Perhaps New Year isn’t the best time for New Year’s Resolutions
I first wrote this article in 2017 and it popped back into my head on the first day of the New Year. I thought it was worth revisiting as, three years on, it seems just as relevant as we head into a new year as well as a new decade.
At the start of each year it is common for thoughts to turn to making changes and setting goals. ‘NOW’, we decide, is finally the time to get fit, lose weight or start looking for a new job. We may launch into setting New Year’s resolutions with perhaps a tendency to aim high, (an attempt to kick start ourselves off the back of overindulgence perhaps?), and then we, more often than not, fall off the wagon pretty quickly. Some people may consciously decide not to set any resolutions yet still feel a vague sense of needing to get started on ‘something’.
But sometimes we may just not have that ‘New Year feeling’ yet....
With all the chaos that Christmas and the New Year festivities can bring we often come into January feeling a lot of pressure to make a new start whilst forgetting that we are really still in the middle of winter. Time off over Christmas may not be the relaxing and rejuvenating experience we hoped for. A lot of people have had minor illnesses and many feel as exhausted going back to school and work as they were when they stopped just two-ish weeks ago.
For those of us in the Northern hemisphere, we are now beginning to glimpse a few extra minutes of daylight. It is wonderful as those 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 hard to tell what season we are in based on the foods available in the shops. Winter is a time of dormancy, of rest, of introspection, of quiet and greater solitude than we may wish for at other times of the year. It can be a time to recharge our batteries snuggled in front of the fire and pause. Maybe there is some benefit in ‘resisting’ the message to push ourselves into growth, change or new things just yet, if we’re not really feeling it. The still dark evenings may be better suited to some quiet and meditation, mulling over plans or reflecting on what direction we wish to take next? A time to allow motivation to gradually ‘find us’ as we move towards the more active and dynamic energy of spring, rather than trying to force ourselves to be motivated when the energy of the season isn’t supporting that.
Don’t get me wrong, 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 our own heads and that is something we 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 we try to force change the more we are likely to experience resistance. This can happen even when it is a change that ‘logically’ will be good for us or mentally we really want. We fear that if we stop we may grind to a halt and never get going again but we almost always do. This might reflect what is personally going on in our lives at any particular time but I would suggest that it may also have at least a little to do with the natural ebb and flow of the seasons. Taking gentle care of ourselves at these times, as we prepare to be ready to make changes, can be more effective than pushing ourselves.
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? Perhaps we can think instead of ‘Spring Resolutions’ or simply throw the idea away entirely and allow the next wave of active energy to pick us up and move us forward whenever it comes?
However you decide to approach it I wish you a peaceful and positive start to this new decade and I hope it brings you all the comfort, joy and love that you wish for, when you are ready.
©Dr Karen Janes
Original article – January 2017, revised – January 2020.