Before New Year's resolutions, work on mental well being

Dec. 31, 2013 at 11:50 PM
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ST. LOUIS, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- A U.S. expert offers six simple tips for mental well-being that will not only help relieve stress, but also favorably impact New Year's resolutions.

Dr. William Manard, assistant professor in the department of family and community medicine at Saint Louis University, suggests making a broad lifestyle change by better managing your emotional health.

A healthy change in attitude and lifestyle can make a difference to your life, Manard said.

Manard suggests for the new year to:

-- Set reasonable goals. People often fall short of their New Year's resolutions because they set unreasonable goals. If you set the bar too high and are not able to accomplish the goal, chances are you might quickly get discouraged. "It's ideal for people to exercise several hours a week," he said. "But if they cannot do it, it's OK. Something is better than nothing."

-- Create to-do lists. Checking off items in a to-do list can give a person a sense of accomplishment and help them feel relieved and happy. "If you don't have a to-do list, there is a good chance you will bounce from one activity to another and not really get anything done," Manard said. "Pick a task and focus on that at one time."

-- Set aside time for yourself. "One of the key factors in reducing stress is to schedule time for you," Manard said. "Many times, we allow people to pull us in different directions: 50 hours at work, 20 hours of kids' activities, 10 hours of volunteer work and another 10 hours of housework in a week. After all this, one doesn't have time for oneself. Try to spend an hour every other day to just do something that you enjoy."

-- Get enough sleep. Are you sleeping 7 hours every night? That's not enough. Add an hour more, Manard said. Manard said people need 8 to 9 hours of sleep, on average, every day. "Sleep is very much underappreciated," Manard said. "Apart from being tired, poor sleep can also cause increased stress level, make you eat more, develop low mental acuity and also low productivity."

-- Make family time a priority. People need to keep feeding personal relationships for them to blossom. "Spending time around loved ones can be relaxing," Manard said. "It is important to spend time with family and keep the relationships strong; otherwise they will wither and die."

-- Physical activity. Most think increasing physical activities benefit the body, but exercising can also foster mental well-being. "Exercising increases the brain chemical endorphin, which can make you feel better. It is also known to improve depression and help get through the winter season," Manard said.

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