Healthy Habit Hero - Dr David Beaumont

December 4, 2017

Fit For Work Director Dr David Beaumont was recently selected to be Synergy Health's "Healthy Habit Hero". Here's what he had to say:

As I look out of my Cromwell office window at the blue sky and sun reflecting off the last vestiges of snow on the mountains I feel gratitude for arriving in Central Otago 12 years ago. It was a family holiday from the UK. We never left!

I’m an Occupational Physician – a rare breed of doctor, specialising in the health of workers (and helping people return to work after illness and injury). With my business partner and fellow Director Lenny we lead a company called Fit For Work – a team of over 80 doctors and other health professionals providing truly integrated occupational health services to a range of employers, ACC, MSD and insurance companies throughout New Zealand. I travel a lot!

I’m at an exciting phase in my life, having the experience behind me to have clarity as to what I want from life and the insights as to what brings meaning to life to spur me to get out there and just do what I need to do. A lot of that revolves around a desire to help employers look after the health and wellbeing of their employees, but also to influence other doctors to look at their practice and consider if there is a better way for medicine to be practiced.

Some of my views are quite challenging for other doctors to hear, and I regard myself as a bit of a medical maverick. I present widely at conferences on health and wellbeing of workers, and the health benefits of good work. Not all employers provide ‘good work’.

In my spare time I’m a voracious reader – of personal development books. What I’ve realised is that there are actually a lot of people out there who believe they have found the secret to a happy life and are desperate to share it. I’ve learnt a lot from them. Probably my favourite was one of the first I discovered; Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.

Fun fact? As a school boy I was a champion shot putter!

What do the 10 Healthy Habits mean to you?

It is fundamentally important for us all to have a clear structure to direct our health and wellbeing. For too long ‘health’ has been regarded as physical health, which is very much in line with my training as a doctor. I can parody my own practice as a GP years ago: “Your blood pressure’s up. Start exercising, lose some weight, stop smoking, cut down your alcohol, get a better work-life balance and come back in a month’s time. If your blood pressure hasn’t come down I’ll put you on tablets.”

This is too limited a model (it’s the so-called ‘medical model’). Health is much bigger than that – it has to take into account all aspects of our lives. And we need to be able to take responsibility for our own health. The structure of the 10 healthy habits does that. The model I use for my health actually goes even simpler – although it includes the habits I look at my own health in terms of physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual. This gives me the ability to focus on different areas of my health at different times.

What drives you to live and breathe our healthy habits?

One point I would like to make here is why bother? Why should we devote time, effort, energy, money to improving our overall health? Unfortunately a lot of people ask those questions of themselves and come to the conclusion that they’ve tried it all before, it hasn’t worked, so I’ll just accept the way I am. Unfortunately that probably applies most to the people who need to pay attention most of all – people aged 45 or 50 plus (like me) and particularly men, who are not good at health-seeking behaviour.

Can I go a bit academic here? Because I have thought (and read) about this a lot. There are a number of key drivers in life that we all share; the desire to be happy, to escape suffering, and ultimately (as identified by Abraham Maslow – Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) the desire to be the best we can be.

There’s no point thinking we need to pursue good health and wellbeing because that’s what we’re told we should do. It should be because we want to be in the best shape (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually) to be the best partner, parent, worker, contributor to society, etc that we can be. Basically, to fulfil our purpose (whatever that may be).

My purpose? Somewhat audacious – To change of the model of medical practice (that doctors work to) to one that empowers people to become the experts in their own health – to adapt and self-manage in the face of life’s challenges.

What does a typical day look like for you and how do you practice the healthy habits?

I started my day with a kiss from my daughter Emma as she headed off to work early. Then I went for a walk by the river, and practice mindfulness. I sent the photo I’ve attached to a number of my family and friends both in NZ and the UK, simply because I was feeling good to be alive. Breakfast in a local café, where I’ve got to know them well enough to put some more healthy options on the menu. Then to the office; meeting with staff, dealing with overnight emails, reviewing reports prepared yesterday and then piling into a presentation I’m delivering tomorrow in Auckland to a major NZ employer – keen to provide ‘good work’ for their employees and for the workplace to enable them to improve their health and wellbeing; to flourish at work as well as well as at home. There’s a strong business case for investing in the health of worker for employers.

At the end of the day I will head to the pool and then meet some friends for a drink before heading home to crank up the barbeque for chicken salad. Later in the evening I will do a meditation – currently I’m doing a (free) 21 day guided meditation by Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra. Perhaps a few end of the day messages to family and friends (including good luck to my son Matt for his final exams in medicine) before I drift off to sleep. Sleep is important for me. I generally get 7 hours.

How do you maintain those Healthy Habits when you’re travelling?

Honest? With difficulty. Healthy choices are not always there to choose. Tomorrow I’m doing the day trip to Auckland – there and back. Early start, late finish. On the other hand, time on the plane is good catch-up time, and will often deal with things that I need to focus on, or simply meditate.

I won’t have time to exercise tomorrow, but I will regard every step I take as being activity, so I will cut myself some slack. But I’m also excited for tomorrow – presenting on the subject I feel so passionate about and completely on-purpose.

What do you do when your struggling for motivation or have zero time?

There are two key attitudes I’ve developed – one is “It’s OK” and the other is “good enough”. It’s OK means that if I have no time, or if I’ve slipped off routine I cut myself some slack and just accept that’s how it is. Good enough means that actually even little successes count – I give myself credit for something – whether it’s doing a piece of work well, or getting in touch with a friend I haven’t spoken to in a while, or simply stopping and breathing and being fully conscious of my surroundings.

Hey, let’s be honest, I have shit days too, just like everyone else. My mantra on those days is “Do one thing well”. Just wade through the treacle and do it. But then give myself a massive pat on the back for having ticked it off.

What are you excited about this year? Have you set any goals/resolutions?

It’s been a massive year, and the excitement has been palpable. I have a theme for every year. The theme for this year is 2017 Year of Growth – business growth, personal growth, network growth. I’m really pleased with the way it’s panning out.

Do you have any advice for our readers?

It’s probably tougher than they’re wanting to hear, but it’s back to finding your Why, your motivation. It’s about going back to basics. It’s asking the tough questions; am I happy? Am I where I want to be? Am I fulfilling my purpose? (Do I know what my purpose is?). The answers are likely to indicate that things could be better. We are all driven to be the best we can be – use that dissatisfaction to take responsibility to do something about it. The 10 healthy habits will put you in a better place to enable you to.


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