Finding Joy in January

January has been taking a lot of flak lately. I constantly see posts and tweets about how it’s a hard month full of broken resolutions, low energy, and depression. This makes me sad because January is often an enjoyable month for me, unlike February which was always really hard when I was a teacher and still causes a bit of dread. January and I get along fine, so in an effort to help you improve your relationship with the first month of the year, here are a few things I did this year to conquer January.

* Note: I realize January is currently ending, so this post may feel like too-little-too-late. But…
A) There’s always next year, and B) There’s no reason why these tips wouldn’t work in February, too.

Geek Out on Goals

I’m a planner. I looooove setting goals. Daily goals, weekly goals, monthly goals, yearly goals. January is a big deal for me because it means making my new planner for the year and starting with big-picture plans and narrowing down to the first daily tasks I want to accomplish. It takes me hours and involves many different colored pens, and I love it. I also like to make an ideal weekly plan that incorporates when I’ll write, when I’ll exercise, when I’ll do chores and errands and house managing, and when I’ll attend my various on-going meetings and events. This kind of scheduling is especially important when you’re self-employed and work from home because, in my opinion, structure is key to consistent productivity.

I firmly believe in goal-setting and taking the time to visualize the “perfect” day/week/month because being mindful about how I spend my time is the first step to actually using my hours wisely. However, I am also a firm believer in being human, and battling perfectionism is always on my to-do list, too. So, in case you haven’t already figured it out, let me say this loud and clear: YOU ARE NOT GOING TO MEET ALL OF YOUR GOALS. Also, LIFE WILL CONSTANTLY GET IN THE WAY OF THE SCHEDULE YOU CREATE. And, DESPITE THE BEST OF PLANS, YOU MAY EVENTUALLY FIND YOURSELF IN DAY THREE OF EATING GOLDFISH CRACKERS IN YOUR PAJAMAS WHILE WATCHING THE GOOD PLACE.

But let me tell you something else: This is ok. Failing to meet a goal or getting sidetracked from your ideal routine isn’t the end of the world, and it doesn’t mean that setting those intentions in the first place was a waste of time. When you emerge from your TV tangent (wrinkled and covered in Goldfish crumbs) and you shower (don’t skip this step) and come back ready to try again, you’ll already have the structure you need to get started. The plan is waiting for you, ready for you to put it into action.

So I say, make those goals, set those intentions, create that ideal structure. When you mess up, don’t throw the whole thing out. Just come back, regroup, see where you left off, and start again.

Stop Spending

One goal I consistently set for myself in January is no spending money on myself, at least not frivolously. No clothes, no books, no random household items that catch my eye. (I can’t seem to stop buying lamps lately.) Some people do dry January (no alcohol) and some people give up caffeine at the start of the new year. I don’t do this because I don’t overindulge in alcohol during the holidays and how much coffee I drink is between me and the coffee gods. But I do sometimes slide down the icy slope of slippery spending in December. It starts with buying gifts for other people, and then I just happen to maybe see something (or somethings) that I would like to have for myself as well. Add this to the expense of Christmas trees and travel and “just a few more strings of lights” and it definitely puts a dent in the credit card.

Feeling broke in January is common and can easily bring a person down, but if you come at it proactively and set a goal to not buy anything, it feels more empowering. It’s not that you can’t buy that book, it’s that you’re choosing not to because you made a promise to yourself. Subtle difference maybe, but it changes the perspective for me.

Do I get tempted to break this goal during January? Certainly! Do I have a pair of pants in my Old Navy shopping cart and my eye on a lamp at Target? Without a doubt. Will I buy those things in February? Maybe and maybe not. I often find things lose their appeal after awhile. I’ll probably do some shopping in February, but I’ll be more discerning about it.

Pay no attention to the dog hair on my bolster and the kitten teeth marks on my blocks.

Be Active

My favorite way to get exercise is to get outside and walk or hike while talking to a good friend or listening to a good audiobook, but I also love to do yoga. Since January weather can’t be counted on to cooperate with outdoor activities, I decided to add more yoga into my life this month. I already have a lovely class at my local rec center taught by the wonderful Chrissy Cortez-Mathis (<– Check out her website to learn more about Chrissy’s yoga instruction, passion for nature, and upcoming mindfulness workshops!), but I wanted to add some more styles of yoga to my routine and practice with some new teachers as well. The desire to expand my yoga world led me to The Mat Yoga Studio, and I’m so glad it did.

You may be thinking, How did you join a new yoga studio while not spending any money on yourself? I made an exception. Spending money on improving my mental and physical health did not seem frivolous. Plus, The Mat has this phenomenal introductory offer where you get unlimited yoga for three weeks (both in-person and virtual classes) for only $39. There’s no contract, no commitment to purchase a pass after the introductory period ends. Just three weeks of as much yoga as you can fit in your schedule. It was awesome. I was able to practice different yoga styles with different teachers at different times of the week until I found the ones that were the right fit for me. (Though, I should mention, they were ALL good.) And yes, I am going to buy one of their passes now. But I don’t have to.

Whatever you do to stay active, try to make room for it in January. If money is tight, taking a walk is free, and luckily we have lots of nice January days here in Texas. (Although, today is not one of them.) If outdoor exercise isn’t your thing, look for a place that has a no-commitment introductory offer like The Mat or check out the affordable classes at your local rec center.

Seek Inspiration (And Maybe Find a Bit of Magic)

If you have a creative endeavor on your 2023 to-do list, you may need something to boost your creative energy and help you get back to the page or easel at the start of the new year. I always like to read a book about writing craft or a book of poetry to inspire me, and this year, thanks to Ashley B. Davis‘s recommendation, I found the perfect one.

I listened to the audio version of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear (from the library — no spending) and I loved it. This book did exactly what it was supposed to do: it made me want to write. The last part of 2022 threw some life challenges my way. While I was able to meet my deadline on a writing project and accomplish some small goals in November and December, simply writing and producing words and working on my own stuff didn’t happen. In January, I felt ready to jump back in, but I needed something to help me start. Big Magic was the perfect companion to get me to the page. Because of Gilbert’s enchanting mix of inspirational anecdotes and practical advice, I was able to break out of my rut and start writing again. I began writing first thing in the morning on most days, unexpectedly started a fun new project that’s keeping my brain engaged, and (most importantly) finally took a peep back inside that unfinished novel I’m determined to complete this year.

Big Magic may not be the right book to get you back into your creative groove, but I guarantee there’s a book, magazine, podcast, or meet-up that will give you the burst of inspiration you need to dive back in to your artistic pursuits. Look for it!

Dedicated Downtime

When making all these plans and setting all these goals, make sure you don’t overdo it. Schedule plenty of room for the activities that relax and refuel you. For me, that’s reading. I make time to read every single day (unless life gets in the way one day and I don’t get to– no big deal) but I set aside one block of time per week (usually on Saturday morning) to do nothing but stay in my pajamas, drink coffee, and read in bed. That scheduled time is just as important as the rest of my goals.

There’s nothing ground-breaking here, but if January got you down or if you’re dreading February, maybe give one thing off my list a try. Sometimes a small change can make a big difference.

What recommendations do you have for getting through your least favorite month? Share them in the comments!

Published by Carie Juettner

Carie Juettner is a former middle school teacher and the author of The Ghostly Tales of New England, The Ghostly Tales of Austin, and The Ghostly Tales of Burlington in the Spooky America series by Arcadia Publishing. Her poems and short stories have appeared in publications such as The Twin Bill, Nature Futures, and Daily Science Fiction. Carie lives in Richardson, Texas, with her husband and pets. She was born on Halloween, and her favorite color is purple.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: