Imagine if months could talk.
December: “Eat everything. Indulge. Don’t go to the gym. Watch Christmas movies all day. Have another drink. Buy some more sparkly clothes. Buy. Eat. Drink. Have fun.”
January: “Stop having fun. Stop eating. Join the gym. Quit drinking. Become vegan. Take up yoga. Stop watching Netflix. You’re an awful, greedy slob. Lose 5 stone. Sort out your life. Become a new person.”
But months don’t talk. This is the narrative we, as a society, tell ourselves year after year. We splurge all December only to purge all January. Are we all secretly spending the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ feeling guilty, greedy and awful about ourselves? Only to end up desperately trying to ‘fix’ our yuletide ways when January rolls around? The answer, I suspect, is a resounding ‘yes!’
It has to be said that we are creatures of extremes. We are all or nothing and this yearly cycle is the perfect opportunity for big businesses to exploit this. The purge is directly proportional to the splurge, and as time has gone on and the splurging in December has gotten longer and bigger and grander, the purge in January, too, has become more significant with time. This has been orchestrated by these big businesses as these extremes are extremely profitable for them whereas ‘everything in moderation’ just doesn’t have the same money-making potential.
Nowadays, we have actual terms for our January detox, Veganuary and Dry January being the most commonplace in 2020. These are also examples of the good old New Year’s Resolution and I, for one, have been known to make the odd one or two, or three… (last year’s record number was 20.) They ranged from ‘improve my posture’ to ‘be kinder’, touching on everything in between!
We see it everywhere. The gyms are full, Slimming World is packed and the pubs are dead. Meanwhile, ‘new year, new me’ litters every social media platform. We hold onto the hope that this year will be the year that we change literally overnight, when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, into the most amazing, perfect versions of ourselves.
In all seriousness, despite the tempting sentiment of ‘new year, new me’, most of us (2018 me not included), realise this is a far-fetched way of thinking and are a little more realistic. Our resolutions normally focus on one particular area of our lives, whether that be our careers, our health or our relationships.
On the one hand, January can be a good time to stand back and look at the bigger picture of our lives. After all, if we are not happy with something, the power is with us, and only us, to change it. The prospect of a new year can fill us with hope and, therefore, perhaps this time of year is a good time to begin something new, take a risk or walk the path less travelled. In short, the new year can spur us on to push ourselves and step out of our comfort zone.
This, perhaps, is a little idealistic however, and the truth of it probably looks less as we imagined. Instead, our new year’s resolution lasts around a fortnight and then we crumble under the pressure and end up feeling like a hopeless failure. (How do you even go about correcting your posture anyway?!)
In the desire to make a big change to our lives, we aim too high. We swear off meat or cigarettes or alcohol and, by doing this, we may as well vow to eat dust forever and never have fun again. (That’s not to say that nobody has ever given up smoking, alcohol or meat just that perhaps it wasn’t achieved overnight.)
Rather than setting your sights on these gigantic and vague resolutions, we should be prioritising small, achievable goals. That way, the pressure is off and we can focus on something other than that pesky resolution to NEVER EAT MEAT AGAIN. Instead, we only need to focus on one meat-free day each week, one less cigarette each day or one week without drinking every month. This way, your resolution is more likely to be successful and manageable in the long term and you'll feel better for it.
The idea of a new year being a new beginning and a way to inspire change is great but how about the rest of the year? This annual habit of trying to overhaul our lives and right all of our wrongs in January is not giving ourselves credit for all of the growth that we do every day, knowingly and unknowingly. Our lives, bodies and minds are undergoing continuous cycles of change. We are not a painting that is a few strokes away from becoming a masterpiece. The ‘end goal’ is an alluring but futile concept. Life is the living that we do in the meantime. My 2020 resolution is to keep this in mind.