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We’re one month into 100 Days! We catch up with Josh Sundquist, who shares an acronym he uses in his mental health routine, tells us about his history with fitness, and offers some advice on how to stay motivated during this project.

Many thanks to Diane Phan for additional footage.

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Follow along:
John: Hi, I'm John Green and for those of you who are just joining us on this channel, basically for 100 Days my best friend Chris and I are attempting to make our lives healthier in every way. We're doing that by exercising and eating well, and I'm also meditating, which I hate. Now these type of life changes don't always go according to plan. At this point we're about 30 days in and I'm realizing that this stuff can be very hard, especially the meditating, did I already mention that I don't love that?

Anyway, if you've ever found it difficult to make sustainable change in your life, maybe you can relate. It's been about a month since we all wrote our New Years resolutions, and according to research from 2002, about 64 percent of people continue to abide by those after 3 to 4 weeks, so 36 percent of us need a motivation boost. And that's what we're here for today.

So before we started this 100 Days project I got some advice from my marathon running friend Craig Benzine, and now it seems like a good time to check in with another friend who has an inspiring physical and mental journey, Josh Sundquist.

Josh: I was really active growing up. I played a lot of soccer; I played little league baseball for a little while but soccer was, like, my main kind of sport. And then, I was diagnosed with cancer when I was nine years old and I lost my leg, and so there was a time when I was kind of looking for new sports that I could still do with one leg.

So while I was still on chemotherapy, I had the opportunity to go with my rehab hospital to the local ski resort in Virginia, where I grew up, to learn how to ski. And I immediately, like, grabbed on to skiing because it was kind of a thing that I could do with one leg. In fact, I could go as fast down the mountain on one leg as anyone else could on two legs. And I got really serious about that and really wanted to go to the Paralympics.

That became, like, my goal and I started training in a very serious way. I actually graduated high school a semester early so I could move out to Colorado and train full time in Winter Park. I was, like, just barely good enough to be named to the U.S. Paralypic ski team. Like, it was literally, like, they took the top 20 people and I was, like, number 20.

It's so awesome to be a part of a team that is representing your country on the international stage. And to be there at the Paralympics in a sport that I would have never otherwise participated in, you know, I never would have skied had I not lost my leg.

So it's just been in the last few years that I've had the opportunity to play on the US amputee soccer team because it's a relatively new adaptive sport. It's such a personally meaningful thing to be able to do because soccer was the sport that I played when I had two legs. It's literally better than I could have imagined, and I don't say that hyperbolically. Like, I would have never imagined that this would possibly be a thing that would have happened in my life.

I think that having a sport to play and having a team that you're on is, like, a really good motivation for any sort of, like, fitness goal. Having that, uh, sort of, social accountability is a great way to stay motivated, sort of, on a day-to-day basis because you're like, "oh, I'm doing this so that I can get better at that event or so that I can be a part of my team and I can contribute to my team's success, like, when we're competing".

So I have, like, a daily mental health routine that I've sort of developed for myself. These are the four things that I find to be really really beneficial to me in terms of reducing stress and increasing, uh, just, like, positive connectivity to the world and to my relationships. And those four things spell an acronym, uh, JERM with a 'J'.

So 'J' stands for journal which is just a free association journaling of whatever's on my mind, whatever I'm worried about. Just kind of stream of consciousness. Getting that out on the page.

'E' stands for exercise. Study after study shows, like, that exercise is really essential not just for, like, your--your body and the way your body functions but for releasing, like, positive neurotransmitters in your mind that just make you feel better. Like, a lot of times I hear people say, "what's the ideal, like, fitness routine"? Or "what's the ideal, like, activity for getting in and staying in shape"? And the answer is very simple: the ideal activity is the one that you do every day. Like, that's it. It's finding a thing that you enjoy enough that you naturally want to do five times a week, six times a week.

'R' stands for reading. Uh, specifically I try every day to read something that, uh, helps me in a mental health sense. So it might be reading something about mental health or reading something about, uh, letting go of stress or letting go of anxiety. And 'M' stands for meditation. For me personally meditation is, really, the cornerstone of my mental health routine.

I mean, we have this thought stream in our mind. This voice right? That's like, 'oh you gotta do this, you gotta do this. There's this problem and this thing". And it's, like, all these things that we have to fix, right, and we have all these, like, problems in our lives.

Meditation is just watching those thoughts and just saying, like, "those are thoughts. Those are thoughts. That's a thought. That's a thought". And instead just, sort of, being more in your body as opposed to being in your mind. Because your body doesn't really have thoughts. So your body sort of has, uh, a lot less anxiety going on than is going on up here.

So my advice for people who want to start meditating is to approach it with, uh, first of all, like, an open mind. Uh, secondly, with the expectation that it probably will take you a while to, kind of, find, maybe, the type of meditation or mindfulness practice that works for you. I've tried, like, a lot of different techniques over the years and I don't think that any one technique is necessarily magical, but I think that learning a number of them is useful.

For the people who could really benefit from meditation it is a really really hard thing to do. Really uncomfortable, really difficult, and really counterintuitive. Just the idea of meditating, which is to say, like, sitting still, literally doing nothing, like, that's kind of the definition of meditating is actually doing nothing. It's very uncomfortable.

From a place of, like, a busy mind and a stressed--a stressed body meditation sounds so crazy. But then if you can get to that place of relaxation then you realize how important it is. But, like, crossing over that bridge is incredibly difficult. So that's the 'M', which stands for meditation. And so JERM: journal, exercise, read, meditation. I try to do all four every day and I find that to be, uh, really really essential for me in maintaining a baseline level of, uh, like, just functionality from a mental health standpoint.

John: Thanks, Josh, for always being an inspiration to me and for some much needed advice. And I know I need to work on the 'M' in JERM. It sounds like it might take me more than 100 days to get a handle on that, though. And to be honest with you I don't know if I can do that, Josh. I might just be a 'JER' not a 'JERM'.

If you want to see how the rest of my journey with Chris has been going there's a link to a playlist for the entire series in the video description below. For the record, my mental health acronym would have to include a 'B' for binge watching and also an 'A' for anxiety comma feeling. Thanks for watching. I'll see you next time.