It’s only the beginning of the month, and we’ve got a first-class case of the Januarys: that extra-special cocktail of optimism, hope, frustration, and grit with a sprinkle of self-loathing and dash of cynicism on the side. It’s what ramps up gym memberships and cashes in on cleanses – what jolts us out of bed on the first of the month and has us barely out of pjs by March. It’s what rings in the year with cheer and closes out the year with fear. It’s what keeps us in the loop of pseudo self-improvement that makes us feel like we just can’t catch a break.
And frankly, it’s exhausting.
A thought: what if it’s all a ploy? What if the freshness of each new year is just a chance for food companies, fitness brands, and mass media marketing to convince us that the way we’ve been living hasn’t been “good enough” until now? What if our case of the Januarys is being exploited so that we’re tricked into using those positive qualities – the optimism, hope, grit – to fuel the negative, over and over, year after year, right when it hits us hardest?
There’s a grain of truth in this tactic. Transitional moments like birthdays, seasons, and yes, new years, are stellar times to make shift happen. Natural transitions beget natural change – I don’t know one person who hasn’t grown a year older or stepped outside on the first day of summer and felt something shift inside of them. Whether it’s metaphorical or physical, the shedding of layers during these times of change is what makes space for all the growth and general newness coming our way. To resist this is to resist the chance to be your most expressed, most ecstatic, most whole self.
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The caveat lies in the kind of shift we try to make happen. Superficial goals that read like magazine headlines set us up for failure by focusing on one narrow expectation – an end result that’s arbitrary, impersonal, and might not even be in our control. Dropping the dress size, making more money, finding true love, getting the best body ever. Ever.
More and more women (and men) find themselves back at square one by the time the year is over – and even if they don’t and their outsides look different, many are mentally in the same spot as they’ve always been by years’ end.
It’s reinforced by our culture and years of trying to do right by it: We should want to be better, and the way to do that is focus on a prescribed set of seemingly achievable norms. (Mostly having to do with how to lose weight or getting our “best body ever.” Like, what does that even mean?)
What if I told you that the so-called “secrets” to your best body didn’t come in a can, a bottle, a cream or a Crossfit? What if I said the trick to dropping the dress size, making more money, and finding true love was simple, accessible, and realistic for the life you’re living at this very moment?
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What if the decisions you made – the ones that had nothing to do with calories or reps or the job you have or things you buy – were the decisions that actually helped you get that life you covet?
You’ve already read about all the new fitness trends and diet tricks. Here are three other ways to cure a case of the Januarys (along with my own examples for inspo). Turns out, it’s all in your attitude:
1.) FIND A REASON FOR THE SEASON (of change)
Losing weight, buying a house, or “networking more” are all fine and dandy, but what happens after? It’s important to know why you want to make a change, and what that “why” means to you. Think losing weight will make you happier? Well, what does “happy” mean to you? Self-confidence to wear what you, ask someone on a date, insist on that raise, stand up to your bullies? Okay, so losing weight can definitely play a part in that. But if “buying a house” will make you happier as well, that might boil down to safety, security, a sense of belonging….and there actually might be something else that can speak to that on a more regular basis. Maybe you can redecorate your apartment, or have people over once a week for game night.
This year, focus on the reason you want change and then go from there. You can use this to break down goals into habits as well. Say you want to “eat healthier.” Well, what does “healthier” mean to you? Maybe you already eat a mostly plant-based diet, but are still feeling sluggish or foggy throughout the day. Can you pinpoint a small change that could be contributing to this? Healthier could mean drinking half your body weight in water (the recommended dose) per day. It could mean eating earlier in the evening – or later. Point being: it’s your unique micro-habits that eventually shape positive macro-change.
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My example: I want to have more energy. What does “more energy” look like to me? It means not pressing the snooze button 4xs, working out in the mornings, getting work done in a timely fashion so I can spend more time not sitting. I love the mornings, and the earlier I can get myself up and running (literally or metaphorically!), the better I feel about my day in general. I have loads of mental energy – it’s the physical energy that gets me sometimes. And what I’ve realized is that it starts when I wake up…with a headache. My doctor suggested eating a little bit of protein about 30 minutes before I go to sleep, which is something that has helped me in the past. So in the new year, I’d love to start that habit again. I know it will lead to “more energy,” but it makes me excited because it feels like I’ll be getting my mornings back. My habit/reason/”resolution” if you will is to eat a little protein 30 minutes before bed…not to “have more energy.”
2.) THE HABIT-TO-MONTH RATIO.
I once read that when adopting a newer, healthier lifestyle (whether that means losing extra inches, lowering inflammation in your body, gaining muscle, or raising your body weight to a level at which it can function with energy and ease), it takes something like four weeks for you to feel a difference, eight for your friends to take notice…and twelve for acquaintance and strangers to start asking questions. Okay, so maybe I read it on the ever-prestigious scientific journal that is Pinterest…but I love the picture it paints of slow and steady change, moment by moment. Sure, you can have an end result in mind. But most of the time, when we’re so tightly tied to one specific end result, we miss out on all the other great things that happen along the way.
This year, try adopting one new habit per month and just see where it takes you. If the Pinterest scientists are correct, you’ll start to feel a shift about a month into your journey. If it’s working for you, great! If it’s not, let it go – no guilt.
Another bonus? Just one habit per month prevents you for getting too overwhelmed with tasks and to-dos – and helps you pay attention to what’s really going on as a result of the change you’ve vowed to make. I can sometimes (read: all the times) get overly excited about the idea of making big shifts all at once. It’s exciting. And distracting. One per month (or one habit + one tangible to-do item if you’re feeling ambitious) helps me focus my energy on that single thing instead of spreading myself thin in 12 different areas of my life.
My example: This month, I’m going to make a habit out of exercising between 9:30am and 10:30am every weekday. My schedule has been feeling haphazard lately, and I’ve found that’s the time block I get the most out of my sweat sessions – so I’ve committed to trying it out this month to see if it helps me feel more structured and energized the rest of the day. Next month, I’m going to make sure I schedule two social activities during the week each week, whether they’re dinner dates with friends or saying yes to media invites. As an introvert, I need my time to think and recharge, but I also know that I crave a sense of community. Too many “yesses” makes me feel stretched thin, but I’ve found that too few make me feel disconnected. Carving out time for two high-value (soul-wise) activities is totally doable and gets me excited to connect with like-minded peeps.
3.) COMPLIMENT OTHERS.
When it comes to negative self-talk, have you ever heard someone ask “Would you talk to your best friend that way?” (here’s why that doesn’t really work) Turns out, this advice works best in the opposite, positive direction: when we compliment others, whether it be on a new dress or on their killer smile, we are training our brains to speak kindly. And as with anything else, practice makes permanence. When your mind practices the art of reassurance and positive reinforcement, its wires get untangled and positivity starts to become your own vernacular. I have no “My Example” for this one, because these are effects I see daily, monthly, yearly. Self-talk is like a muscle – and we can choose whether to build it up positively or negatively.
This year, start being kind to yourself by being kind to others. In a sea of “best body now!” guides and headlines, this one shift can be your biggest game-changer. Retraining yourself to speak a new language – a language of kindness – has major positive ramifications. Your “best body” becomes the one you are in now, because you realize that even on the gloomiest days there is something wonderful about it that keeps you shining. Your physical self becomes not a goal to achieve, but a by-product of all the jumping-for-joy you’re doing in the rest of your life, during the high highs and the low lows.
When you’re nice to others, you’re nice to yourself – and you will start making decisions from a place of self-love instead of self-loathing. It’s a small change, that, over time, makes a huge, huge difference.
Now that’s what I call a cure-all.
I gave you my examples – and now I want to hear yours in the comments below.
What is one reason you’d like to make a shift, and what does that mean to you?
What is one new habit you can try out this month to get you feeling the way you want to feel?
Have you tried the “speak to others like you hope to speak to yourself” compliment experiment?
Doesn’t this picture of a girl jumping just make you want to jump for joy yourself? (it’s infectious like that)