In our hyperproductive society, we’ve come to think of the new year as a time for supercharging our lives, whether through a new fitness kick, a new job or a new look. But there’s a reason the average person gives up on their resolution after only 32 days.
Multipotentialites are no strangers to ambitious goals and self-improvement, but my take on the new year period is somewhat different from the mainstream idea of new year, new me. So how should multipotentialites everywhere spend the first month of the year?
Resting. Here’s why.
The holidays can be draining
Whether or not you observe Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and other December holidays, society is set up so that the late December to early January period is packed. Many of us find ourselves either surrounded by family and friends, or isolated as our usual crew head home for the holidays. There are also endless obligations around this time of year – from work parties to forking out for presents we can’t really afford.
For some, this is a celebratory time filled with love, joy and one too many mince pies. For others, it’s a difficult journey of pushing through dysfunctional family dynamics or a home that doesn’t feel like home. For others still, it’s a time of being alone—not necessarily by choice—and dealing with all the challenges and grief that can bring.
Whatever kind of end you have to the year, positive or negative, it is almost certain to be draining. Many of us start the new year tired, broke and with our usual routines completely out of whack. And, while this may make you yearn for a “new you,” this state simply isn’t the best one from which to implement lasting changes.
Resolutions can create way too much pressure
Many multipotentialites are constantly setting new goals and starting new things. We don’t need something like the new year to kick our self-improvement mode into action. But in January—when seemingly everyone is forging new habits—there seems to be an extra layer of pressure on our new habits and hacks. At no other time of year will people actively ask you about what lifestyle changes you’re making or share with you so freely and intently that they have joined the gym.
Whether it’s Dry January or Veganuary, you can’t escape the pressure—and, sometimes, veiled judgment—that comes with new year life changes (or a lack thereof).
For some of us, a bit of pressure can be a great motivator. But a lot of us believe that all pressure is supposed to make us work well, when it actually works against and drains us. The pressure of making positive lifestyle changes around the new year can very easily breed a sense of shame if you’re falling behind, or if you feel that your changes aren’t drastic enough compared to others’. And shame is one of the most destructive emotions out there.
Not only does shame cause us to feel bad about ourselves, it actually makes us more likely to quit altogether. So, far from being a motivator, the pressure that comes with new year, new me can actually be our downfall.
January first is an arbitrary date
It is believed that Roman Emperor Numa Pompilius moved the new year from March to January to honor the god Janus, Roman god of beginnings, whom the month is named after. Unfortunately for us, 1st January makes neither astrological nor, for many, cultural sense as a new year. This is why you’ll notice many peoples of different cultures and traditions celebrating their new years on different dates.
The traditional Chinese New Year is celebrated in accordance with moon cycles and coincides with the astrological Lunar New Year. In Ghana, where I live, many of the new year celebrations of different ethnic groups take place in line with harvest festivals, typically between July and October, in line with our seasons. The traditional Iranian new year, Nowruz, falls in line with the solar cycle, taking place on the March equinox. Across the world, people bring in the new year at a time that reflects natural cycles and the mythology of their culture. The 1st of January doesn’t quite have the same meaning behind it. It’s no wonder that it doesn’t feel like the ideal time for initiation and action for so many of us.
What to do instead
Ok, so new year, new me is out the window. How do we begin to focus our Januarys differently?
Firstly, give yourself permission to rest! January can be a powerful time for deep rest and reflection, allowing you to switch into active gears later in the year from a more intentional and more nourished place. Here are some rest and reflection ideas for January:
- Write a list of your achievements, no matter how “big” or “small.” Write them all down and take a moment to celebrate yourself!
- Write a list of the people you’re grateful for—and then send them a message to let them know.
- Practice visualization. Resting doesn’t have to mean you’re completely detached from your goals. This can be a great time to visualize the kind of future you want to build for yourself, an exercise that will help you define the goals that are most important to you.
- Digital detox. Whether it’s one hour or one day, take some time away from your screens. Take a walk in nature, sit by the sea, read a book, do that hobby you never have time for—whatever it is, make sure it’s an hour focused on YOU.
- Say no to engagements that feel like obligations. Sometimes canceling or saying no is the greatest act of self-care you can do. And often, what we’re worried about—a loved one getting mad at us, a project team not finding a replacement for us—never actually comes to pass.
Why not explore different ways to interact with the new year, too? If you hail from a lineage that has different new year traditions, it could be a great time to learn about and perhaps reconnect with them.
Take a cue from the cosmos
If you’re intrigued by following astrological seasons and celebrating the new year in line with the motion of the planets, here’s a quick starter guide. Depending on your global location and your connection to the seasons, you may wish to observe each cycle slightly differently.
New Year (either March or September Equinox)
A time for action! Planting seeds of intention and action to prepare for an abundant harvest.
Summer Season (either June or December Solstice)
A time for abundance! Enjoying the beginning stages of seeing the fruits of your labor, and making any necessary changes or course corrections. Having fun!
Harvest (either March or September Equinox)
A time for reaping what you sowed! You can take your foot off the gas slightly and take in what you’ve achieved.
Winter Season (either June or December Solstice)
A time for rest and reflection! Retreat, reflect and recharge. Reflect on the year gone, make plans for the year ahead, and regain your energy.
However you decide to show up this January, just remember to give yourself grace. The last few years have been particularly difficult for so many of us. It’s okay to start the new year without transforming into a new you.
The kindest thing you can do this January is take care of the current you. You are already perfect just the way you are.
How does the January “new year” period feel for you? Do you celebrate your new year at a different time? We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments!