January is the cruellest month
Forget what they say about April. January, in my experience, is hands-down, a tough slog. More so even than December with its shortest day, January is a drudge, dark, depressing and something to be waded through like treacle, with head down and teeth gritted.
Maybe I exaggerate a little, but I came down with Covid this year on New Year’s Day, or there abouts, and heralded the start of the year from my sick bed. The first 10 days of 2022 went true to form then. A washout. And the rest of the month too.
I’ve never been one for arbitrary new year’s resolutions or making grand promises to change as the year turns. It is in my view utterly pointless at this dark time to be so cruel to oneself and make the cruellest month tougher still. If this sentiment strikes a chord with you, you are not alone. Don’t get me wrong, I am not down on life. Just January in the Northern Hemisphere in Europe. In Ayurveda, the traditional Indian medicine system, winter is Kapha, slow, cool, sluggish and a time to be still and regenerate. We don’t have to fight that.
The good news is that February lightens up a bit – like, literally – I like February, the snow drops come out, that extra hour of daylight at the end of the day makes all the difference, the sun is marginally higher in the sky, and I stop wanting to hibernate. There are good reasons, scientific reasons, why this sense of dreariness descends and seems to take over. I take great comfort in that.
Serotonin, the hormone in our brain and gut linked to both mood and motility, drops when less sunlight is available and getting outdoors, which is also positively correlated with feeling happier, is definitely less attract an option in the short, dark days of bleak midwinter. We also tend naturally towards comfort eating and perhaps reaching for those sugary and high calorie comfort foods to cheer ourselves up at this time. It’s only natural as the body and mind are programmed to find equilibrium and soothe themselves. Quite often what we use to do so is just not terribly effective that’s all. A little bit of what you fancy does you good, but what’s a little bit?
Back to resolutions and why I don’t really hold with them. Before you can change you have to know where you are. February is the perfect time for a food and lifestyle audit and that is where I start. Tracking what goes in and, erm, what comes out (or all too often doesn’t) too. There are many, many tools that can be used for this and I like myfitnesspal.com (no affiliation whatsoever) – there’s a free version that track everything for you if you plug it in. Once you see your habits and consumption then you have the starting point.
Did you know that you can eat for your mood? Food is medicine, said Hippocrates, or words to that effect, and he definitely was on to something there. So when it comes to mood and food what are some good choices to make? And what else might have an influence during this dark time of year?
I personally wouldn’t change a great deal all at once, but every year I do find it necessary to have a reset and for me that happens at the start of February as life starts to stir and things begin to wake up again.
Here are six simple strategies you might want to consider:
For more down-to-earth, simple well-being and nutrition hints and tips, keep an eye out for my next post. Until then, take care and stay well!