Happy New Year and all that jazz!
I don’t mean to sound flat, I’m not, but I’m sure you’ve seen countless blog posts, scrolled many Instagram captions and read more news articles than you’d admit, all promoting the usual churn of ‘new year, new me’ type content. And if you’re anything like me, you loathe it all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in some sort of ‘bah-humbug to the new year’ mode, quite the opposite in fact as I’ve had the most chilled and relaxing festive season with my family. I ate my body weight in pigs in blankets and cheese, spent more hours in my pjs and slippers than in actual clothes and loved watching the fireworks decorate the sky on new year’s eve. I love the holidays but I don’t love the subliminal messages behind pretty much everything at this time of year.
I don’t begrudge anyone a productive start to the year and I do count myself as an advocate of a the glorious fresh start that a whole new calendar year can bring. But what I don’t like is that any and every person with a platform starts preaching that January is the time to drop a dress size (or two), join a gym, give up alcohol and maybe even meat too. And while all these endeavours can have their health benefits, we’re almost made to feel that we’re unhealthy, un-productive or worse still, lazy if we don’t do at least several of them. And in reality, why should January be any different to any other time of year? If you need a new calendar month to change your habits then the reality you know deep down is probably the truth: that you could have done it at 12 other times in the previous year. And if you’ve avoided it all year long, why do you think a new calendar year will change it? Change you?
“I think the biggest part of the problem is that we’re the ‘quick fix generation’ and we want the end result without doing the work and investing the time to achieve it.”
New research shows that it takes a minimum of 66 days for a new habit to become automatic. So that quick fix you’re probably looking for in the gym or the caffeine intake you want to lower is going to take a little longer than you planned. And suddenly when people stare the truth in the face: that it takes time as well as effort to change your habits, and yourself, well it’s harder to become motivated isn’t it? I think the biggest part of the problem is that we’re the ‘quick fix generation’ and we want the end result without doing the work and investing the time to achieve it. (Side note: How many things in your life can you attribute this to?) The reality is that the ‘new year, new me’ mentality isn’t truly what you need, it’s actually the end result packaged into 28 days of marketing and subliminal messaging. It’s presented as the solution to whatever problem you want to fix, when in actual fact it’s only the starting point. The truth it that you can’t change yourself in a month.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not poo-pooing anyone who takes the aesthetic of a whole new year as their starting point. I think that when a person looks at themselves and wants to make a change it’s admirable and it’s something that shows huge strength of character. Self improvement and self care aren’t always easy and accepting you need to make changes – no matter how big or small – are signs that you’re a strong enough person to see where changes need to be made within your life for the benefit of your well being. So for me, people deserve a huge pat on the back for wanting to make changes and improvements in the first place. And January is about the starting point of that change.
“Self Care is anything that you do deliberately to look after your physical, mental and emotional health”
A lot of New Year’s Resolutions factor around wellbeing, don’t they? And whether you’re wanting to drink more water (me), have less coffee every day (me) and/or exercise more (also me) then really any promise you make to yourself for the new year comes under the banner of self care. It’s a term that’s become commonplace in recent years, but do you really know what it means? Self Care is anything that you do deliberately to look after your physical, mental and emotional health. It’s about refuelling yourself first before than giving to others. Because you can only take care of or help others with a full tank yourself, no-one runs well on an empty tank.
Self Care comes in many forms and should be practised all year round for you to see the benefits. While now is a great time to start a new journey of looking after yourself and training better habits into your daily life if you chose, it’s also not the be all and end all if it doesn’t go as smoothly as every piece or marketing tells you that it should right now. So what I’m trying to say is this: don’t beat yourself up if you start the year giving up alcohol but by January the 7th you’ve found yourself going for a cheeky drink after work with a friend for a good giggle and soul-satisfying catch up. Or you’ve gone to the gym once a week instead of daily like you planned in the slightly unrealistic daydream of the ‘new year, new you’ phase. January is your starting point to lay the foundations into becoming a healthier, happier person all-round. But it’s not the drop-in month that’s going to fix all your bad habits, vices or quiet your insecurities. Sorry to break it to you but you’re not going to wake up on February 1st a whole new person. You’ll need to spend time working on the things you want to change, because anything truly worth having takes time and effort. But the outcome will be better – you’ll have laid the proper foundations, invested in self care long term and one day you’ll wake up and realise those changes have stuck and you’re healthier and happier than you were before.
January isn’t a miracle month but it’s a hell of a great starting point and the fresh year ahead gives you an incentive to try that bit harder than you previously have in whatever way you want to implement change and practise self care. Change your mindset from being one that says January will fix all your problems, to one that says YOU will fix all your problems with dedication and work. It’s time to pass Go, collect £200 (jokes, I wish), roll up those sleeves and get stuck in to be being the change you want to see in your life – and don’t stop just because February arrives.
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