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30 reasons that counter “2016 sucked”

2016 suckedHow many times have I heard from people that 2016 sucked? Blogs like “Why 2016 Sucked” don’t help that perception. I agree that for some, it did. That is the same for every year. For some, a year is awful. For others, a year is fantastic. For most of us, it’s a mix of both and in between. But I hear lamenting about 2016 from people who married their true love this year, from those who got their dream job, and from those who did not suffer any personal major losses. Even worse is that I most often hear the “2016 sucked” statement, not so much in reference to our world’s ongoing climate change, the various terrorist acts or wars, or the tumultuous (to put it mildly) political decisions that happened this year, but instead after each announcement about the death of a celebrity.

I agree, there were a lot of icon losses this year—Carrie Fisher, Prince, George Michael, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Muhammed Ali, Leonard Cohen, and Alan Thicke, to name a few. But does that really make you want to toss this whole year in the garbage bin? 

I think that we can mourn the loss of these famous people who we’ve come to feel we know personally (though most of us didn’t know them). But, I also am tired of hearing what an awful year 2016 was because of their deaths. I get that they are icons. But of course it wasn’t 2016 that was to blame. For many of them it was drug and/or alcohol abuse that shortened their lives. They lived big lives. They did great things and made some bad choices that ultimately shortened their lives. Some of them suffered from mental illness and self-medicated. They at least had access to any form of wellness care they could imagine to manage their conditions. So many don’t have that option.

Can you feel sad that they won’t be able to entertain us with new material? Yes. But did your 2016 really suck? If it did, I’m sorry, and I hope that this new year brings you better times, better health, more joy.

Is it true that 2016 sucked?

I also hope that this list of good things—all of which happened in 2016—helps everyone see that 2016 wasn’t all bad.

  1. it's not true that 2016 sucked Giant pandas are no longer endangered!
  2. That ALS ice bucket challenge you took in 2015 actually helped fund research that has discovered a new gene related to the disease, potentially offering a new treatment direction.
  3. In BC, 85% of the Great Bear Rainforest will be protected, with the other 15% being regulated under the “most stringent standards in North America” for logging.
  4. More than 20 countries have pledged over $5.3 billion for ocean conservation, creating 40 new marine sanctuaries, including the world’s biggest marine reserve, off the coast of Antarctica.
  5. On my list of places to visit, Lake Titicaca, South America’s largest freshwater lake, is now being preserved as a result of a deal between Peru and Bolivia.
  6. Acid pollution is down!
  7. Major illnesses like heart disease, colon cancer, and dementia are actually down in numbers this year in wealthy countries (though the reason why is unclear).
  8. Public smoking bans have improved health in countries around the world.
  9. The number of smokers in the U.S. has dropped by 8.6 million people since 2005 and health communities and individuals around the world rallied behind Uruguay in a court case against big tobacco Philip Morris.
  10. Child mortality rates in Russia reduced by 12%.
  11. Malawi showed a 67% decrease in the number of children acquiring HIV.
  12. Life expectancy in Africa has increased by 9.4 years since the year 2000.
  13. There are no known remaining cases of Ebola in West Africa.
  14. The WHO announced that the Americas (from Canada to Chile) have eradicated measles.
  15. World hunger dropped by 25%!
  16. The number of people living in extreme poverty in East Asia dropped from 60% in 1990 to 3.5% in 2016.
  17. Same sex marriage (1) and transgender rights (1,2,3) have advanced in places around the world, and continue to improve.
  18. There has been progress in bans on child marriage and female genital mutilation.
  19. 2016 didn't suckEach one of these links really deserves its own line because of the significance of positive shifts in attitude and action, but here it is in short anyway (but, really, do check out the links!). Coal use is declining (1,2,3), renewable energy increased (1,2,3,4,5,6,7—and so many more!), and global carbon emissions didn’t increase this year, for the third year in a row.
  20. Fish are starting to return to waters where they were overfished.
  21. Norway is the first country to commit to zero deforestation, while in India, more than 800,000 volunteers planted 50 million trees in a day.
  22. Israel, one of the driest countries, now makes 55% of its freshwater and has even more water than it needs.
  23. A half-century long conflict was ended in Columbia.
  24. The first-ever Olympic refugee team competed in Rio’s summer Olympics.
  25. Gestures of reconciliation between the U.S. and Japan over Hiroshima and Pearl Harbour were made with visits by President Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
  26. 2016 didn't suckA former slave and African-American abolitionist, Harriet Tubman, will replace the image of slave-holding Andrew Jackson on the front of U.S. $20 bills.
  27. Every major grocery store and fast-food joint in the U.S. has vowed to use only cage-free eggs by 2025.
  28. Elephants, porpoises, rays, and parrots are amongst some of the animals that will receive the strongest protection thanks to an agreement between 183 countries.
  29. Manatees, Yellowstone’s Grizzly Bears, the Columbian white-tailed deer, green sea turtles (in Florida and Mexico), and humpback whales have all made an improvement in numbers, moving up a rank from endangered to threatened (we still need to take care of them!).
  30. Tigers in the wild have increased in number for the first time in 100 years.

There are 52 stories linked here (1 a week for 2017, if you want) showing the good side of this past year. What other good stories from 2016 (in the news or personal) would you like to share?

 

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Powerful Natural Medicine Secret

Powerful natural medicine hope Traditional Chinese Medicine Vancouver acupunctureHere I’m going to start with the bad, so I can illustrate the power of something you could call a natural medicine. A study in the 1950s by Dr. Carl Richter involved taking rats and putting them through a forced swim test. Rats can swim, and the rats they used were, as far as they could tell, equally healthy. The rats gave up swimming and sunk (we’ll pretend they ended up ok), fairly quickly–some in mere minutes, some up to 15 minutes. But, if they were removed from the water for a short amount of time before that, and allowed a brief rest while they were held, they could then be put back in the water and swim for up to 60 hours! From 15 minutes max to 60 HOURS!

What?! How could they somehow bring about a Herculean effort to keep swimming for 240 times longer when they would otherwise have given up? 

A Natural Medicine

Hope.

They had hope that they might again be rescued. Hope is a powerful natural medicine. It helps us try more, push harder, and persist longer. And, often, eventually succeed.

So, when I hear from patients that they’ve been told there’s nothing further that can be done–to manage their pain, help them sleep, improve or cure their illness, or simply function and feel better–I’m disturbed by that. Why 

That’s why I love Traditional Chinese Medicine and most natural medicine practices. The goal is to discover what combination of imbalances have lead to the health issue at hand, and to help strengthen the body, and thus allow healing. There isn’t always cure. There isn’t always a fast fix. But improvement is possible. I don’t know how many times I’ve been told that I’m someone’s last resort. At the very least, I aim to offer hope and support while the body begins the process of healing. 

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Seriously, Laughter is Medicine

Still on my monthly habit building, last month I completed #jokeadayJuly. I committed to share a joke (at least one, sometimes more) every day for 31 days. I shared it on my Facebook page (Dr.Melissa Carr) and told it to various people around me throughout the day. 

It’s harder than you might think to find 31 decent (with both meanings of “not dirty” and also “okay”) jokes. But it was fun to search for jokes, and even to laugh at the ones that were truly bad (again, in both senses of the word). And, my favourite part was that friends also shared their jokes with me. 

paddleboardPurposefully seeking humour every day is a powerful medicine, even if it only produces a small smile or groaning giggle. Trying to tickle your funny bone means you are intentionally bringing positive into your life, and that bounces into the lives of others around you, and continuously comes back to you. It’s kind of like that paddle ball on an elastic band that you might have played with when you were a kid–but with the plus of not actually whacking you in the face when you miss. 

Laughter has been shown to:

  • Reduce feelings of stress
  • Stimulate your heart, lungs, and muscles
  • Burn calories
  • Stimulate blood circulation
  • Relax tight muscles
  • Ease pain
  • Improve immune function
  • Boost mood (duh)
  • Release endorphins

* Acupuncture does a lot of these too, by the way.

No joke, look up laughter on PubMed (a reputable source of research), and you’ll find a number of articles citing the value of laughter as medicine. 

These are some of what I thought were my best jokes of the month. Send me your best jokes!

Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail, and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him…(oh, man, this is so bad, it’s good)…a super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

What’s Orange and sounds like a Parrot? ……………..A Carrot.

Why did the hipster burn his mouth on a slice of pizza? He ate it before it was cool.

and lastly…

Two bass drums and a cymbal roll down a hill. Ba dum tssh.

 

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What is Success?

Have you ever watched any of the TED Talks? Search out TED Talks online (or on Netflix) and you’ll find a wide assortment of videos of talks on a wide range of topics by amazing speakers. They run from 10-25 minutes long and I think are worth a regular visit to see what you can learn about, be inspired for, and change your perception.

I’m going to run a series of reviews and recommendations for TED Talks and will start with one from John Wooden. Because you might like to learn why you he’s a good person to listen to, here’s a clip from his bio:

Born in 1910, Coach John Wooden was the first person to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame both as a player and coach, while ESPN ranks him as the greatest coach of all time, across all sports. In his 40 years at UCLA, he mentored legends such as Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He has created a model, the Pyramid of Success, and authored several books to impart his insight on achievement to others.

John wrote his definition of happiness in 1934:
“Peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction and knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable.”

This was based on lessons he learned from his dad, which included:

  • Never try to be better than someone else
  • Always learn from others
  • Try to be the best you can—this is something you can control
  • If you get to engrossed in the things over which you have no control, it will adversely affect those things over which you do have control

 

I think it’s amazing that as a “successful” coach–with record wins still unmatched in basketball–winning was not actually his focus. His focus was on getting individuals to do their best.

This is so different from a commonly held definition of success as an accumulation of material possessions or attainment of position of power and prestige.

I also love that he reminds us that:

Reputation is what you are perceived to be. Character is what you really are. Character is more important and may not be the same as reputation, though you would hope that they are both positive.

His lessons:

  1. Never be late
  2. Be neat and clean
  3. Not one word of profanity
  4. Never criticize a teammate

 

Top of his pyramid for success:

Faith and patience: Believe that things will work out as they should, providing we do as we should.

And, finally, he shared a poem by umpire George Moriarty as follows (I’ve highlighted my favourite lines):

Sometimes I think the fates must grin as we denounce them and insist,

The only reason we can’t win is the fates themselves have missed.

Yet, there lives on the ancient claim – we win or lose within ourselves,

The shining trophies on our shelves can never win tomorrow’s game.

So you and I know deeper down there is a chance to win the crown,

But when we fail to give our best, we simply haven’t met the test

Of giving all and saving none until the game is really won.

Of showing what is meant by grit, of fighting on when others quit,

Of playing through not letting up, it’s bearing down that wins the cup.

Of taking it and taking more until we gain the winning score,

Of dreaming there’s a goal ahead, of hoping when our dreams are dead,

Of praying when our hopes have fled.

Yet, losing, not afraid to fall,

If bravely we have given all, for who can ask more of a man
than giving all, it seems to me, is not so far from – Victory.


And so the fates are seldom wrong, no matter how they twist and wind,

It’s you and I who make our fates, we open up or close the gates, 


On the Road Ahead or the Road Behind.

To watch the whole talk:
John Wooden: the difference between winning and succeeding

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Happy Love Day!

Many people think that Valentine’s Day is just another way to get us to feel obliged to spend money. Buy a card, chocolates, or flowers and call that caring or love.

I have mixed thoughts about this. I don’t believe that handing out cards this one day of the year is a good way to recognize our love or caring of a significant other. I also don’t think that it should be exclusive to boy/girlfriends, wives/husbands, or dates.

Instead I think that every chance to show that you care about someone makes for a good day. I think that Valentine’s Day is a reminder to us to say “I love you” or “I care about you” or “You make me smile” or “Thank you”.

So this year, instead of buying things no one needs, I bought an e-card that’s a donation to one of the many causes that I think worthy, animal welfare. For all of you who love dogs, cats, horses, pigs, turtles, elephants, whales, dolphins, and pandas or rats, snakes, and spiders, here’s the link: http://www.reallywildgifts.ca/index.php

And while you’re at it, be kind to yourself too! That doesn’t mean you should just give yourself free reign to splurge on those shoes you love but don’t need or go crazy on a box of cookies because you love cookies. It means forgive yourself. It means allow yourself time to stop and smell the flowers (unless you have allergies!). It means take care of your mind, your body, and your spirit: exercise, eat healthy foods, drink enough water, get enough sleep, BREATHE, meditate, find creative things to do, dance, share, hug, read, learn, play, write, smile, LAUGH, and maybe get some acupuncture! 🙂

What will you do to show you care?

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