New Year, New You

We asked our alumni community to provide actionable and achievable tips to living healthier and happier this year. It wouldn’t be a New Year’s list without fitness and diet goals, but there are also suggestions for resolutions that focus on mindfulness and peace of mind.

Journal Daily for Mental Wellness
Carrie Ann Inaba ’86

My morning routine wouldn’t be complete without sitting on my front porch swing (my happy place!) and journaling before I start my day. Sometimes my little Lola joins me. Sometimes it’s just me with my cup of coffee and my thoughts. I love to start my day by journaling because it helps center my emotions and keep me grounded before I take on whatever the rest of the day has in store for me.

Carrie Ann Inaba is a choreographer, entrepreneur and TV personality on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” She is also the founder of Carrie Ann Conversations, a multi-media platform that helps audiences live better lives. Follow her on Instagram: @carrieanninaba

Schedule your Colorectal Screening
Ankur Jain ’95

Guidelines now recommend that everyone begin colorectal screening at age 45 rather than 50, or sooner with other risk factors. Colon cancer is beatable through early detection and preventable through the removal of pre-cancerous polyps found during colonoscopy.

Even during the pandemic, colonoscopy can be done safely. There are also options for stool testing at home. The best screening test is the one that gets done!

Dr. Ankur Jain is a board-certified gastroenterologist and an Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at JABSOM. He is in private practice with his wife, Dr. Shilpa Jain, also a gastroenterologist, in Honolulu.

Schedule Workouts in Your Calendar
Estee Okumura ’99 Shizuru

Skip the to-do list and schedule workouts in your calendar with time-blocking. Whether your goal is to move three times a week or five, it is important to create time and space in your schedule for these workouts to happen.

Set yourself up for success! The focus should be on putting 100% effort into using this time to move your body in a way that feels good for you.

A Honolulu firefighter, now health coach, Estee Shizuru inspires and helps women to live an active and healthy lifestyle. To book a talk story with Estee, visit

Relieve Back Pain with Mindful Pauses
Christy Kokami ’05

Photo: Iri Greco / Jim Fryer / BrakeThrough Media

Every action that we perform, whether it’s through movements or our thoughts, creates or reinforces a pattern in our brain. This is why it’s so important to take mindful pauses. By giving yourself an opportunity to pause and notice what, how and why you physically, emotionally and mentally feel the way that you do, you can choose to align yourself in ways that will help relieve your pain from the source of discomfort.

Christy Kokami took her first yoga class while a student in the Academy. She is currently a yoga instructor in Honolulu who teaches mindfulness and specializes in back pain and scoliosis.

Practice Gratitude
Elizabeth Kaoh ’06

Instead of focusing on how to “fix” your appearance this year, be mindful of the messages you are soaking in and offer yourself goals rooted in self-compassion. Studies show gratitude practice can significantly increase well-being and life satisfaction. So, before you start or end your day, do this 3-2-1 gratitude practice. Write three things you are grateful your body did for you that day, followed by two things you like about your personality, and one act of kindness you will do or did that day.

Elizabeth Kaoh is a registered dietician with a background in psychology and mindfulness-based practices. She operates a private practice in Kaimuki, Regenerative Nutrition.

Re-evaluate Your Estate Plans
Heather Conahan ’87

Preparation for the unexpected can have far-reaching effects.

Use this new year to re-evaluate your estate plans, or at least take the first step towards making such plans. Your family and loved ones will be thankful for your careful planning.

Heather Conahan is an estate planning attorney at Conahan Law Group in Honolulu counseling clients through major life events, administering estate and establishing trusts.

Remember There is No “Right” Way to Feel
Jeanelle Sugimoto-Matsuda ’97

Most people can manage stress during normal times. During unprecedented times, like the current pandemic, our usual pressures combine with new stressors. Allow yourself to experience the emotions, but remind yourself that this is not forever.

  • Have compassion for yourself and others
  • Establish routines (sleep, exercise, etc.)
  • Take a break from the news
  • “Download your thoughts” (e.g. journaling)
  • Reach out to family, friends, faith leaders or a therapist

Jeanelle Sugimoto-Matsuda is an Associate Professor at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Office of Public Health Studies. She has become a local and national leader in suicide prevention, leading the Prevent Suicide Hawai‘i Taskforce.

Divorce with Dignity
Katie Watanabe ’97 Bennett

Litigation should be a last resort for families going through divorce. The stress, expense and uncertainty alone make going to court untenable.

Choose to collaboratively co-parent and negotiate a fair settlement agreement efficiently and amicably. A mediator can help families find resolution and move forward.

Katie Bennett is the lead mediator at Family Mediation Hawai‘i, a settlement-focused, collaborative law firm helping families through difficult transitions.

Want to Read More This Year? Don’t Be Too Picky
Kaui Chun ’85 DeMarzo

The first advice I would give non-readers is to find a format and genre that works for you. These days, listening to an audiobook while walking or doing chores or driving is a great way to get reading in regularly. Also, picking something that will get you going, whether that be true crime, self-improvement, science or one of the vast number of genres in fiction. Reading should be fun, enjoyable and rejuvenating. Throw out all external judgments about what is “worth” reading. 

Kaui DeMarzo is a member of the Punahou Book Club. She’s set a goal for 2022 to read 52 books, which will include some series and some courses on books, as well as the Book Club’s next book, “Interior Chinatown” by Charles Yu.

A’a i ka hula, Waiho ka hilahila ma ka hale
(Dare to dance, leave bashfulness at home)
Lauren Kanoe Chang ’01 Williams

This comes from Mary Kawena Pukui’s book “Ōlelo Noʻeau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings” and encourages us all to step out of our comfort zones to try something new this year. If you have always wanted to learn the hula, or perhaps you havenʻt danced since the May Day or Holokū pageants at Punahou, now is the perfect time to reconnect to your roots here in Hawaiʻi. Many hālau (hula schools) are open for enrollment at the start of the calendar year, some even allow you to join virtually from outside the Islands.

Kumu Kanoe studied with her first Kumu Hula, Leimomi I Maldonado, of Ka Hale I o Kāhala for more than 20 years before completing an ʻūniki (graduation protocol) which allowed her to open her own hālau in 2010. She currently teaches hula out of her family home in Nuʻuanu and has taught choir, general music and ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language) at Punahou. Learn more or register at

Invest with Impact
Jimmy Bennett ’96

Let 2022 be the year to consider investments that can help create positive change in the world through socially responsible investing. Invest in a way that not only can provide a financial return, but also can align with a philosophy of positive social and/or environmental impact. Consider themes such as climate change, gender diversity, racial equality, and proactively drive change in global corporations through active engagement as a shareholder and owner.

Jimmy Bennett ‘96, CFP®, David Ching ’98, CFP®, and Peter Ehrman ’77, are Financial Advisors and partners on the Ehrman Lee Bennett Ching group at Morgan Stanley. Jimmy is an Investing with Impact Director and Senior Vice President. He been with Morgan Stanley since 2000 and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Yale University.

Create a New “Habit of Mind”
Kaulana Yoshimoto ’92

Just like our physical habits of drinking water, exercise and quality sleep, our mind also needs to create new healthy habits of thinking; a “habit of mind.” Our mindset has the power to shift our perception, experience and emotional state of being.

One helpful trick to establish a new “habit of mind” is to pose your new mindset as a question rather than a statement. This engages a different part of your brain that challenges your mind to seek a new answer. Rather than think, “Uh, itʻs Monday…” think to yourself, “I wonder what new experience, person or learning opportunity will reveal itself today?”

Kaulana Yoshimoto earned his doctoral degree in Developmental Psychology from the University of Washington. He offers personal and professional development, coaching, consulting and training at Kaigen Coaching

Understand the “Why” in Your New Year’s Goals
Ryan Komori ’03

One thing I learned through my own mental health journey is that the reason(s) “why” we want to reach those goals or fulfill those resolutions is just as important as setting them.

As we enter the new year, try a quick thought exercise and ask yourself “why” it is that you want to achieve whatever you’ve set out for yourself. Identifying your “why” and thinking of it often can help to motivate you to accomplish what you desire.

Ryan Komori is the founder and CEO of Savor Lining, pioneering Organizational Mental Fitness through licensed therapist-led classes and listening sessions.

For Gamers, Win by Setting Intentions
Ryan Terao ’08

There are many parallels between life and video games that we can leverage to better our lives. Video games can provide us with a sense of progression, social connection and even purpose. In this sense, video games can be used as a tool to better our lives and challenge ourselves to grow in different ways. However, video games can also harm us if used inappropriately and in an unbalanced way.

By clearly defining our intentions, we can set healthy boundaries, develop our problem-solving skills and use games to help instead of hinder. Often a player’s success is determined by their ability to effectively regulate their frontal lobe functions like managing their thoughts, emotions and controlling their impulses. Games provide us with an opportunity to defeat our final dungeon boss between our two ears – ourselves. Remember gamers, stronger mental wins!

Dr. Ryan Terao is an esport and licensed clinical psychologist and owner of PsychSensei. He works with esport athletes, coaches and organizations to develop their competitive identities and learn how to regulate thoughts, feelings and behaviors to better perform online and IRL.

Incorporate Postural Exercises into Your Day
Roni Glen ’09 Crass

If you work at a desk all day, these postural exercises can prevent injury and prepare you to be your best physical self:

– Neck circles

– Shoulder rolls

– Shoulder blade squeezes

– Arm raises

– Chin tuck and jut

– Back extensions

– Wall angels

Do 10-15 repetitions of each of these exercises, every 2-3 hours. Make sure to also stand a take a quick walking break at least once an hour.

Roni Crass is a physical therapist working in Los Angeles. She helps people of all ages and abilities to move and reach their physical and fitness goals.

Get Your Eyes and Vision Checked
William Wong ’86

Like your teeth, your eyes and vision require annual checkups and should not be taken for granted, especially with additional eye strain caused by increased use of monitors for remote learning and working.

Video Terminal Fatigue Syndrome can be addressed with proper glasses or other vision correction methods, which can alleviate dry, tired, sore, red eyes and blurry vision. Make 2022 the year to get your eyes and vision back on track.

Dr. William Wong is a board-certified ophthalmologist. He started Hawaii Vision Clinic, which now has locations in Aiea and Kaka‘ako.

Give More Without Filing a Gift Tax Return
Kent Kasaoka, ’94 CPA

The annual gift exclusion amount for 2022 is $16,000. This means that an individual may make a gift up to $16,000 per person per year without having to file a gift tax return. Payments made directly to educational (i.e. tuition) and healthcare institutions are exempt from the annual gift exclusion amount.

Kent Kasaoka is a certified public accountant licensed by the State of Hawai‘i. He provides tax advisory, planning and compliance services to small business owners and individuals at Kasaoka CPA LLC.

Set up a Password Manager
Travis Dos Santos-Tam ’09

We are spending a lot more time online nowadays and accumulating more digital accounts that we need to track and manage. Many of us resort to bad practices, such as reusing the same password on multiple sites or storing passwords insecurely.

A password manager can help lighten the burden. Secured properly – with a strong master password and multi-factor authentication – these tools can generate unique and complex passwords for each site you use, organize and encrypt them for safe storage and automatically enter them when you visit the site you want to access. Many services will also securely sync your password vault across your devices, so you always have access to your credentials. Some services also allow you to share specific passwords with family members.

Travis Dos Santos-Tam works for Tacoma Power as engineer, supporting its energy management system, the computer system that operators use to manage and control the regional electric grid. He graduated from University of Puget Sound in 2013 with a degree in computer science.

Take Care of Your Body
Leila York ’79 Thomas

Eat food that’s nourishing and healthy.

Incorporate more veggies in your diet to increase fiber intake and help you feel full.

Drink more water than you can think, at least half your body weight in ounces. Hydration helps with digestion and is good for muscles, skin and hair.

Move your body every day and strength train at least two days per week.

Leila York Thomas is a wellness coach who helps clients shed their old dieting habits, learn to love food and gain energy while they lose weight. She can be reached at

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