Wednesday, January 11, 2012

February Is The New New Year

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, January 4, 2012

When it comes to resolving to do something differently, the starting point for me isn’t January first. Who in their right mind would attempt to break an old habit or create a new one while still “hung over” from the busyness and indulgences of Christmas and New Year’s? As I lay on my couch on New Year’s Day, reading yet knowing I should be going for a long, heart-pumping walk, I polished off a box of Ovation mint sticks. Now on to the rest of the sweets “hanging over” from the holidays.
January is really more of a recovery month than a resolutions month. It takes a least a week to recover from that time between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day; then there is the need to catch up on all the sleep lost through the entire month of December when we were shopping and baking and wrapping instead of going to bed at a reasonable hour. It takes a couple of weeks for some of us to get back into the groove of work if we’d had time off over Christmas, so added up, there’s most of January spent on simply catching up, in order to be healthy enough to start working on a resolution. Surely, in a 12-month year, the year is still young after a mere 31 days.
This is why I begin any New Year resolution on February first. I’m rested, I’m recovered, I’m ready to make some changes. Not only that, but consider the two major facts about February: it’s the shortest month, even in a leap year, so you achieve that first, hardest month of trying to make a change in less time. Plus, it’s the month of love. All those extra endorphins coursing through your body after the first two weeks can only spur you on to further success with whatever resolution you made. Besides, there’s that funny little b-r-u combo in the middle of the month that makes it look like you’re kissing off that bad habit. 
The key to resolving to change behaviour is to be psychologically prepared, like a long-distance runner at the start of the race. If you’re going to run a marathon, you don’t get up that morning thinking, “I’m not in the mood for this race.” The key is to use this first month of the year to establish the proper mind-set to begin your New Year resolution on February first. A positive attitude is essential. Instead of saying “I will stop smoking”, think of it as “I will start avoiding cigarettes.” Instead of “I have to lose 20 pounds”, think of it as “I enjoy eating carrot sticks instead of chips.” Remember that this is the month of love: Love eating less! Love working out! Love not smoking!
Or we could all just get off the couch and go for a long, heart-pumping walk because that will take care of a lot of problems, including at least five pounds. Another good reason to start a resolution  like that in February: It’s slightly less cold and dark than January. 

-- by Sara Mattinson

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