If you feel like you haven’t really been taking care of yourself in years past, it might be tempting to set big goals at the start of the new year to improve your health and happiness. But sometimes the simplest goals are the easiest to keep and can end up making big changes in your life long term.
If you want to make 2023 the year you feel really in control of your health, pick one or two of the below points and focus on sticking to them throughout the year.
1. Go to the doctor when you need to
Are you one of those people who puts off going to the doctor when they notice a funny bump, lump or rash? Do you wait until you’re at death’s door before you book an appointment when you’re sick, and leave it months before you book in for regular screenings or tests?
2. Eat more fruit and vegetables
We know it’s not the most Facebook-status-worthy goal, but eating more fruit and vegetables really could be life changing. Fruit and vegetables contain a whole host of nutrients that are essential to our health, as well as fibre to help keep your digestive system happy.
Ideally, most adults need to eat 5-6 serves of veggies and 2 serves of fruit every day, but if you’re nowhere near that amount, start by adding one extra serve each day and work up from there. E
3. Take 10 minutes for your mental wellbeing
10 minutes is a tiny fraction of your day (only 0.7% of your 24 hours!), but taking 10 minutes of ‘you time’ each day can have numerous benefits for your health.
We all have mental health, just like we all have physical health. Taking a little time to let your mind unwind every day can improve your resilience and reduce stress, which is beneficial for your whole body.
You might try mindfulness or mediation techniques, enjoy doing something creative like drawing or playing music, or just have a quiet sit down with a cuppa; there’s no one right way to look after your mental wellbeing.
4. Move it and love it!
At New Year’s, the internet fills up with gruelling workout regimens to help you ‘work off the Christmas indulgence’. But physical activity shouldn’t be a punishment for food and drink you ate or times you chose to relax. This year, make a goal to do more of the physical activities that you love, that make you feel good and that you enjoy doing, and see moving your body as a positive rather than a negative.
5. Make sunscreen part of your daily routine
There’s nothing fun about skin cancers, like deadly melanoma, that can develop from ultraviolet radiation exposure.
6. Know what screens or tests you need to do and do them
There are screening programs and routine health checks that you need to do regularly, depending on their age and gender. Screening and routine health checks are an effective way of detecting certain health issues early, and in some cases preventing those issues from developing at all.
Sexual health check
You don’t need to be experiencing any symptoms of an STI or feel unwell to get a sexual health check. Even if you think you’re fine, you should still have regular sexual health checks as part of your normal health routine.
A sexual health check is an appointment with a doctor, nurse or other health worker that focuses on your sexual health and wellbeing, and most likely includes testing for STIs.
Sexual health is different for everyone, but the recommendation for sexually active people is to have a check-up at least once a year, or more frequently if you have had unprotected sex with casual partners, think you may have an STI, are starting a new sexual relationship or if you’ve had a condom break or slip off during sex.
Cervical Screening Test
The five-yearly Cervical Screening Test has replaced the two-yearly Pap test. If you're aged 25 to 74 you should have your first Cervical Screening Test two years after your last Pap test.
It is recommended women aged 50 to 74 years participate in BreastScreen breast screening program every two years.
A breast screen (you might know it by the term ‘mammogram’) is an x-ray that can pick up small changes in breast tissue. A breast screen can pick up changes in your breast that are too small to feel or see yourself, which means it can help catch breast cancer in early stages.
7. Prioritise sleep
In a world of constant communications, long work days and busy schedules, sleep can sometimes fall by the wayside. But sleep should be a priority; not only will feeling rested help you tick off all your -to-dos, but getting enough sleep is associated with numerous health benefits including less stress, a lower risk of heart disease and a better functioning immune system.
8. Stop smoking all together
Do you still consider yourself a ‘social smoker’? Having one or two cigarettes when you hang out with friends or after a long day might not seem like a big deal, but every cigarette you smoke impacts your health, from shortening your lifespan to increasing your stress levels.
9. Tone up downstairs
When did you last exercise your pelvic floor? You might think pelvic floor exercises are just for pregnant women, but all women and men should be strengthening their pelvic floor muscles regularly. The consequences of not having a strong pelvic floor can include pelvic organ prolapse and incontinence – conditions you probably want to avoid if you can.
10. Protect your pearly whites
Do you brush twice a day, every day? Do you really?
Brushing your teeth can help prevent conditions like tooth decay and gum disease, as well as making sure you have fresh breath. It only takes two minutes twice a day, which makes brushing your teeth one of the easiest activities on this list.