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Six Tips for New Year's Resolutions to Improve Mental Health

SLU family physician says simple changes to lifestyle can relieve stress.

by Saint Louis University
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William Manard, M.D., assistant professor in the department of family and community medicine at Saint Louis University.Screen capture courtesy of Saint Louis UniversityST. LOUIS – Have you made a New Year's resolution yet? William Manard, M.D., 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, says Manard, a SLUCare family medicine physician. He offers six simple tips for mental well-being that will not only help you relieve your stress, but also impact your other New Year's resolutions.

1. Set reasonable goals

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People often fall short of their New Year's resolutions because they set unreasonable goals. Manard says if you set the bar too high and are not able to accomplish the goal, chances are you may quickly get discouraged.

“It’s ideal for people to exercise several hours a week. But if they cannot do it, it’s OK. Something is better than nothing,” he says.

2. To-do lists

Manard says checking off items in a to-do list can give you a sense of accomplishment, which will help you 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,” says Manard. “Pick a task and focus on that at one time.”

3. Time for yourself

When was the last time you did something for yourself? Maybe pursue a hobby you really enjoy? One of the key factors in reducing stress is to schedule time for you, according to Manard. “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,” he says.

“Try to spend an hour every other day to just do something that you enjoy.” Manard says personal activities helps us detach from our surrounding, can be very relaxing and free the mind of stress.

4. Adequate sleep

Are you sleeping seven hours every night? That’s not enough. Add an hour more. Manard says you need eight to nine hours of sleep, on average, every day.

“Sleep is very much underappreciated,” he says. “Apart from being tired, poor sleep can also cause increased stress level, make you eat more, develop low mental acuity and also low productivity.”

To sleep better, Manard recommends doing non-stimulating activities before going to bed. For example, reading and mediation can help you wind down for the night.

5. Family time

If you don’t water your plants, they will not thrive.

Similarly, Manard says, one has to keep feeding personal relationships for them to blossom. “Spending time around loved ones can be relaxing,” Manard says. “It is important to spend time with family and keep the relationships strong; otherwise they will wither and die.”

6. Physical activity

Generally, people think of increasing physical activities as a great benefit to their body, and 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 this winter season,” Manard says.