Perhaps New Year isn’t the best time for New Year’s Resolutions?
I first wrote this article in 2017 and revisited it in 2020, just before the chaos hit us all! I think it still stands so I have again given it a little update and I share it with you once more, as we make our way through the first month of this new year.
Half way through January, is often the time that an initial burst of enthusiasm starts to wane. It is still dark and, in the UK at least, it has been very wet and grey and some days have seemed to barely get light at all. Even for the UK it has been a little unusual.
If your thoughts have been turning to ideas of making changes and setting goals I'd be curious to know how that is going? The beginning of the year may often be the time that you decide, indeed we are encouraged to decide, to finally get round to getting fitter, losing weight, starting to looking for a new job, learning a new skill or making a myriad of other changes. Even if you have long-since decided that setting New Year’s resolutions is a pointless activity it is hard to be completely immune to the idea that you should have things, 'goals', that you are going to aim to achieve this year. There can also be a tendency to aim unrealistically high, (an attempt to kick-start yourself off the back of the festive overindulgence perhaps?). Sustaining that enthusiasm can be a very different ball game and you may find you fall off the wagon of working towards those goals pretty quickly.
Maybe that ‘New Year feeling’ hasn't quite kicked in yet....?
With all the chaos of Christmas and the New Year January can bring a lot of pressure to make a new start whilst forgetting that it is really still the middle of winter. Time off over festive period may not have been the relaxing and rejuvenating experience you had hoped for. There have been so many bugs around this year and with a lot of world-related worries about money, the health service, the climate, wars and so on, you may find that you and your family headed back to work and school as exhausted as you were a month ago.
It is a wonderful thing, if you're in the northern hemisphere at this time of year, to begin noticing as the evenings, imperceptibly at first, start to lengthen little by little. In the UK, though, we know that some of our harshest weather is probably still to come as we make our way slowly towards the beginning of spring. I say this not to be depressing but rather to offer some balance to the pressure we can feel to be bursting with energy, motivation and enthusiasm right away.
It is a challenge, or perhaps even impossible, in modern society to truly live in tune with the seasons. We have electric lighting and these days it is impossible to tell what season we are in based on the foods available in the shops. Winter used to be a time of dormancy, of rest, of introspection, of quiet and greater solitude than at other times of the year. It can be a time to recharge your batteries snuggled in front of the fire and pause. It can be a season of more inner work, exploration of one's self.
Maybe there is benefit to be found in ‘resisting’ the message to push yourself into growth, change or new things just yet, particularly if you’re not really feeling it. The still dark evenings may be better suited to some quiet and meditation, mulling over plans or reflecting on where you got to last year and beginning a slow and gentle turn, in your thoughts if not yet in action, towards the direction you might wish to take next? A time to allow motivation to gradually ‘find you’ as you move towards the more active and dynamic energy of spring, rather than trying to force yourself to be motivated when the energy of the season isn’t supporting that. It is ok to honour feeling tired, if this is the case for you, and give your body and mind the rest and care that it needs.
Of course, if you feel moved to cut back after the excesses of the festivities, to have a month where your body is less stressed by alcohol or over indulgence or to begin being more active then by all means go ahead. But, if you’re not quite there yet, I would encourage you not to force it and most importantly not to FEEL BAD! Much of the harm that people do to themselves is invisible to others because it happens inside their own heads and that is something you can gradually and gently work towards changing.
Many people I have talked to over my years as a healer and therapist have told me they experience a phenomenon in relation to change whereby they somehow just ‘feel ready’, all of a sudden, to take a new step. Often the more you try to force change the more you are likely to experience resistance: I am talking here about things that are 'your choice' after all. The resistance can happen even when it is a change that ‘logically’ will be good for you or mentally you do really want. Many things can make change difficult. Sometimes there can be a fear that if you stop you may grind to a halt and never get going again, which can result in a lot of pressure and may not even be a true thing about you anyway. There may be things going on for you personally, right now, that are making it harder to get going, but it can be useful to at least consider the part that the natural ebb and flow of the seasons may be making and try to work with it rather than pushing yourself to work against it. Taking gentle care of yourself at these times, as you prepare to be ready to make changes, can be more effective than pushing yourself up a metaphorical big hill.
So, by all means start planning or dreaming about the things you would like to achieve or change this year but why not ease off the pressure? You might find some ‘Spring Resolutions’ speak more to you or simply throw the idea away entirely and allow the next wave of active energy to pick you up and move you forward when it, and you, are good and ready.
However you decide to approach it I wish you a peaceful and positive start to this new year and I hope it brings you all the comfort, joy and love that you wish for, when you are ready.
This wonderful image is by Charlie Mackesy, who is a truly wonderful artist, writer and now film maker. His work is comforting and inspiring.
©Dr Karen Janes
January 2023, (based on an article first written in January 2017).