In this blog, we'll embrace the start of a new year as an opportunity to reflect on what's working for us, consider what might need changing, and explore how we can make the most of the fresh start that the new year offers.
Whether your December was joyous, challenging, or somewhere in between, the beginning of January is a time for renewal and gentle self-reflection. It's a time when the lack of sunlight, the post-holiday slump, and the arrival of bills can weigh heavily on us. Let’s talk about how to approach this new beginning with a gentler perspective. It’s not about grand transformations overnight but about creating a lighter version of ourselves through small, consistent steps and heaps of self-compassion.
Let's start by addressing resolutions.
The key isn’t in never slipping up, but in the grace with which you pick yourself back up. If you've already found yourself deviating from your New Year resolutions, that’s perfectly okay. Remember, this isn’t a race nor a competition. Intention matters more than perfection. The aim is to create a version of yourself that feels more at peace, not one that is weighed down by unmet expectations.
The concept of ‘habit stacking' can be incredibly useful here, and it's quite straightforward. Developed by James Clear, it involves adding a new habit onto an existing one to create a more cohesive routine. For instance, if you already have a habit of brushing your teeth every morning, you could ‘stack' a new habit of doing a one-minute stretch right after. This method makes it easier to remember and stick to new habits because they become part of an established routine.
And remember, if you break a streak, it's not the end of the world. What truly matters is your perseverance to continue, not the occasional lapse. Habit stacking is about gradual improvement and consistency, not perfection.
The spirit of gentleness
As we navigate through January, it’s important to remember that this month can be particularly challenging. The excitement of the holidays has faded, leaving many of us feeling depleted. The days are shorter, darker, and colder. It’s not the most conducive environment for ambitious changes. So, if all you're doing is getting through each day, recognise this as an achievement. Be proud of yourself for that. Extend kindness to yourself, rather than criticism.
In the spirit of gentleness and self-care, let's talk about setting achievable goals. It's far more effective to start with small, manageable objectives. How about beginning each day with a simple glass of water? Or perhaps putting on your favourite, cosy outfit to lift your spirits? Consider meditating for five minutes a day or incorporating a weekly yoga session into your routine. These might seem like small steps, but they are significant. They are attainable, and each time you meet these mini-goals, you reinforce your sense of accomplishment and self-worth.
Speaking of meditation, let's dispel a common misconception: the goal of meditation isn’t to empty your mind, but rather to become more aware of your thoughts and learn to gently guide your focus back when it wanders. It's in the act of noticing our wandering mind and bringing our attention back to our breath where the real work happens. This practice strengthens our mental ‘muscle' of focus and presence. And interestingly, as you get better at it, you might find the need to extend your meditation sessions to continue challenging and developing this skill.
Self compassion is key
As we move through January and beyond, let’s remember that self-compassion is key. This month, with its unique challenges, calls for extra kindness towards ourselves. Set goals, but make them gentle and achievable. Practice self-care, but don't berate yourself if you have off days. And most importantly, embrace the journey with all its ups and downs.
Entering the new year isn't about dramatic changes or harsh self-discipline. It’s about setting the foundation for a year where we grow, learn, and nurture ourselves. It's about building rituals that comfort and sustain us, especially during tougher times. So, as you navigate through these early days of 2024, remember to treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer to a dear friend. Here's to a year of gentle growth, meaningful rituals, and abundant self-compassion.