On January


Nature knows to take its time, faithful in the knowledge that Spring will come and bloom again…

January can be a tough month for some. Less sunlight means our bodies produce less Vitamin D, which studies claim is linked to mood. Festivities can leave people feeling tired, stressed, financially under pressure, and out of their normal routine, including sleep patterns and increased alcohol. This time of year can also make the experience of any loss, whether of a job, or death of a pet or loved one, more acute and raw.

Reflecting on the past year can be another chance for our inner critic to turn up its volume in our heads: “I wasn’t good enough!” / “I didn’t make enough progress!” / “I ruined this and that.”  For some, seeing the constant stream of articles about Happiness Hacks For A Productive Year and How To Make This Year Your Best Yet can amplify feelings of frustration, disappointment and shame about not feeling positive, optimistic and happy, as the rest of the world seems to be. The Bank Holidays are over, and returning to work, searching for work, or sinking into daily drudgery can feel dark and heavy.

Sometimes closing the doors, pulling the duvet over our head and waiting for the gloominess to pass seems like the only way to cope with this miserable month.

Meanwhile, in Nature…

At this time of year in Ireland, Nature seems to be sleeping. Many animals are hibernating and everything within trees slows down as they save their energy during these colder months.

However, gardeners who want their container-plants to keep going all year can have their tree growing leaves even through the Winter months. Succulent green leaves all year round instead of bare branches! By bringing their tree inside over Winter, keeping it at a stable temperature and with enough light, the tree’s metabolism can continue at a higher level, making new food for energy and not losing its leaves. A simple way to force trees to evade their dormancy process and give us something bright to look at!

But Nature slows down at this time of year. Nature retreats and withdraws. In fact, forcing your tree to avoid dormancy isn’t recommended. Nature intended for trees to move through dormancy cycles, just as it intended for bats and hedgehogs to hibernate.

Sometimes we too can feel that we must keep going, keep pushing for productivity and expansion; ideas which are supported by our Capitalist society. We simply don’t have time for a break. And what’s more, all this should be done with a smile on our faces, an upbeat mood and no complaints! So we stick on a smile, pretend, and ignore our need to pause and rest.

Reframing January

I often hear January described as ‘depressing’: the January Blues are something to ‘beat’. De-pressing is an interesting word. What does ‘depression’ mean to you? I often explore with the people I work with exactly which emotions they are pressing down in themselves. What are you avoiding in yourself by keeping going? How do you push parts of yourself down? What part of yourself might need some attention just now? What body sensations, tightness or tensions are you ignoring?

Perhaps January is kind. Perhaps it holds the promise of change. Nature knows to take its time, knows that withdrawing in these Winter months is necessary preparation, faithful in the knowledge that Spring will come and bloom again. Taking our cue from Nature to come deeper into ourselves at this time of year especially could be very wise. Why not follow our urge to pause so we can settle down and settle in to ourselves and give some space to notice our thoughts and feelings? Having only ‘positive’ feelings does not mean we are well and healthy. If we can create some time for ourselves to feel into the more difficult feelings too without judging or pushing away what we find, we can, in January’s darkness, find light.

Ideas for January

  • Give yourself permission to pause, even if it’s just a brief moment to ask yourself: How am I feeling just now? What are my thoughts? What sensations can I feel in my body?

  • Take 3 deeper-than-usual breaths

  • Notice and try to bring acceptance to how you’re feeling, especially at this time of year.

  • Know that emotions are waves of energy, and that everything passes.

  • Create some time and space to do whatever makes you feel safe and soothed, perhaps snuggling up with a warm blanket, drinking a comforting tea with the intention of caring for yourself, or lighting a candle. Notice how wellbeing feels in your body and your thoughts.

  • Stay connected to your support system: friends and relatives can help by listening to your emotional challenges.

  • Stay connected to your body and give it what it needs in the moment: perhaps sleep, a walk, a good cry, a good laugh, nourishing food, a bath.

  • Don’t be afraid to seek professional help.


Jessica Cottee