January doesn’t always seem the most enticing month, does it? A new start, a metaphorical blank slate – but for many, it is a month associated with belt-tightening, both from Christmas overspending and Christmas overeating. For denying oneself booze or meat or dairy or overspending. Lots of negativity basically.
Whilst I do believe in setting intentions and taking opportunities to form new habits, I don’t always think a cycle of fasting of any kind and then guilt is helpful or long-lasting. I prefer to attempt a more moderate attempt at taking small steps which hopefully builds.
January always seems to be cold and grey. I think here in my part of North Cornwall we went 8 days into 2019 without seeing any sunshine at all, which makes one of my seasonal suggestions below a little tricky, but definitely worth it if you do see the sun. Much like many people who embrace seasonal living, I like the enforced darkness and cosiness of January to embrace being inside, planning, dreaming and setting out what I’d like to get out of the next 12 months… all being well we may have some exciting personal and business plans coming into fruition this year (more as soon as they are in any way set in stone so that they can be made public).
I’ve really enjoyed this series of seasonal living / monthly posts where I try to mix in my Cornish observations with ideas that can be taken and interpreted wherever in the Northern Hemisphere you reside (my sister lives in Brisbane, Australia, and so it seems weird watching her seasonal habits in January which seems to involve seeking as much shade / water as possible).
So, here’s some ideas for January mixed in with some Cornish stuff…
Set intentions/habits/decide on a word for the year
After enjoying and choosing a word for 2017 (reduce) I really struggled to choose something different for 2018. 2018 ended up being even more of a transitional year for me as I left working full time, started writing and marketing on a freelance basis and also went into partnership with Martin on his wine business, helping to set up the local/events side, Buchanan Wines Cornwall. We ran several events and have bigger plans for this year. Very exciting, and not necessarily where I thought I’d end up looking at 2018 last January.
What I have been doing this year is working my way through Hannah’s January Book – I use I think an older version which I downloaded several years ago – Hannah now runs an e-course which looks amazing but I wasn’t sure about committing time to this month due to family things which are happening (and I am already committed to a massage course which will use up this month’s ‘training’ budget, so to speak). I am no closer to choosing a word – but I think “reduce” may have finally run its course and once I have finished the sorting of the house (so nearly there!) my word for 2019 needs to be an upwards word.
Other habits which I am incorporating include more and more yoga, and a daily meditation before I go to sleep. I started a 40 day meditation earlier this month which will end on Valentine’s Day, and so far I have managed it 12 times in a row… a bit of a record for me, albeit I have yet to hear the last 5 minutes of it as I always fall asleep… If I can just force myself out of bed a little earlier and get that 5 minute yoga routine going before some coffee, I will be very happy.
Watch/experience the sun rise and set
Much harder said than done if the sun never actually makes it out from the greyness, but statistically speaking there should be a few days of sunshine (please!)… keep an eye on the weather forecast and the timings of sunrise and making the effort to seek it out is well worth it. Very uplifting. Also, much easier in January as sunrise has been past 8am round these parts.
Seeing the sunset may be more difficult particularly if you work in an office as you need to pop outside around 4/4.30pm which is quite tricky. I remember trying to nip outside to get a coffee around that time if I could when I worked in the city but I know I also went weeks at a time where I only saw daylight at weekends. So, if that is you, get outside at the weekend whatever the weather.
Look at the stars
The downside of freelance working is much more uncertainty but the upside is being able to work after dark and get to the beach after school if the weather is nice. Last week Martin was in London meeting clients, so I took the kids to the beach to dig/watch the sunset, then out for a quick meal so I didn’t have to cook and then we drove to a quiet layby in the dark to watch the stars. We got out my ‘Night Sky’ app and looked at the constellations and talked about the names, myths and so on, which they loved. When the skies are clear, they are gorgeously clear round here (we live near Bodmin Moor, which is both an AONB and an International Dark Sky Landscape. Perfect for experiencing some nice darkness and that feeling of being unbelievably small when you look at so many stars. (Look out for January’s full moon which is called the wolf moon on 21 January 2019).
Bring some bulbs into the house (or make a note to plant some in November next year)
This is a nice one particularly if you are out at work and can’t get outside during daylight hours during the week. Note, I didn’t manage to do this myself this year but luckily my Dad did and he brought me a bowl of bulbs when we met up just before Christmas.
Rebecca has a nice post on this which is worth a read for some inspiration – options now are either to buy some ready planted bulbs from a supermarket/nursery and enjoy them inside, or put a note in your diary/calendar to get organised next November (and I’ll remind you in November’s post – sign up here)
Birdsong/catkins/signs of spring
Hazel catkins and snowdrops are one of the first signs of Spring to me, so every year Pip and I go searching for them. Pip has been enjoying her 2019 Nature Month by Month Almanac* and was pleased to find that it included some of the things that we are already doing. We spent a lovely inset day in the first week walking and scooting in the woods near us – we often play a game where we pause and count how many things we can hear (birdsong, wind in the trees, water running etc) then count 100 footsteps and see what has changed.
I am a big fan of candles at any time of the year but in January I emulate my Danish friends who we stay with in Copenhagen and light them at breakfast too. I also love to have our fire lit all day as well… a lovely cosy Cornish tradition which I appreciate can’t be replicated so easily, but burning a candle at breakfast is pretty easy and makes a massive difference to how you face the morning.
The other thing that has made quite a difference to the dark mornings is that I have bought a wake-up alarm clock* which emulates sunrise and sunset. Waking up in a room which is lit a bit has made waking up a tiny bit easier. Another ‘downside’ if you like to open countryside is that it really is dark at night – which is lovely for sleeping but not so lovely for waking up in the dark mornings.
Enjoy what is open
January can be a great time to go to things which might be too busy in nicer weather. Perhaps more obvious down here in Cornwall which is a prime holiday location and things can be super full between May and September, but I bet pretty much everywhere people live is slower in January. We like to go to all the places which are harder to access in the summer months – so we go to St Ives, The Eden Project, Newquay and so on… a lot of things down here are actually closed in January completely, so basically take what you can, and get out of the house a little bit. Makes the cosiness much more cosy if you don’t just have cabin fever.