Joanne Broder Sumerson Ph.D.

Research Notes

How to Not Hate January

Tips to embrace one of the least favorite months of the year.

Posted Jan 14, 2020

Congratulations on surviving the end-of-year crunch as well as the hectic and possibly stressful holiday season. The days are short and they might be cold, gray, damp, and dreary. The media is hard-selling the need to renovate our bodies, homes, and careers, while we might be consumed in an emotional cocktail of relief, fear, excitement, mystery, and hope, with shots of anger, guilt, regret, and sadness. 

Welcome to January! According to Borchard (2018), it is the saddest month of the year and the Blue Monday is the third Monday in January (Lusher, 2016). Resolutions might have been broken with leftover emotional residue lingering from the holidays. Life resumes with the daily grind and we are trying to adjust to our new normal with the pressure of #newyearnewyou. In addition, January seems to deliver surprise and random bouts of bad weather and awful news. 

Is there anything to love about January? Ingraham (2015) reported that January and February were the least favorite months, with May, October, June, and December as the favorites. I am sure we all get why love is high for the blooming flowers of May, October’s colorful leaves, June's summer sun, and the holiday cheer of December. Until then, let us embrace and celebrate this messy and confusing month without getting sucked into the blahs.

  1. Be true to yourself. Why get sucked into the pressure? Is this a really good time for you to start a new goal or stop an old habit? If the answer is yes, check in with yourself to confirm whether or not the goal or new habit is really for you. The intention should always come from your heart.
  2. Make a fresh start on your terms. January is simply the turning of the calendar; a grandiose symbol that marks the passage of time. Goals can start or behavior can be changed at any time; not just January when the time might not be right. You could wake up on a random Wednesday in the middle of March and decide that it is finally the day to start or stop something. 
  3. Accomplish something very little. If you really must jump on the January bandwagon, at least start small. Pick the smallest and least expensive thing on your list, so it is likely that you will actually achieve it. Then, celebrate your victory and keep it up.
  4. Give yourself something to look forward to. Back to the real world, what is next? There might be amazing plans for the spring, summer, and fall, but what about now? Hold and cherish space for something that might be specific to January, whether it is football playoffs, a winter-only experience, a beach getaway, tickets to a show, or a new tradition; just because.
  5. Embrace the quiet. Where is everybody? Rather than feeling that sense of FOMO (fear of missing out), cherish the quiet time. January is the calm after the December storm. New Year’s passes and daily life resumes. Aside from the normal ebbs and flows of life, we are hibernating, reflecting, and planning. Use this time to do you.
  6. Be extra nice to yourself. It might be cold and gray outside, but you can always generate your own warm sunshine. Buy flowers, use those gift cards, take that extra-long bath, and just do whatever you have to do to make yourself smile. You deserve it.
  7. Be gentle with yourself. We are humans, not robots. We cannot press control, alt, etc. for a shortcut to a new program. On top of the heaviness of the month, there is a strong message that we must hit the ground running at the start of the new year. On top of recovering from December and the angst of January, life throws us curveballs such as illness, loss, bad weather, and other uncontrollable situations, which might throw us off our game. Practice self-forgiveness and non-judgment.
  8. Be positive. My dad always said, “the best years have the worst Januarys.” When January starts out with boomerangs and cadoozers, remember that the phase or situation is a temporary circumstance. This too shall pass and the situation will be resolved. Plus, the year is not doomed.

Remember, you are the person who critically evaluates your success. Be proud when things move in the direction you want, even if it is a little bit. Trust your own process.

References

Ingraham, C., (2015).  The definitive ranking of the best and worst months of the year. Washington Post.