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10 easy ways to take control of your health this year

A man stands on top of a building, arms up in celebration.
Taking control of your health by making some lifestyle changes can make you feel like a winner.

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 2020 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?

This year, make a promise to yourself that you’ll go to the doctor when you need to. Don’t spend weeks Dr. Googling your symptoms and getting horrible diagnoses, and don’t keep turning up at work to sneeze all over the place when you really should have gotten a medical certificate and stayed home.

If you’re nervous or unsure about visiting the doctor (we get it, it can be daunting!) we’ve got a handy guide to help you get the most out of your appointment right here. If you’re not sure if you need to see a doctor, you can call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) for free to talk to a registered nurse, who can advise you whether you need to visit a doctor.

2. Eat more fruit and veggies

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. But, most Aussies aren’t eating nearly enough fruits and veggies every day.

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. Eat a piece of fruit or veggie as your snack or find a way to incorporate veggies into your breakfast (did someone say Moroccan Baked Eggs?)

You can find out how many daily serves of each food group are recommended for your age and gender here. Looking for recipes to help you with your food goals? Healthier. Happier. have easy, delicious recipe recommendations packed with veggies and fruit for every meal.

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 meditation 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.

If you’re keen to make your mental health a priority this year, we wrote this guide to help you. If you’ve been experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition and want to get help, read this article about how to access a mental health care plan to start your journey to wellness.

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.

If you’re not sure where to start, why not browse our list of 30 fun ways to get 30 minutes of physical activity? Or head over to Healthier. Happier. to find out what makes you happy.

A woman lifts a barbell at the gym.

5. Make sunscreen part of your daily routine

The Queensland lifestyle is all about having fun in the sun, but there’s nothing fun about skin cancers, like deadly melanoma, that can develop from ultraviolet radiation exposure. In Queensland, the UV Index is above three all year round and for many months is high to extreme, so we all need to use sun safe behaviours every day.

If you’re not already nailing the ‘Slop’ part of ‘Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide’, challenge yourself to make using sunscreen a daily habit this year by following this guide.  Remember, sunscreen is not a suit of armour and should be used in combination with the other sun safe behaviours.

6. Know what screens or tests you need to do and do them

There are screening programs and routine health checks that Queenslanders 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.

You can book a sexual health check with your GP, at a sexual health clinic, or through services like True Relationships & Reproductive Health (you might know True by their old name, Family Planning Queensland) or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled health services.

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.

You can read about everything that will happen during your Cervical Screening Test here.

Breast Screen

It is recommended that Queensland women aged 50 to 74 years participate in BreastScreen Queensland’s free 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.

You can read more about breast screening in Queensland and book your next appointment on the BreastScreen Queensland website.

All women, including women younger than 50, should be ‘breast aware’, which means knowing the normal look and feel of your breasts. You can read more about breast awareness for all women here.

Bowel Cancer Screening Test

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Test invites eligible Australians, starting at age 50 and continuing to age 74, to screen for bowel cancer using a free, simple at-home test. The testing kit is mailed out to eligible men and women every 2 years. You can read more about bowel cancer screening here.

Depending on your health and family history, your doctor might also recommend other regular screens or tests you should do.

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.

Everyone’s different, but on average, adults should aim to get about 8¾ hours of sleep every night. If you’ve decided 2019 is the year you’re going to make sleep a priority, the Sleep Health Foundation has tips and tricks to help you get great sleep every night. If you still need help convincing yourself to get plenty of Zs, read about the 7 amazing things that happen to your body while you sleep here. And if you’re still in your teen years (or you’ve got a grumpy teen at home), read this article all about sleep in your teens.

A mum, dad and a kid lie in the the grass in bare feet.

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 is impacting your health, from shortening your lifespan to increasing your stress levels.

Make this year the year you give up smoking for good. Regardless of how often you smoke, Quitline (13 7848) or QUIT HQ can help you make a plan to quit and stick to it.

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.

Luckily, pelvic floor exercises are something you can do in just a few minutes a day. Read this guide to finding and exercising your pelvic floor, and get squeezing!

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.

If you’re not convinced that brushing is all that important, read these 6 reasons why you’re never too busy to brush. And if you’re looking to level up your oral health, why not try these 5 surprising steps to improve the health of your teeth and gums?

Last updated: 16 January 2019