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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!

Positive thinking, mindfulness, consciousness, meditation, health

Change your Thoughts. Change Your Health.

The power of positive thinking has been scientifically proven to positively impact our health. Read more at my post featured on The Mind Unleashed: Change Your Thoughts, Transform Your Health. Using The Power of Consciousness to Heal.

3 Key Steps to a Meditation Practice

 

Lao Tzu Quote

 

Feeling stressed? You aren’t the only one. In fact, statistics show that up to 77% of people in the USA report feeling physical symptoms related to stress.

All stress is created by our mind’s reactions to situations, rather than the actual situation at hand. Meditation not only helps release stress, but has been found to have many health benefits, including improving back pain and even headaches and blood pressure.

 

The number one concern people present to me when I recommend meditation is, “I just can’t get the thoughts out of my head.”

 

What is meditation?

Many people think that meditation means sitting in lotus posture chanting “OM.” Although this is one way to meditate, meditation is actually about being in the present moment.

Everyone’s true nature is peace, love and joy. It may not seem this way, but that is only because we have been accustomed to associating with our distressing thoughts and emotions. Meditating helps us get in touch with our ever-present sacred peace. Yoga, Tai chi, qigong, painting, walking in nature, and exercise are just a few examples of ways to be present.

If you are stressed and would like to relieve stress, here are 3 steps to a mindfulness meditation practice that have helped me and many others I know:

1. Believe

The number one concern people present to me when I recommend meditation is, “I just can’t get the thoughts out of my head.” If that statement isn’t a self-fulfilling prophecy, then I don’t know what is. You can “get the thoughts out of your head.” It takes practice to resonate with your sacred inner space, especially after a lifetime of identifying with your distressing thoughts and emotions.

The key is not to resist the thoughts, since that will only make them stronger. If I told you, “Don’t think about anything right now,” what happens? (Try it). Thoughts create our reality, and just as much as you are in control of reacting to negative thought patterns, you are also in control of cultivating inner peace.

 

As humans we spend much of our time “doing.” We go through the motions of life and lose touch with our true inner peace and even the not-so-peaceful parts of our existence that trouble us. 

 

2. Breathe

Our breath is what keeps us alive and helps us reach the inner peace within. It’s no wonder we disconnect from peace during times of high stress and anxiety, because it is during those times our breath becomes fragmented and shallow.

Start to practice deep breathing in a quiet place, although with time you will be able to focus even with disturbances around you. Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Feel the way your breath enters and exits your body. Sometimes it is helpful to visualize your breaths cleansing all aspects of your life, with all the negativity released through the outbreath.

Occasionally disturbing thoughts and emotions will arise, and that is OK. It is helpful to picture yourself (the true sacred peace) as the observer of these thoughts and emotions as if they are images on a movie screen. Then bring your awareness back to your breath. The more you do this, the more you will find that your mind will clear on its own.

3. Be

Meditation and being present, allows us to “be.” As humans we spend much of our time “doing.” We go through the motions of life and lose touch with our true inner peace and even the not-so-peaceful parts of our existence that trouble us. These thoughts and feelings are ones that we repress. Instead of dealing with these issues, we tend to avoid them by overworking, alcohol, food, and even projection of negativity onto situations outside of us. If we do not deal with what is troubling us, however, we will continue to face the same issues over and over again.

The only way out is through, and being present will often bring these issues to the forefront for final healing. Meditation may feel uncomfortable at times because, the painful thoughts and emotions that we are trying to let go of in the first place, are the ones that seem to persist. Don’t be startled if strong emotions wash over you. Feel the sadness, anger, pain or whatever it may be. It may even mean having to cry uncontrollably for awhile. These emotions are trapped energy and experiencing and honoring them will allow you to let go of them once and for all.

Practice makes “perfect”

Remember, it’s important not to get caught up in whether or not you are doing things “right.” This is just another way the mind creates distress. Just focusing on your breath and embracing the moment is enough. Set aside about 20-30 minutes per day to practice.

Share your tips on meditation in the comments below.

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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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

The Magic Pill

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Can I get a side of pills with that?

According to the CDC, 48.5% of Americans have taken at least one prescription drug in the past 30 days. 21.7% report taking three or more prescription drugs. Why is it then that chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure continue to increase in our population? The answer is complicated, but to keep things simple for this discussion, one main reason has to do with what I call “under-diagnosis” and “over-mistreatment.”

A “Pillemma”

Typically we go to the doctor when we experience a physical symptom, and after a few encounters and possibly some tests, we are often prescribed pills. If we are fortunate enough to afford the medication or compliant enough to take it, we may or may not experience relief of our symptoms. Oftentimes we don’t feel any better, and if anything, worse from the side effect of a pill. Then we may become disappointed that our doctor could not “fix” us.

What if there is something deeper than just the symptom we are experiencing? Let’s take a headache, for example. There are many causes for headaches, but the most common reason I encounter with patients is usually related to stress. When I examine patients with headaches, I find many of them have tense shoulder and neck muscles; hence why it is called a “tension headache.” So yes, while a pill can inhibit the pain, it still is not treating the muscle tension, which is being caused by stress!

Pills are not always the answer. Unfortunately with the limited amount of time doctors have to see patients these days, the only option is the “easy fix”, which is usually a pill. It doesn’t help that our society is always looking for this “easy fix”, so instant gratification wins, but in the end we are often back where we started. So what’s the solution, you may ask? Let’s take a look at how disease is diagnosed: Typically we see illness like this:

Disease Approach

 

We often forget that WE ARE NOT JUST A BODY. WE ARE NOT ROBOTS. Here is a more realistic diagram of a human being’s existence:

 

Holistic Approach

 

The real the dilemma our healthcare system is facing has to do with the following:

Underdiagnosis– Not addressing the whole person

Over-mistreatment- Treating only a part of the problem with a “solution” (pills) that creates more problems (side effects, death, etc.)

While pills are effective at the physical level, they do not address all of the other factors that contribute to illness. Often the underlying cause is related to something completely different than what is seen on the surface (see arrows above). I am not saying that we should all stop taking medication. Medication is effective and has a place in treatment of illness, but it is rather one of many tools to be used. Prevention is the best way to avoid illness in the first place, and many times healthy lifestyle habits are enough to heal.

How to begin healing

Until we address the underlying causes that contribute to illness, will we then find complete healing. Like in the headache example, Aleve or Tylenol can relieve pain, but so can massage and stretching. Nothing will be as effective as managing stress, however.

True health can only occur when the mind, body and spirit are integrated and healthy. It involves more than a pill and what a doctor tells you. It involves healing your body and mind. It involves honoring your emotions. It actually involves YOU. Yes, it’s complicated and takes a little more effort than a pill. But we are complicated creatures, and, in my opinion, some delayed gratification and a commitment to our well-being is well worth it for a happy and healthy life.

Share your health secrets in the comment below.

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