The new year is upon us, and if you’re like most people, that usually means starting some New Year’s resolutions last maybe a couple weeks, or if you’re really hardcore, maybe last a couple months and then you return back to your normal baseline. Now, there’s really nothing truly special about today, January 1st, compared to any other day of the year. That’s why I personally do not do New Year’s resolutions because the way I see it, you can start or stop any habit any time of the year, doesn’t really matter. Now that being said, just because I don’t do New Year’s resolutions because I’m weird, doesn’t mean you should not. So for most people, it makes a lot of sense. You’re likely gonna have this newfound motivation or inspiration to change something about your life, and you might as well take advantage of that. So over the last several years, I have been experimenting with my habits incessantly. And I have found a few, there’s three in particular, that have really changed my life in a positive way. And in this video, I wanna share with you guys what those habits are, and maybe if one of them resonates with you, you can consider adding them to your New Year’s resolutions for this year. Now before we dive in, I’m gonna pay special attention to how you can make these sustainable and actually last because the biggest issue is, of course, sticking with your New Year’s resolutions, right? And motivation is just, and you know, being motivated is an emotion just like anything else and emotions are temporary, so you can’t rely on them for long-term behavior change. So what I’m gonna talk about for each habit is how I ended up sticking with it, and what I would recommend for you to do as well to make sure that it actually lasts beyond just the first couple weeks or a couple months. So first, daily journaling. And if you’re anything like me, you may be rolling your eyes right now. A couple years ago, I thought that journaling was just silly, only for people that didn’t really you know, think deeply by themselves and have introspection and stuff like that. I was wrong. Journaling is actually one of my favorite daily habits because it has this very consistent effect of putting me in a better mood or stopping negative ways of thinking. Now not all journaling is created equal, I have found certain strategies and methods being more conducive than others and a big part is actually how you reflect and actually elicit these meaningful connections. Now, this isn’t the only way to do it, but this is what worked best for me. So first, I use a journaling app on my iPhone called DayOne, also syncs with my iPad and MacBook. So after typing on the reminder that auto-populates this template and starting from the top, Thankful for three things, Three long-term goals, Today’s targets and what would make today great, Affirmations/Who I am is the possibility of, and that’s all I do in the morning. So I stopped at the affirmations part, and these last three questions, I will do in the evening around 9:00 p.m, I got another reminder to do those. And those last three questions are number one, amazing things that happened today (or three wins), three lessons learned, and then, how today could have been better? So in total when I journal in the morning, takes me no more than five minutes. When I journal in the evening, takes me again, usually no longer than five minutes. So that’s number one in making this a sustainable habit, keeping it kind of small and, and, digestible rather than this being, being this huge unwieldy goal. Reason number two would be the actual reminders on my phone. So without that, I would definitely be forgetting to journal morning and evening. Now a couple things. First of all, yes, you can use a regular paper journal with pen and paper but the issue I have there is number one, privacy. So I want to be as like, raw and real and unfiltered as possible. And if I have any password-protected app on my phone, then I feel much more comfortable to do so because if someone just finds my journal, anyone can read a physical journal. Also, It’s you know, it’s a digital I can type on my computer which is a lot faster than me writing, Its syncs across all my devices, It’s backed up in case one of my devices gets stolen. Things like that. Now second, the gratitude exercise being thankful for three things, that one is key. But I’ve noticed that if I’m still an autopilot, and I just quickly write down three random things, it doesn’t have as much of an impact compared to if I just sit down and really write a sentence or two about each thing. And focus on not just like, Oh, I’m thinking for my friends and family, being very specific with what I’m actually thankful for. I like to make sure that one of those things is something that I usually take for granted. So, for example, one thing recently would be central heating because here in California, it was freezing this winter like 55 degrees.
Now, when I’m writing out today’s three goals or the things I don’t want to get done today, the way I approach that is thinking, if I get these three things done, those are wins. And if I get nothing else done today, it’s still a good day. So usually one thing is gonna be some form of physical activity whether that cycling or weight training, or doing some bodyweight or flexibility, mobility exercises. And then the other two are usually something related to work or one of my businesses. Now, usually the most profound connections and realizations are going to happen during that evening reflection part. And I’ll be making connections about like how I’m perceiving things versus someone else, or making connections across different aspects of my life. And sometimes they can be very transformational, and what I’ll actually do is tag those notes so I can return back to them weeks, months, years later and remind myself what that big realization was. So the powerful thing about writing these down is that first of all, you can reference them. But it forces you to think in a very linear way, and It actually solidifies your thoughts, whereas if you were to just think them in your head, you won’t, you kind of realize only when you start writing it down, how nonlinear your way of thinking is, or at least I realized for myself. Now recently, I got this as a gift. This is a one-line a day, five-year memory book. Super thoughtful gift, which you know, I really appreciate this. So there are 365 pages in this, one for each day of the year. And there’s space for five years. So you’re gonna start, you know, July 4th, 2019, then 2020 2021, etc., and it’s pretty short so you have to be pretty concise. But it forces you to reflect and you can kind of see right there on the page while you’re writing for that year what happened in the previous years. I think it’s a pretty cool idea.
Now to make sure I actually do this every evening, I put this right by my bed. So when I write before I go to sleep, I’m reminded, Oh, yeah, don’t take 30 seconds to fill this out. So again, to make sure that these habits or New Year’s resolutions actually stick, you want to make sure you have the system in place. So number one, make sure it’s very small. So for me, five minutes of journaling, very approachable, versus like writing for 30 minutes, right? and then also having the reminders on my phone. Number two, a morning stretch routine. This is one that I’ve been doing for several years now, probably since my first year of med school back in 2012. And the reason being, we all tend to sit a lot way more than we should. Even, even those that use standing desks, like yours truly. So whether it’s eating, or you’re watching a movie, or you’re sitting down making a YouTube video, we tend to sit. And that causes tightening of our hip flexors, tightening and weakening also of our hamstrings. Our cores become weaker, you know, our shoulders are more hunched over tighter pectoralis major and minor, things like that. So you get these aches and pains, you don’t have as good of posture. So every morning I would start with it’s very brief, you know back then it was a very brief stretch routine. I think it was just like maybe hamstrings hip flexors and cat-cow, something like that. And then now it’s evolved over the years because I enjoyed it, and it like, it makes me feel really good. If I do it in the morning, I will have less back pain for the rest of the day. There’s like a very strong correlation there. But the way it makes me feel even immediately after, feel pretty good. And I have like this, like better posture. So I’ve been motivated to stick with it.
And over the years, I’ve added these various layers so now it takes me closer to 10, sometimes even 15 minutes, depending on how thorough I want to be. So I will make a separate video about that stretch routine and what’s helped me. But really the key here I think is just getting your body moving and pushing that mobility first thing in the morning. Now if you do want to incorporate this into your own daily routine, again I recommend you start small. So for me when I first started, probably only three exercises, and then you can build from there. So start small and then add. And then number two, also make sure you enjoy it. So don’t choose stretches or exercises that you hate. Do something that you like or that makes you feel good. So I don’t really enjoy the feeling of holding a stretch but the feeling I get right immediately after I finished that stretch, is usually pretty good. The single most impactful purchase I made in the last five years was getting a Kindle. I got a Kindle paperwhite. And big shout out to Dr. Randy McKnight, he is the all-star from our Day in the Life Orthopedic Surgeon video that now has like over million views. I think it’s the most popular video on this channel, and he’s the one. So we were in Bali, right before starting residency and you know, I was there with, with him and a whole bunch of other med school friends. And he was just reading voraciously on his Kindle, and he’s the one who actually told me, Kevin, you gotta get a Kindle.
It was like something that’s not optional, It’s mandatory. And I was trying to pinch pennies and I was gonna get the regular Kindle, but then he convinced me, No, You gotta get the paperwhite because the paperwhite has the actual light built-in, whereas for the regular Kindle, you would need a external light, and I’m so glad I listened to him. So with that paperwhite, I have been reading so much more than I would ever before. So the ironic thing is I don’t actually have my Kindle with me right now, I forgot it in Vegas before I went to the airport. If those of you who follow me on Instagram saw that story. As you guys saw, tragedy struck earlier today when I forgot my Kindle on my apartment, but it’s all good because I was able to write two novels and cure cancer on my short one-hour flight. And I could go on for days about the benefits of reading. I mean you’re getting all this condensed wisdom from the smartest minds in history. It’s just, it’s a no-brainer, you should be reading. But again, with any of these habits, you have to figure out how to make it sustainable and make it actually stick. So number one, the Kindle to me was way more convenient than reading an actual book. It fits in your hand, It’s super portable, It’s digital, It has a built-in light so you can read in the dark or on a, you know, the plane when lights are off. But the more important thing I think is making sure you actually enjoy what you’re reading. So if you’re reading a book that you don’t actually enjoy you’re not gonna stick with it, right? But if you’re reading things that just draw your natural interest then you’re much more likely to stick with that habit. So I tend to go with the self-development books or the business book to the finance books. I like a lot of nonfiction, but recently I did read this book called, “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.” And that was a fiction book, and one of my favorites in a long time. I could not put the book down, I was up late reading it and definitely sacrificing sleep, but it was so worth it. Now, I personally read in bed right before I sleep. I think it’s a nice way to wind down. And what I recommend is you don’t make this, don’t associate any like unattainable goals with it. Don’t say, Oh, I need to read 50 pages at night or for you know, 45 minutes or whatever. Just say, I’m going to read and whether that’s one page, or five pages, or ten. Doesn’t matter. Just as long as you’re reading a little bit every single day, you’re establishing the habit, But then you can always scale and build and ramp up from there. Okay, this video is getting kind of long, but there are two honorable mentions that didn’t quite make the cut. So number one would be, daily physical activity.
I try to lift weights five times a week, I try to cycle one or two times per week. And if I’m not doing one of those, then I try to at least do some bodyweight exercise or some ability training, things like that. It just makes me feel much better and sticking to that habit has definitely been a positive influence on my life. Now second, intermittent fasting. I’ve been doing this for several months now, and I’ll be making a video on the Med School Insiders channel about the actual research, and then the pros and cons of intermittent fasting. For me, beyond the, the health benefits,
the two main things are number one, I spend less time having to prepare food or eat food. I can just eat in that, you know, eight-hour feeding window, which is very convenient. And then number two, I have inflammatory bowel disease. So I find myself using the bathroom less when I restrict my eating to a shorter timeframe. So let me know what habits, whether any of the ones mentioned in this video, or something completely different. What are you planning on implementing in your life now in 2020? As always, thank you all so much for watching. Much love to you all, and I will see you guys in the next one.