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30 Valuable Lessons I Learned by 30

I recently celebrated a milestone: my 30th birthday! I can’t help but look back and see how much I have grown. Over the last 30 years I have been to 10 countries, learned 6 languages, published a book, graduated medical school, treated thousands of patients and started my own medical practice. I’ve also been the new kid 7 times throughout 7 states and 8 moves, married, divorced, bullied, disrespected, heartbroken, felt lost, found, then lost again. Here is some wisdom I have gained through my own personal experiences and those with patients over the last 30 years of my life.

  1. Love Yourself
    Without self-appreciation you can’t have health or happiness. I can’t tell you how many patients I know who don’t take care of themselves or are depressed because of a deeply rooted low sense of self worth. Health comes from prioritizing yourself, and true happiness comes from being happy with you.
  1. You can do anything you want in life
    If you want something bad enough, with patience and hard work, you can make it happen.  If I listened to what people told me not to do, I would not have become a doctor or a blogger; 2 things which bring me the most joy. Don’t let anyone else’s doubts ruin your dreams.
  1. Health is achieved through a healthy lifestyle
    This sounds pretty intuitive, but you would be surprised at how many people think a doctor or a pill are the only ways to achieve health. The healthiest people I have ever met always ate healthy, stayed active and had a positive attitude. Everyone is capable of optimal health, but it depends on the positive choices you make to let your inherent healing abilities shine.
  1. Karma is a ….
    There is good karma and bad karma, and I’m a firm believer that whatever you do always comes back to you. So make sure to be putting out what you want to get back.
  1. No one is perfect
    We all make mistakes. Accept your imperfections or else you will never be satisfied. It’s ok to work on improving yourself, but you will constantly be disappointed without a foundation of self-appreciation. As a perfectionist, this is a difficult concept for me, however, the more I accept myself the way I am, the more I end up getting what I want out of life.
  1. Respect everyone and everything
    It doesn’t matter what people look like or what their “status” is. You never know what other people are going through. You also never know who you may have to work for one day. The Earth and the animals also deserve respect because at the end of the day we truly are all connected in some way or another.
  1. Cry
    As one of my spiritual mentors once told me, “tears are water of the soul.” I have known some people who have suppressed sadness for so long that it started affecting their physical health. We are taught to hold in our emotions and but emotions are a natural part of human life. So give yourself permission to cry once in awhile.
  1. The only way out of anything is through it
    We always want the easy way out, but with any difficulty, there are hidden lessons to be learned. Everything you are avoiding has a way of coming back in your life in one way or another. This includes difficult patterns, relationships and emotions. So cry, get angry, settle your differences, speak your truth or else you won’t be able to move forward with all the wonderful things that life has to offer.
  1. Take chances
    You won’t know if you don’t try. (I originally submitted this article to a well known website that told me it wasn’t “personal” enough. It’s personal for me and that’s what matter most, and  I feel happy to be sharing it with you.)
  1. Be grateful
    We spend a lot of time focusing on the negatives that we forget about all the positive things we have going for us. Practice gratitude and you will find more to be happy about.
  1. Forgive
    Forgiving others does not mean forgetting what they have done. It just means that you choose to let go of the negative mental association that binds you to someone else. By holding resentment, the only one who ends up suffering the most is you. Forgiveness is also something to apply to yourself. If we can be gentler with others and ourselves, the world will be a more peaceful place.
  1. YOLO (you only live once) so live in the moment
    I can’t tell you how many people I know who have developed serious health issues as a result of worrying too much. 99.9% of the time, what we worry about doesn’t come to fruition, so we are better off spending our time living and enjoying in the moment. The only time that ever matters in life is the one happening right now so make it count.
  1. Follow your heart
    If it makes you happy and doesn’t hurt anyone else, do it. Remember YOLO.
  1. Thoughts are powerful
    If you believe you are not good enough, are going to fail or will never achieve your goals, you set yourself up for a self-fulfilling prophecy. Thinking positively may seem foreign if you are used to thinking negatively, but with practice it can replace long-standing negative thought patterns, leading to a lot more positivity in your life.
  1. Fear is the root of all conflict
    The subconscious mind contains many hidden experiences that influence our perception of reality. We often react to things out of fear because something in our present is triggering something from our past. Practicing mindfulness can help us become aware of our triggers and replace fear with faith.
  1. Your outer life experience is a reflection of your inner experience
    If you don’t like something in your reality, it’s either because it’s something you haven’t accepted in yourself or it’s something you are creating. So stop blaming other people or situations. They are only there to reflect to you what is going on inside of you so that you can look within and heal. Every time I have done this, it’s amazing at how my reality shifts in the direction I want it to. You have a lot more control over your life than you may think.
  1. Today is a new day
    Nothing in life is black and white. Everyone and everything is changing, including you. Every second is a moment to improve your life, regardless of what has happened in the past.
  1. People treat you the way you treat yourself
    There are many books out there that teach you the things you have to do to make people respect you or how to “get” the guy or girl. These will only get you temporary results. Self-respect and self-esteem are the keys to being respected by others. Like Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
  1. Be your authentic self
    I laugh loudly and consider myself to be somewhat eccentric. Any time I have ever tried to be someone different I have felt unhappy. People who truly love you will accept you for who you are, and those who don’t aren’t meant to be in your life.
  1. Travel
    Traveling puts many things into perspective. It allows you to see that there are different ways of being, thinking and living that exist outside of your reality and that your problems may actually be nothing compared to your blessings.
  1. Meditate
    Meditation transformed my life. I feel calm and balanced and my weight has remained stable. Much of our stress comes from dwelling in the past and worrying about the future, so take time each day to practice being present. This can be done with focusing on your breath, practicing yoga or anything that gets you out of your mind and into the present moment.
  1. Failure is a blessing in disguise
    I have not been successful in many of my endeavors, but I have always picked myself back up and tried again. I look back at many of my “failures” and see that there was either a lesson I needed to learn, or a huge bullet I dodged without knowing it at the time.
  1. Delayed gratification and hard work go a long way
    Like with karma, what you give, you get back. Nothing in life ever comes easily. Any major accomplishment I have came with a lot of patience and hard work. Cutting corners may get you instant results, but they will always be short lived.
  1. Nature is the best medicine
    Being in nature is one of the most therapeutic ways to achieve balance. Mother Nature has a lot of healing messages for us, so take some time to sit in nature and listen.
  1. Communication is everything
    Often times, conflict comes from a lack of understanding and miscommunication, and is usually related to fear. Proper communication requires rising above our egos and having a respectful dialogue that ensures all parties’ concerns are addressed. With a little compromise, we can pave the way for a great deal of understanding.
  1. Ditch the drama
    Drama, gossip, and propaganda are all sure-fire ways to keep you hooked into a cycle of negativity. Choose positive comments and interactions and you will find that life becomes a lot less stressful.
  1. Let it go
    The less clutter we have in our life, the more simple life gets. This applies to things, people, emotions and deeply held beliefs. I moved across the country with only my personal belongings in my car. It was one of the most liberating experiences I have ever had. Remember, if something hasn’t served you in the past 6 months, it probably never will.
  1. The root of suffering is attachment
    Buddha was a very wise man. Attachment to people and things, leads to inevitable sadness with their loss. This does not mean that we shouldn’t love our family, enjoy material things or feel sadness with loss. It just means that we would benefit from not delegating our happiness to what lies outside of us. When we connect with the world of love and abundance that resides in all of us, we can practice detachment and understand the true meaning of happiness.
  1. Happiness is a choice
    Like it was noted above, true, lasting happiness does not come from a person or a thing. It comes from the choices you make to live a positive life.
  1. Healing is a lifelong journey
    I have had major breakthroughs throughout my journey of soul searching. However, something else always seems to come up, leading me to realize that we never stop learning lessons. The healing process may never end, but when you decide to work on yourself, the challenges become a lot easier to deal with. Make yourself a priority and everything else will fall into place.

40, I’m coming for you, but I’m going to enjoy the moment for now!

Don’t forget to share your valuable life lessons in the comments below!

The Universal Fire

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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.