It’s the middle of January, which means that either you a) Have given up Zenuary/Dranuary/Veganuary after a particularly crap day that required Galaxy and Merlot or b) are seriously considering throwing your spiraliser at someone you loved in December. No wonder this month has been touted as the most depressing of the year by various publications – it’s the month we set unrealistic, miserable goals for ourselves and when we fail to reach the standards we set, we crumple into a ball of self-defeat.
No more. Life is not something you just have to “get through”, it’s something to be lived as well as you possibly can, whatever your circumstances. I’ve seen homeless people in a better mood than my mate who’s given up sugar for a month. It’s time to give yourself a break.
January is hard enough without piling on hoards of expectations to make it even more difficult. So instead of goals like “lose 10 pounds” or “save £100”, think about what’s stopping you from getting fit and saving money. Personally, I haven’t been inside a gym since July 2016, so I’ve renewed my membership and planned out regular classes that work in line with my other commitments. My biggest weakness is chocolate, so I’ve made a promise to cut down – but not cut it out. I like a glass of wine in the middle of the week, but I’m not going to polish off the bottle. I waste a lot of money getting coffee on the go from the posh cafe near uni, so I’ve restricted myself to buying coffee once a week, making it at home the rest of the time. This is so that I can save money for more important things, like summer plans and a proper pair of jeans. You know the kind. The kind that don’t rip at the crotchal area nine months into the relationship, fat-shaming you into buying a new pair that will inevitably do the exact same.
I hate to get all generation-snowflake on you, but you should put self-care before the pursuit of self-improvement. If your pursuit of a fitter body makes you feel weak and causes you to feel unwell, give yourself a break and eat some carbs. It will not kill you. It will not send your body back to where it was at the beginning. Food is fuel, you need it to survive. Equally, if you break your promises to not eat that or not buy this, don’t descend into a dearth of depression. It doesn’t make anything better. Just learn from it and move on to better things.
Self-improvement is an admirable endeavour and it can teach determination and resolve as well as making us more mature and more developed individuals. Giving up smoking or alcohol can be life-changing. But this unhealthy cycle of resolution and relapse is not sustainable and is ultimately damaging to any sort of self-improvement for the future. The media doesn’t help, either, with January features centring around how to achieve a certain body shape or skin clarity, with the tone of the articles shaming rather than helping us to change.
With all this plus you’re back at work/uni plus you’ve got a cold coming on and your hair looks shite these days, January feel like a very long fog to get through. But there are ways to find the sun. I’m no life coach or wellness guru, but I know a thing or two about getting through hell in high heels (or ballet pumps, or indeed, Adidas).
- Buy an old-fashioned diary. One of those blue leather ones with gold lettering that you used to watch your mum write in. It’s more expensive than your average notebook, but consider it an investment for the rest of the year. Believe me, writing things down makes them far easier to deal with.
- Drink more water. It doesn’t matter if you’re detoxing or not this month, drinking as much water as you can will make you feel lighter and give you more energy to do the things you’ve put off.
- Do something touristy at least every fortnight. I recently went to the National Museum after living in this city for over three years and never having been. It was a revelation and a great place to get away from the Saturday hustle and bustle in the street.
- Call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. If you’ve ever got the feeling you’ve forgotten to do something but can”t remember what, it’s usually this. Friend or family, giving someone a ring is effective in making you feel like a weight has come off your shoulders.
- Give yourself a foot massage. Or give someone else a foot massage. Or get someone else to give you a foot massage.
- Get up an hour earlier one morning and go for a walk before you start your day. Listen to a podcast or playlist or nothing at all. It will clear your head and make you feel more prepared for your day.
- Buy an electric blanket. This is another great investment that I have never looked back on. Winter is not going away anytime soon and heating is expensive, so an electric blanket will get you through many a chilly night. Alternatively, acquire a tall person for your bed, as these people can act as a cosy cage for your cold little cockles to warm up in. Usually cheaper than electric blanket, but be warned : may become attached.
If all else fails, here’s a fantastic recipe for banana bread cookies. Happy 2017!