could?

Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl

The time to start making changes to benefit your life is NOW. More posts to come on how to lose weight successfully but until then…..

ALWAYS REMEMBER THE FOLLOWING:

1. You are human

2. You (and all human beings) make mistakes and are not perfect

3. Embrace that your perfection lies in the fact that you are imperfect

4. You are worthy of a happy and healthy life

5. Make positive changes while realizing all of the above and you will start seeing some beautiful things in your life! 

All Year’s Resolutions- Part 2

From one of my faves: Lululemon Athletica

From one of my faves: Lululemon Athletica

Hello 2014! Are you still waiting until next week to start working on your resolutions? Well, why? Why have you waited for the past year? Last month I wrote in my post All Years Resolutions- Part 1 that we shouldn’t have to wait to make changes that benefit our lives. Of the 45% of Americans that make New Years Resolutions, only 8% are successful in achieving them. Chances are, many of our resolutions have been carried on from year to year. The following are some of the reasons that keep us from achieving our goals.

Unreasonable expectations: We as human beings are incredibly hard on ourselves and it does not help that we are constantly trying to be “better,” “fitter,” “richer,” etc. We constantly strive for this different version of ourselves and are never satisfied. How many of us finally reach our goal only to find something else to try to “fix?” Many of us are also striving for perfection, which is unattainable; so when we don’t achieve this we feel disappointment. (For those of you struggling with your body image, I suggest you watch this video on airbrushing in advertising). There is nothing wrong with having high standards, but make sure it is an attainable goal. I also encourage you to look at your goals from the perspective of improving meaningful attributes of your life. Instead of wanting to be a certain size or shape, think about wanting to be healthy. If you approach it this way you will achieve your goals in ways that are directed at self-respect rather than at superficial ideals. For example, wanting to be healthy rather than “hot” will help you make the choices that will eventually lead to a healthy looking body.

Wanting instant results: Certain issues did not happen overnight. We are creatures of habit so changing habits takes some time (they say it takes 21 days…) Healthy life changes should be part of a daily regimen, not to be packed into 2 months of the beginning of the year. Remember, delayed gratification is important. Let’s take weight loss, for example. While a weight loss pill may take the weight off in a short period of time, you still have not made the changes to your diet and lifestyle that will lead you to gain the weight back once you have stopped the pill.

Trying to do too much too fast: New Years Resolutions are exciting. It gives us something to talk about and something to look forward to starting off the new year. Sometimes, however, the excitement drives us to do everything at once and this can be overwhelming. This can lead to not being able to balance everything else in our lives and eventually to burn-out. This in turn leads to frustration and may prevent us from taking any more steps to making changes or moving toward our goals. Instead, focus on what you are capable of fitting into your schedule and prioritize. Cleaning the attic can probably wait. Make a daily commitment to yourself and set short term goals. Let’s take a look at some common resolutions and some examples of how to make daily changes related to each:

– Weight Loss: It’ s probably not a good idea to start P90X if you haven’t been physically active for awhile. You may either injure yourself, or feel ill afterward and hate the thought of any exercise in the future. A better option would be to start off slow with walking or light exercise to build up both endurance and strength and then gradually increase the intensity of your workout. Also get in the habit of exercising when you get home on certain days of the week. Don’t forget to choose the healthy food options on your lunch break.

This is not considered exercise

NOTE: This is not considered exercise

– Organization issues: Everyday throw away a few things you don’t need. Get in the habit of putting things away right after you use them. Clean up any messes before going to bed so that you can wake up to a fresh start!

– Debt issues: Cancel a subscription to that magazine you never read. Cook instead of eating out (this will also help with weight loss!)… who knows, with the money you save you may be able to take that dream vacation on your list after all!

These are only a few examples of little things you can do, and these changes will add up in the long term. Remember, change takes time and if we do not achieve all of our goals in one month we still have a whole year and a whole life to do so. (This does not mean putting things off however!)

ExcusesAnyone can make time for what they prioritize. TALK is cheap. The time you spend talking can be time spent doing. Avoid procrastination. Get started on your goals now. If you don’t start your exercise regimen today, when will you?

Focusing only on the outcome: Remember, it’s about the journey, not the destination. It’s important to have your goal in mind but the way there may not pan out how you expect. And if you do achieve your goal, how much satisfaction will you have if the process was tedious and stressful? Let it flow. Make it fun. Want to eat healthy? Find fun recipes or make cooking an enjoyable family affair. Are you dreading the gym? Why not join a dance fitness class or walk outside and enjoy the scenery?

The next post is about the mental and emotional obstacles that prevent us from achieving our goals. Until then I ask you, what has kept you from accomplishing your goals?

 

Aunna Pourang, MD is a board certified family physician who lives in Jacksonville, FL. It is her journey to wholeness that she learned the importance of healing the mind, body and spirit to bring true happiness and health to her life. It is through this blog she wishes to help others do the same. 

The Universal Fire

photo-23

I love meaningful song lyrics, especially ones that resonate with the heart. After listening to James Blunt’s song “Bonfire Heart,” I started thinking about the mystical notion known as L-O-V-E.

Typically, in movies and songs, love is portrayed as romantic attachment between 2 people. Love is so much more than that though. It’s when our hearts feel open when a baby is born or when we hug a close friend. It’s beauty in nature and appreciation for the moment.  It’s a smile, laughter, and prayer to our Higher Power. It’s being grateful even when we feel like our world is shattering beneath us. Love is respect, happiness, peace, forgiveness, <insert any positive word, thought, feeling, adjective, person, place, thing here because I really could go on…>

I would also argue that a spark already exists in the bonfire hearts of our souls. Some bonfires may be barely flickering underneath the damp leaves and sticks made up of sadness, resentment, regret, disease, addiction <insert all things negative here.> Many bonfires, however, are glowing with compassion, kindness, gratitude and positivity.

My point is, the fire is always present in all of us. Love is our true nature. All it takes to rekindle these inherent embers is to become aware of the ashes of negativity and to burn through them. This requires letting go of the past, forgiving ourselves and others, and treating ourselves and others with respect. It requires Love. And for those of you whose fires are blazing, keep spreading the light of your love. Love is flammable, and what you give out, you get back.

With 2014 less than 24 hours away, think of ways you can add to the spark of the bonfire hearts of yourselves, others and the world. James Blunt is right, we don’t need that much. We already have it. Have a safe and Happy New Year! – Dr. A

All Years’ Resolutions

What are your New Year’s Resolutions? The Top 10 New Years Resolutions for 2015 (Updated for 2015) revolved around, yes, you guessed it: health and happiness! During many of my patient encounters, I go over the same things about healthy diet, quitting smoking, starting an exercise regimen, etc. I hear many excuses, but for some reason, it’s during this time of the year when people start making more efforts to try to make changes. Did you know that according to the University of Scranton Journal of Psychology, in 2012, of the 45% of Americans that made New Years Resolutions, only 8% were successful in achieving them? While I do see many people making an effort at the beginning of the year, I would say that by March many people go back to their old routines.

Note: This is not considered exercise.

          Note: This is not considered exercise.

So why does this happen? There is nothing really different about the New Year except for a change in the date. So when my patients tell me they are going to start eating healthy and exercising after the holidays, I ask them, “Why not today?” Naturally the thought of a new year causes many of us to evaluate the past year and think of what we want in our lives for the next. Still, why wait and procrastinate on making changes that benefit our lives?

The following are some tips meant to help ensure your success in achieving your goals.

1. PRIORITIZE

First: Make a list of EVERYTHING you would like to work on, change, have, etc.

Second: Make a new list from the first, prioritizing the most important to the least important in terms of what you would benefit from changing sooner rather than later. Health and financial/legal issues would probably be better listed before “buy brand new car.” Also, is there anything you want to change that is ok the way it is? If so, your efforts would be better spent working on something that you would benefit from improving.

2. GRATITUDE

Take out another piece of paper and write down everything you are grateful for and proud of over the past year. It may be hard to think of things at first because we tend to focus on the negative (Read more on gratitude here). If we try hard enough, however, we will find that there is also a lot to be happy about. The “little” things such as being alive, having our family around us, having basic survival needs are important too.

Compare your lists. How do you feel when you read each list? The “resolutions” list may bring on strong emotions. There is no reason for negative emotions to be dominant over the positive ones, except for what you are focusing on. So even if this time of reflection may bring on negative feelings, make sure to think about all the great things going on as well.

3. INTENTION

It is important to be honest with yourself during this step. Review the first list and ask yourself, “Why do I want this? What benefit will it bring to my life?” and write the answer next to each item.

If there is anything on your list to try to prove something to someone else or make someone else happy, consider whether or not this is actually important to you. For example, if you want to quit smoking because everyone is telling you to do so, you will not likely be successful. I will be the first person to encourage someone to quit smoking, but I also know that most people who quit successfully do so when they are ready. They also often quit cold turkey without any medication or nicotine supplements. Unfortunately it usually takes some type of health crisis to wake some people up; nonetheless, it has to come from within. You will not feel satisfaction in achieving a goal when it is meant to seek approval from others or to make others happy.  If the other parties don’t react the way you want, then you will have spent all your time doing something for someone else and left with regrets and resentment. In the end you will not have done anything to make yourself happy.

Tune in for the rest of the related articles on ways we prevent ourselves from achieving our goals.

Share what your New Years Resolutions are in the comments below!

Celebrate Thanksgiving Everyday

Drs. Pourang Thanksgiving Day 2013 My Dad and I in St. Augustine, FL

Drs. Pourang
Thanksgiving Day 2013
My Dad and I in St. Augustine, FL

Yes, Thanksgiving was 11 days ago, and, no, I’m not talking about the feasting. I’m talking about gratitude. How often are we focusing on our blessings instead of our problems? If we stand back and look at our lives and take everything into consideration, I think we would be able to see that there are more positives than negatives. Most likely if you are reading this post, you A. Are alive, B. Know how to read, C. Have access to electricity and technology. B and C are bonuses, but if we take A away, what do our problems mean then? Think about that one when things start to get rough. It definitely puts things in perspective for me.

I am in the business of listening to people’s complaints (no complaints here, it’s part of my job and I love what I do). I have noticed that people who tend to focus on their problems, whether they be medical or personal, often create more problems, usually by making themselves more upset. There are also people on the other end of the spectrum who make the best of things and deal with the cards they are dealt. It amazes me how some people, often in the worst of financial or medical circumstances, are still so grateful for their blessings that exist aside from their problems. The only difference between these 2 groups of people is their attitude. I think gratitude is an extremely helpful tool to help with our well-being. Focusing on the negatives creates undue pressure that can really take a toll on our health, to the point where I have even sent people to the hospital because of severely high blood pressure that was related to stress.

We develop the habit of focusing on our problems and dwell on them which is why they are at the forefront of our minds. We lose sight of the fact that at every moment we are fortunate to be alive and have so many blessings that we often take for granted. I am not advocating ignoring negative feelings or thoughts because what we resist, definitely persists. Nevertheless, our problems from the past and our worries about the future have no bearing on what is going on right NOW in this moment. We often waste the present moment with negative emotions, when we could instead be appreciating it. We spend so much time dwelling on the past that we get depressed, and worrying about the future that we become anxious, that life just passes us by. We look back and regret that we didn’t enjoy the present moment which was all that we had at that time, and repeat the cycle. Believe it or not, it’s just a habit and we can change habits. It takes practice. I’m constantly finding myself thinking about the past or the future, but the more I practice being grateful and enjoying the present moment, the more it becomes second nature, and the happier I am.

The next time you find yourself focused on the negatives in your life, try to think about what is also going right. Look around you. You most likely have a job, money to survive, a home, family, and friends. There are many in the world who are not as fortunate. You could die tomorrow, but you are breathing and living right NOW. Life is a gift to be appreciated at every moment, not just one day of the year.

Dr. Aunna Pourang. Sunrise Meditation. Jacksonville Beach, FL.

What do you Really Want in Life?

Dr. Aunna Pourang. Sunrise Meditation. Jacksonville Beach, FL.If we sit down and think about this, many different things will pop into our minds. Some people may say money, some may say health, some may say a happy relationship, and most people probably want all of the above and then some. But if we examine each thing and ask why we want it, we will find that there is something deeper we long for. Let’s take why we want more money, for example. Well the truth is, we need it to some extent to survive, but often we would like more because we want the finer things in life. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to live a comfortable life or for earning money for a service or product that you have worked hard for. But why do we want the nice car or house, or in my case, designer shoes? Well, I think it’s because these things make us feel happy, at least temporarily.

My point is that everything we want in life somehow relates to us wanting to be HAPPY!

But did you know that according to the CDC, depression is the most common type of mental illness, affecting more than 26% of the U.S. adult population? This is a day and age where we could make, have and achieve almost anything we could imagine, yet it has been estimated that by the year 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of disability throughout the world. (http://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/basics.htm)

If you really think about it, how many of us can really honestly say that we feel peaceful and content? Many rich people will tell you that they are not necessarily fulfilled with the material possessions they own and many people are still lonely in relationships. If our happiness lies in something outside of ourselves such as titles, achievements, what people think of us and/ or material things, then what happens when these things get taken away? Many of us experience sadness, devastation, loneliness and many other negative feelings and reach for the next thing or person, only to repeat the cycle again. I am not saying that we should be paupers and live a life of solitude in the Himalayan Mountains. I am just saying that the external things in life are fleeting and will never make us feel the completeness that we long for.

What about having good health and well being? I will be the first to tell you that there is nothing wrong with having this. A healthy body and mind enables us to feel relaxed, expand our creativity and be able to be there for our loved ones. There is nothing wrong with having all these things in it of themselves, rather it becomes an issue when our happiness depends on them. When we NEED them.

The way to happiness is not through things or other people. The way to happiness is through you. Believe it or not, our core essence is happiness and joy. You may not feel this is the case, and many people don’t, but it is because so many of us have labeled ourselves as “not good enough” at some point in our lives and have gotten used to identifying with a negative notion of ourselves. The good news is, we also have the choice to remove that label, and shift our perspective. A perspective in which we are content with ourselves and do not need anything outside of us to fulfill us. So that the pleasures and highs in life complement our inner peace, but when things do get taken away from us we still feel OK. This is not always being positive either, because we are after all human beings, meant to experience the full range of emotions, in a balanced way of course. I love the quote by John Dryden “Beware the fury of a patient man.”

Happiness is the middle road. Getting to this point is a lot easier said than done, especially when many of us have spent so many years feeling so negative and depressed. The good news is, just as much as we can feel unhappy, we can also reach a content state as well.  There is not a specific way and each person’s journey is different. I hope to share more posts in the future on how to get there. But for now I hope this article can give you some food for thought: What do you really want in life? What does happiness mean to you?