For many of us January is often a difficult month. Christmas is over, it’s cold, it gets dark early, there aren’t any bank holidays for ages, and we’re back at work. So we might book something to look forward to – a day out or a fabulous holiday. But what about the days in the meantime; should we just wish them away and wait for spring to arrive? If all of us just ‘existed’ through the first 5 weeks of every year from, let’s say, the age of 15, we’d ‘waste’ a massive 2,275 days (or 6.2 years) in an average lifetime. That’s really depressing.
Here are 5 tips that can help you make the most of January, from Jen Rolfe, our positive psychology expert.
1. Shift your focus
Whatever your level of natural optimism, research shows a regular focus on even the small positives of every day can lead to a lasting shift in wellbeing. Try using social medial for the #100happydays challenge – this involves taking a picture of something each day that makes you happy. Or the ‘3 good things’ challenge: at the end of the day for 6 days in a row, write down 3 good things that have happened to you that day, and the part you played in making them happen. Even if you write down that the sun was shining – the part you played was stopping to notice it.
2. Be kind
An instant sense of value comes from giving to others and it’s one of the easiest ways to give yourself a ‘pick-me-up’. Try small acts such as taking unwanted Christmas gifts (or just the items you no longer need) to your local charity shop. How about paying for a stranger’s coffee or picking up some litter in the street. Or a slightly bigger commitment such as volunteering. For more kindness ideas see here.
3. Discover and implement your strengths
What’s your favourite part of your job (or day if you’re not working)? Ask yourself why you find it most satisfying, and seek out ways to do more activities which contain that aspect. Your ‘strengths’ are not just the things you do well, they are also the things that give you energy and feel core to who you are at your best. Research shows increased strengths use leads to higher self-esteem and lower stress.
4. Compare Years
There will always be someone who is more successful, thinner, more beautiful and makes more money than you – comparing to those people will leave you constantly chasing ‘the next thing’ and ultimately reduce your happiness. The only person worth comparing yourself to is you. Where were you at the start of 2015? What have you achieved (however small) in the time that has passed? What would you like to be able to do differently by January 2017?
5. Write some goals AND begin to act on them
Many of us set huge goals at the start of the year. Break them right down to bite-sized chunks to make them achievable and don’t put off starting. Plan what the next step towards your goal is which will take you 10 minutes or less. You can then commit to doing that in the next 24 hours. Continue to commit 10 minutes per day initially, and then gradually increasing the time spent as you need to. If healthier eating is a goal, spend 10 minutes finding a healthy salad recipe you can make with what’s in your fridge. The next day, spend 10 minutes making it for your lunch. Research shows it can take anything from 18 to over 200 days in order to form a new habit – you may crack it in only 3 hours if you do 10 minutes per day for 18 days, and even if you need longer, 10 minutes per day is probably less time than you spend on the loo. Doesn’t seem so difficult now does it?
For more tips read: www.practicallypositive.com/pp-blog
By Jen Rolfe, our Positive Psychology Expert.