Mid-January can feel like an odd time of the year. For many, the festivities of Christmas and New Year are now fully over and the rest of the year is still hidden over the horizon, not close enough or solid enough to focus on. It can be harder to find joy and excitment if you are colder, tireder and more isolated than at other times of the year.
New Year, New You?
Socially constructed narratives often tell us that this time of year is a time for a new version of self, time for a new body and a new life. However these messages rarely improve people's sense of inner wellbeing as they can encourage people to focus on their perceived faults and give false expectations of a radical transformation.
Therapists are often in high demand at this time of year, with people feeling lower than usual or being motivated by the New Year into making changes in their lives. It is good that people are motivated to seek help, but sometimes I notice that people want to live a life that's not theirs or can be looking for a quick fix. Sometimes it can be more helpful to support people to focus on what they have, as well as process their losses, instead of forging a brand new persona or creating a new life overnight. This doesn't mean that change isn't possible, just that it's not the only solution, or one that can happen within the space of a couple of sessions.
Embracing the slow time
In recent years I have found it helpful to reframe this time of year and to think of it as a time to revel in the slower pace of life. To spend time resting, thinking and building reserves of energy for the more active months ahead.
As ever, I find nature's example really helpful. Trees don't spend January busily upgrading themselves to some new variety. Birds continue to eat the same amount of food as they did December - sometimes more if it's cold and they need the energy. Most creatures will be sleeping or resting more whilst there are less hours of daylight.
Bulbs that flower in spring need a number of weeks in cold soil in order kick start the process of the next year's growth. This 'dormancy' helps the bulb build up it's energy reserves so that when warmer weather arrives it knows it's time to grow and has the energy to do so.
Humans are part of the natural world too, and yet we expect ourselves to shift gears in the depths of winter - to suddenly be imbued with a new energy whilst the environment around us is still on a go slow. If you find things tricky at this time of year it might be interesting to experiment with hunkering down further and changing your expectations of yourself instead of pushing yourself into hyperactivity.
As well as continuing with a slower pace of life, taking comfort in small pleasures can often really fit this season. I have recently enjoyed a cup of tea in a new mug, completing the Christmas Jigsaw and searching out interesting patterns and textures in the landscape that are easy to overlook in the warmer months when the bright flowers often steal my attention.
The photos below are all from the last few weeks at my outdoor practice in Kiplin Hall where I have been surprised by the beauty in a garden that is literally closed for winter.
The gardens re-open to the public when the snowdrops bloom in February so in the past few weeks it has been a space for my practice and the hardy team of garden staff and volunteers