The year 2016 was a strange year for most. I haven’t seen as much contempt for a year amongst my peer group in my entire life.
The global events that have taken place have inspired, enraged, disappointed and enthralled but my most moving takeaways have come from our personal experiences.
These will be mostly reminders for most of you as they were for me. Each is moving in its own right and will stick with me for 2017. I hope you find benefit in reading them as well.
1) Stay hungry in your passions – you might need a reminder
I have been in full time clinical practice for a few years now and have a busy schedule with an incredible patient base. One of the many pieces of positive feedback I receive from patients is gratitude for my desire to put in extra time on their cases.
As a naturopathic doctor practicing integrative medicine I see many ill patients who have been through the conventional system without resolve. When they arrive in my office they have had extensive workups and have usually tried many therapies. My job is to treat holistically, focus on the cause and to look beyond where other medical professionals have explored. This ends up requiring additional research and time towards each case.
Staying driven isn’t always easy but in a field where the benefits are so readily apparent the motivation comes.
If your career involves helping to benefit the lives of others in any way consider your impact once in awhile.
Where are you making a difference?
Whenever I check in with myself and patients I am re-motivated.
2) Give belief a chance – practice optimism
Amy and I have practiced manifesting, positive thinking, affirmations, you name it. We have experienced the benefits of looking on the bright side. When I am working with someone who self-identifies as a pessimist I often ask them why and if it has benefited them? I am actually curious.
The responses I get vary but they are usually a version of either:
1) yes, I have been hurt before and this attitude keeps me safe and/or well prepared
As the year comes to a close I think about where my optimistic patients have made changes and pessimistic haven’t, how recent research has once again shown the power of placebo (this time for performance enhancement – very interesting trial to read at this link) and how those with cancer tend to experience a better quality of life with a more optimistic approach.
I reached for a book on my shelf again this year titled “The Biology of Belief” which speaks to epigenetics and the impact of stress hormones on health and disease. Teaching these concepts has proven beneficial for patients and I continue keep them top of mind for myself and my family.
I truly believe that “what you focus on expands” and with all of the blessings we have experienced in our lives I will take this lesson into 2017 with a more concrete purpose.
3) Dedication & consistency always reward
This year I was reminded of a lesson I learned early on in life – concentrated hard work produces positive results.
The long journey of military college undergraduate university, naval officer training followed by four years of naturopathic medical school meant consistent work with a lack of overt life improvement. Somehow I was able to keep my focus and motivation for many years while in these programs but other areas of my life suffered. In that type of situation it is easy to lose sight of a definite purpose.
That purpose is evident again and other areas of life a able to thrive now that there is a significant separation between the education process and real life. It is also clear that subsequent endeavors won’t be nearly the time commitment. This realization is extremely motivating.
If you have been through and/or are currently in what may be a seemingly long journey know that the results will come. Everyone’s timing is different. The harder and longer you work towards a goal the more you learn about yourself and your true desires in life. There are positives to be discovered along every journey.
4) We don’t know enough able the immune system – yet.
My naturopathic medical practice is a general family practice so the conditions I see widely vary. Autoimmune diseases like hashimoto’s, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel disease, acute infections, chronically inflamed joints, seasonal allergies, eczema, immune cancers like CLL, AML and Hodgkins all can enter my office on any given day.
What do each of these conditions have in common? They are all malfunctions of the immune system (in one way or another). Of course there are many different types of immune cells, classifications of reactions and cascade responses each with a different pathway to understand and manipulate when treating disease. Allopathic and traditional medicine have come a long way in the treatment of these types of conditions but with the new research showing the significant impact of a healthy microbiome on the immune system (what a healthy microbiome looks like and how to fix one that is imbalanced), the benefits of fasting on the reduction of inflammation, the correlation of stress hormone levels and allergic response and finally, the role of infection as a trigger of autoimmune disease (this hits close to home with the recent passing of our dog – multiple autoimmune diseases plus infection) it is ever so important to revert back to a holistic approach to treatment.
How can we optimize the immune system while still actively treating the disease?
The new information should give us more hope for long term immune health but in the meantime it is important to stay as close to the available clinical and physiological research as possible.
If you are dealing with an immune condition working with someone who is up to date on medical research is extremely important. They will have insight into new potentially more effective therapies than those who aren’t.
5) Be present with your loved ones and your personal choices
This lesson presented itself in many different ways this year. Amy wrote about how it important it is to her here.
We suffered very low lows and very high highs this year and it is these kind of wake up calls that tend to remind us to cherish every moment.
This year Amy and I lost our 8 year old dog Bridgette. She was the heart and soul of our family. She was considered by many to be the only fun one of the four of us. We did everything we could to save her and just as when any family member passes we had regrets about time spent with her that were most likely unfounded but still difficult to process.
We also experienced the miracle of childbirth this year. Our daughter True was born in September and she is the perfect addition to our family. The moment she was born, her first cry, her first smile, her first everything is important to us beyond measure. I want to capture every moment and even though we catch ourselves wondering what the future will be like we keep reminding each other cherish these times. I don’t really know how to explain the joy I feel seeing Amy and True together. It isn’t something that can be caught in a photo or video either. The only way to experience these times is to be there.
This year on an episode of Healthy Rebel Radio we spoke about “working memory” a term that I define as the ability to make good decisions in the moment that contribute to our highest good. This can be applied to making good food choices, deciding to exercise versus skip a day, choose a calm reaction to a situation over an aggressive version, etc. Components of being present such as avoiding distraction, staying conscious to what matters and remembering why we make the choices we make have a direct influence on working memory. Understanding and applying this concept has helped me make better decisions overall.
If this concept resonates with you as it did for me it is easy to start practicing today.
These are just a few of the many lessons I had this year. If you had others please share with us below in the comments.
I am thrilled about 2017 and I hope you are as well.