Healthy Habits Every Doctor Should Make In 2021

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Mahmoud Abudeif, Dec 31, 2020.

  1. Mahmoud Abudeif

    Mahmoud Abudeif Golden Member

    Mar 5, 2019
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    Most of us make New Year’s resolutions and unfortunately, many of us fail to carry them out past February. That’s because while it’s easy to make a list of goals, it’s more difficult to create the systems that help us achieve those goals. That’s where habits come in. By breaking a complex goal, such as a New Year’s resolution, into small daily actions, we increase our likelihood of accomplishing that goal by reducing the complexity.


    2020 was an especially difficult year for the American physician. With vaccines on the way and an end to the pandemic in sight, it likely has many of you feeling a bit more optimistic about the prospects of a better 2021. To increase the odds in your favor, here are three habits to make and three habits to break in the new year. Think of each as a possible New Year’s resolution.

    Three habits to make

    Health: Increase in-person interaction

    Social distancing was a phrase born out of the pandemic, and it’s one many physicians won’t want to hear again anytime soon. While it’s possible to be social at a distance, we’re all a little burnt out on the constant Zooming, FaceTiming, and empty text exchanges.

    In 2021, how about making socializing personal again? We’re talking about in-person, face-to-face, 17th-century socializing. The type of event in which a few human beings sit down, without screens, and talk about whatever they want over a meal, a drink, or a screenless game.

    The benefits of in-person interaction are well-documented. A 2017 Science study showed that in-person social interaction spurs the release of oxytocin in the brain’s ventral tegmental area. Oxytocin is one of the neurotransmitters commonly associated with happiness, specifically the feeling we associate with strong social bonds. Once it’s safe, in 2021, make it a habit to have at least one weekly, in-person social interaction with a friend.

    Wealth: Save to build your emergency fund

    2020 was a textbook example of why everyone should have an emergency fund. An emergency fund is a cash account that you draw from in the event of an emergent crisis. Examples of emergent crises include: sudden job or income loss, critical home or automobile repair, sudden incursion of medical bills, or anything unexpected that must be dealt with right now in cash.

    Cash is key. Your emergency fund should be liquid and easily accessible. Aim to accumulate 3-6 months of expenses in cash in a savings account. Once you have the cash, you can then put it in a certificate of deposit account so it’s accumulating slightly-better-than-average interest.

    To make building your emergency fund a habit, automate it. Take a look at your budget (you have a budget, don’t you?) and determine how much you can afford to save. Set up an automatic recurring weekly transfer from your checking account to the account holding your emergency fund. Then, don’t touch it until you reach your target amount, after which you can transfer it to a CD if you choose.

    Bonus: Set a bedtime

    Want to create a habit that will make you healthier and (probably) wealthier? Set a bedtime and stick to it. We assure you, they aren’t just for kids.

    According to a 2018 Scientific Reports study, inconsistent bedtimes in adults contribute to delayed sleep onset and daytime tiredness. If that isn’t enough to convince you to go to bed at a reasonable hour every night, irregular sleep timing contributes to an increased 10-year risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, fasting glucose levels, hypertension, hemoglobin A1C levels, and diabetes. The study also showed that those who went to bed whenever they felt like it had higher levels of perceived stress and depression.

    You can improve your odds of creating this habit by implementing a bedtime routine.

    Three habits to break

    Health: Stop staring at your phone

    Your EHR has you staring at a screen all day. Do you really want to be burning out your irises all night too? You may be suffering from smartphone addiction, a real condition with real health consequences.

    A 2017 study published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions showed that excessive smartphone use has harmed “a minority of individuals.” Researchers evaluated 640 smartphone users between the ages of 13-69 using several psychological inventories. The researchers showed that problematic smartphone use can lead to increased narcissistic traits and anxiety.

    Social media may be a likely driver of smartphone addiction. A 2018 study published in Social Cognitive and Affective Science showed that giving and receiving Likes lights up the brain’s rewards circuitry, “including the striatum and ventral tegmental area.” The striatum is thought to integrate actions with rewards, and the ventral tegmental area contains dopaminergic neurons, which play an important role in drug addiction and other behavioral disorders.

    Here’s a simple habit to break the circuit. On nights when you’re not on call, put your phone in a drawer. Don’t bring it into your bedroom, and don’t look at it until the next morning.

    Wealth: Stop spending impulsively

    Ever heard of lifestyle creep? It can be a crippling financial disease that puts you in permanent pursuit of your next raise. If you suffer from lifestyle creep, as soon as you get a raise, you allow your standard of living to continue to creep up to, or perhaps beyond your means. This creates a situation in which you’re always living at the fullest extent, or just beyond your means, which isn’t financially sustainable.

    The best way to stop lifestyle creep is to create a budget and stick to it. One study has shown that happiness doesn’t increase with earnings beyond $75,000 dollars. Aim to maintain this standard of living, and you’re increasing the odds of being happier and wealthier in the long run.

    Here’s a simple habit to put a stop to impulse buying, which may be driving your lifestyle creep. Before you make a purchase, ask yourself the following:
    • Do I need this item?
    • Will I still care about this item in 3 months, 6 months, or in a year?
    • Is there something I could be doing with this money that would be more beneficial for myself or my family?
    Bonus: Stop drinking so much

    If you’re serious about improving your health in 2021, limiting alcohol consumption might be a worthy resolution. It seems that the pandemic has increased levels of drinking in the U.S. According to a recent JAMA Research Letter, a survey of about 1,500 American adults showed that, on average, we’re drinking on about one more day per month than we used to. It also showed that “heavy drinking” has gone up 41% among women.

    To achieve this resolution, keep things simple. Once a month, on a day when you would normally have a drink, go alcohol free. After you’ve accomplished this goal a few times, step up to having one less drink during occasions on which you would normally drink.

    Three habits to make in 2021:
    1. Have a weekly face-to-face social interaction with a friend.
    2. Set up an automatic deposit to your emergency fund.
    3. Stick to a bedtime.
    Three habits to break in 2021:
    1. When you’re not on call, put your phone away at night.
    2. Curb your impulse purchases by asking:
      1. Do I need this item?
      2. Will I still care about this item in 3 months, 6 months, or in a year?
      3. Is there something I could be doing with this money that would be more beneficial for myself or my family?
    3. Once a month, choose not to drink on a day you normally would.

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    Last edited: Jan 1, 2021

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