Thursday, December 29, 2016

Resolve to survive the January blahs

January is a terrible time to resolve to do anything.

Yes, I know that it’s the start of a new year, and the whole new year=new you mythos is what started the whole New Year’s Resolution mess in the first place, but there’s literally nothing else to recommend it. It’s the calendar equivalent of a ditch, a cold, empty stretch of time that we all fall into after the bright, delicious fun of the holiday season. People’s bank accounts are still recovering from the expenditures of Christmas, school starts back up, and nowhere has anything fun planned because people need to actually get some work done after all that time off they took in December.

In short, January is absolutely the worst time of year to try to scrape enough of your willpower together to make any kind of significant changes in your life. Not only is your willpower completely out of practice because of the holidays, but there are some days in January where you need every shred of willpower you have left to get through the dreary grayness of an average day. The third Monday in January is actually referred to as Blue Monday, and is officially recognized as the most depressing day of the entire year. Look it up if  you don’t believe me.

And when you add New Year’s Resolutions on top of this, things somehow manage to get even worse. Because the kind of resolutions that end up getting capital letters are always big, serious resolutions with a lot of moving parts. I’m going to lose 20 pounds. I’m going to go to the gym every single day. I’m finally going to write the novel I’ve always dreamed about.

These things are hard enough to do when you’re at your best, and in January literally no one is at their best. But the unrelenting gray of the weather is getting to you and you’re desperate for some hope, and you charge ahead like you can magically fix yourself if you just want it badly enough. You’ll push ahead toward your goal for a few days, maybe even a few weeks if you’re feeling really determined.

Sadly, most of your internal resources are devoted to just making it through January and you don’t have enough to deal with how overwhelming your resolution suddenly feels. You’ll give up, if not in that moment then soon after, because not only are you tired but your goal suddenly seems even further away than when you started. Then, of course, you’ll feel even worse about yourself because you’re now one of those dreaded “quitters,” and will possibly try to drown your sorrows in some indulgence that will cause you to fall even further behind on that great scale of becoming a Better Person (TM).

So if you’re going to do any big resolutions, wait until spring. It’s got even more symbolic juice behind it that the new year – nature is restarting, plants are growing, everything is waking up and renewing itself – and a general atmosphere that’s way less depressing than January. Anything you start then will have more of a chance.

And if you insist on beginning your self-improvement project in January, start small. Pick one fairly simple thing you can do in a day. If you don’t accomplish it, don’t worry – that’s now officially become your goal for tomorrow. When you do accomplish it, find another small goal you can achieve in 24 hours. It’s fine to even make it the same goal, if that’s what helps you.

These are the kind of resolutions meant for a month like January. Good luck out there. 

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