The 5 Best Ways to Beat the January Blues


Hey Its Okay Positively Present

 

Happy 2018!

2017 was... interesting (to put it nicely), and I can't deny that I'm looking forward to a fresh start, with 12 whole months of possibilities ahead. That being said, January is always a bit of a tough month for me. For some people, there's the excitement of a fresh start, the glow of the coming year's opportunities, and I want to embrace all of those things too, but more often than not, it's just stressful. The beginning of January often comes with a mix of make-it-the-best-year-ever pressure and it's-ages-before-my-favorite-season (autumn) rolls around again. 

Like many people, January often finds me either fretting about what I didn't do in the previous year or worrying about all that's yet to come. Plus, the holidays are over, the days are short, dark, and often gloomy, and it's cold. It's not the greatest month for a lot of us, but that doesn't mean we can't do our best to stay as positively present as possible! 

Here are some of the tactics I'll be using this month to try tackling those January blues. All of these I've tried before and they've really helped me ward off the doom-and-gloom of the new year. Hopefully they'll help you too! 

 

ACCEPT THE DOWN-AND-OUT VIBES

When it comes to dealing with a difficult situation — no matter what it is! — the first step is acceptance. If you try to pretend you're not struggling or you try to push away the sad or stressed emotions, they'll come back even worse (and often in unpredictable and bizarre ways!). If you're not feeling the "new year, new me!" vibes, don't worry — you're not alone. It's a challenging time for a lot of people, and the first step to making it easier is recognizing that it's okay not to feel super excited and optimistic about the year ahead. Twelve months is a long time, and you don't have to be jumping for joy on day one. Allow yourself to feel how you feel, and try your best not to judge yourself or tell yourself that you "should" feel a certain way. You feel how you feel, and that's perfectly okay. 

 

DO SOMETHING YOU PUT OFF LAST YEAR

Part of the not-so-great feelings that can come along on January 1 involve believing that you didn't accomplish everything you wanted to last year. You've probably heard about the high failure rates for new year's resolutions so if you didn't get all of your bad habits under control last year, you're not alone. You can't change everything that happened last year, but you can take a positive action right now. Think of one thing you could do right this month (today even!) that you wanted to do last year. It doesn't have to be something big — could be cleaning out a closet, donating some old clothes, writing an email to an old friend, visiting a museum you've been wanting to check out — but pick something and do it. It'll make you feel good, and it'll set a positive, proactive tone for the year ahead. 

 

START A NEW (POSITIVE!) DAILY HABIT

I know, I know — this is the most cliched new year advice in the world, but for the past few years I've started doing Yoga with Adriene's 30 Day Yoga Journey and it's been amazing for me. Working out is hard (especially if you're not a fan, like me) and this is an easy way for me to get into a routine without too much effort since I can do it at home anytime I want. Plus, because she's been doing these for a few years, I start a old video series in February and it keeps me on track for a few months. It apparently takes about two weeks to start a habit so why not incorporate something into your daily routine now? It doesn't have to be a major shift (sometimes that whole "resolution" concept feels daunting!), but doing something (however small!) new on a daily basis will give you a nice little focus for upcoming gloomy month.  

 

KEEP YOUR HOME FESTIVELY HYGGE

Last year after Christmas, I decided I was going to leave up the lights all year 'round. I'd decorated my bookshelves and windows with them and I knew that taking them down was one of the hardest bits of post-Christmas de-decorating because it meant a lot of the light would be taken out of the room. Keeping up lights always seemed too college-dorm-room to me, but once I decided to embrace them, it was kinda awesome. I generally don't use them much in the warmer months, but they keep my place feeling cozy and hygge-like all winter long. Lights might not be your thing, but try to do something at home that'll keep you feeling cozy and uplifted throughout the darkest months of the year. Even a little thing can have a big impact on your mood!

 

MAKE A STAY-THE-SAME RESOLUTION

Years ago, I wrote New Year, Same Me: 6 Stay-the-Same Resolutions, and I think about it every year when all of the articles and blog posts on making and keeping new year's resolutions start popping up everywhere. There's always so much focus on what we want to change and what we hope for in the year ahead (or reflections on what happened the year before), and most people don't pause to think about what they want to stay the same in the upcoming months. Resolutions might work for some people, but I personally find them frustratingly ineffective. Since I wrote that post back in 2010, I've found it a lot more useful to think about what worked well in the previous year and direct my focus to creating more of that in my life. Instead of focusing on what you don't want to be (or don't feel you are), try zeroing in on what's working about you and your life, and it's sure to make January a bit more joyful (and perhaps a little less judgmental, too!). 

 

If you're struggling right now, don't forget: you're not alone. A lot of us have a hard time during this time of year, and the best thing you can do is do what you can to make the most of it. Hopefully these tips will provide some inspiration for the weeks to come, but if you're really feeling down and can't seem to shake the January blues, I highly recommend seeking advice from a professional. Therapy (and light therapy!) can work wonders for the toughest time of the year. 

 

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4 Ways to Embrace the Freedom of Letting Go

 

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This week, I made this illustration for the "Freedom" prompt of the 2017 Gratitude Challenge, and it really got me thinking about how freeing the act of letting go really is. But it's also really difficult to do — at least for me it is. I'm pretty picky so when I let a person / thing / experience / idea / behavior into my life, I find it challenging to let it go (even when I know for sure it's no good for me). But, as I say often, it's often the most challenging things that are the ones worth doing. 

Hanging onto the things you no longer need might feel comforting, but consider what would happen if trees clung to all of their dead leaves? Come spring, the brand new (alive!) leaves would have a pretty tough time finding room on the branches. Same goes for us. When we cling to what's no longer enhancing our lives, we block off possibilities for new things to flourish. 

Releasing our own dead leaves isn't always a smooth and effortless process, the way it seems to be for the trees, but that doesn't mean we can't do it. If we want the freedom that comes with letting go, it's up to us to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work of letting go. Here are some of the best ways to get started: 
 

  • Determine what you value most. When you take a step back and think about you truly value in your life, you'll realize that much of you're holding on to isn't as essential as you might've thought. What's essential is being healthy, positive, mindful, and living your life to the fullest (or maybe some other things that matter most to you!). If you are clinging to things or people, you're not experiencing true freedom. You're restricted by beliefs that aren't allowing you to thrive the way the trees do in the spring. Stepping back and assessing what really matters to you will make letting go a lot easier.

  • Reflect on what you're really receiving. We often hang on to things or people because we believe they're add value to our lives, that we're receiving some benefit from them (or providing it to them). But is that actually a fact? Are you actually benefiting from the clutter (emotional or physical) in your life, or do you just tell yourself you are because it's easier than choosing change? Reflecting on whether or not a person / experience / etc. is making your life richer can provide you with a boost of motivation to let someone or something go. Of course, not everything in life is about what you get from it, but if something is taking more than it's giving, it might not be worth clinging to.  

  • Take note of what you're overvaluing. Are you placing high value on a person or thing you're holding on to unnecessarily? Are you giving something way more value than it truly has? More often than not, we idealize people or things and tell ourselves that, for whatever reason, we need it/him/her. Needing something is kind of prison; it keeps you trapped in situations that aren't necessarily beneficial for you. If there's a voice inside you saying "let go," it's a pretty good sign that you should let go. What you truly need in your life is never going to be accompanied by a voice that urges you to let go. Listen to that voice — not the one that overvalues what's no good for you as a way to keep you feeling the false comfort of not experiencing freedom. 

  • Be strong enough to release your grasp. It really does come down to two little words: let go. No matter how hard it feels, no matter what obstacles appear to stand in your way, if you want to experience true freedom, you have to be brave and release your grip. Of course, this is much easier said than done, but, honestly, taking action really is the only way to access freedom and make room for new growth. You owe it to yourself to be brave and release what you no longer need. And keep this in mind: the hardest part is the release; once you're brave enough to take that first step, you'll soon see that you're fine without those dead leaves clinging to your branches. 
     

As you're learning to let go, also keep in mind that, deep down, you know what's best for you. If there's a voice telling you to let go, listen to that instinct. You won't hear that voice when you're doing what's right for you, when you're with people who bring you up, when you're connecting with the very best parts of yourself. It's hard to listen to the voice telling you to do the hard thing, but not listening often makes it harder — you'll either remained imprisoned by what you're clinging to, or you'll drag out the letting go process, making it even more challenging when you finally release that grip. 

Let the trees inspire you, and look to them way they let the dead leaves drop motivate you to release what you no longer need. When you let go, you might go through a tough time — a bare-branched winter, like the trees — but that pain will pass, and you'll have made room for the bright, lively leaves of spring when they arrive (and they will!). 

 

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For the First Time: A List of Things to Try

 
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Is there something you've always wanted to do (and probably could) but just haven't done? This week I was presented with the awesome opportunity to do one of my want-to-but-never-have things: a tarot reading! The lovely Kerry Ward, aka Tarotbella, Cosmopolitan's tarot expert, reached out to me and offered to do a reading for me, and it was eye-opening, filled with wisdom that I definitely needed to hear! Most importantly, it led me to ask the question, Why didn't I do this before? It was something I'd always wanted to try, and could have, but just never did. 
 
Like so many of us, I tend to stick to what I know and love, even when I'm deeply curious and intrigued by newness. It's often not until something pushes or pulls me out of what I know that I explore new experiences. Like with the tarot reading — it literally had to land in my in-box for me to take action! 
 
It's hard to try new things, especially if that's not your inherent nature. I totally understand the discomfort that comes with trying something unfamiliar, of being vulnerable in a different environment or experience, but I highly recommend pondering these questions: 
 
What things have I always wanted to try but haven't?
What's on that list that I could actually do this week? 
 
This is a great starting point for getting outside of your comfort zone because you're looking to things that are already appealing to you. (Which is different than, for example, trying something recommended by others that, yes, you'd probably enjoy if you gave it a chance, but that doesn't necessarily excite you right off the bat.) In addition, if you identify something you can do right now (or this week), you'll be more likely to actually do it! 
 
Trying new things increases self-awareness, stimulates creativity, helps overcome fear, increases confidence, provides wisdom, and allows you to see the world from a different perspective, but I know how hard it can be for some people (like me!) to do new things. This week, try to do something you've always wanted to, and see how it makes you feel! Here are some ideas for things you could do this week... 
 
  • Eat at a restaurant you've never tried before
  • Drive down a road you've always been curious about
  • Write an email (or letter!) to your favorite author
  • Sign up for a dance / yoga / photography class
  • Learn about the trees and plants around your home 
  • Apply to volunteer at a local organization or charity
  • Get a tarot or palm reading in person or online
  • Find a clear bit of sky to do some stargazing
  • Try out that Pinterest idea you pinned ages ago
  • Start a handwritten (gratitude?) journal 
  • Take photos of a beautiful thing you want remember
  • Learn to cook a meal you really enjoy eating
  • Tell someone about how you really, truly feel
  • Hang a string of fairy lights above your bed
  • Watch a tutorial on a skill you've wanted to master
  • Speak up online for a cause you fully believe in
  • Go to the library and check out some books (for free!)
  • Send flowers to someone you love just because
  • Chat with that cute stranger you've seen around
  • Donate money to a charity you'd like to support
  • Look up the answer to a question you've pondered
  • Adopt a dog or cat (or any other kind of creature)
  • Create something you've never made before
 
These are just a few ideas that came to my mind, but hopefully they'll remind you of something you've been wanting to try but never have. It's never too late to try something new, and, after getting that tarot reading last week, I realized it doesn't have to be something major. (And it's also really easy to do if it's something you've always thought about doing!) Get out there and do something for the first time this week! If you do it, let me know in the comments or on social media. I'd love to hear about what you tried and how it went!  

    

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