January. After a month of far too much wine and definitely far too much chocolate in my case, every year we arrive abruptly at the New Year like we didn’t see it coming. July rolls on to August with no problems whatsoever, September into October, we’re totally cool with that, but December rolling into January for some reason makes us go into shock and swear to give up everything we enjoy in life.
This isn’t a new thing though. People have been experiencing the same shock for centuries. The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named. In the Medieval era, the knights took the "peacock vow" at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.
The most common New Year's Resolutions include doing more exercise, drinking less booze, and being more careful with money. Initially we approach these resolutions with gusto. The gyms are the fullest they’ve ever been (since last January), the pubs are consequently completely empty, and people start to bring lunch into work in an attempt to avoid being dictated to by their stomachs and ending up in an expensive lunchtime eatery. I even go to the lengths of hiding from people I know when I see them out and about in case they suggest going for a catch up drink. Travelling to and from work becomes a covert mission the likes of which the FBI would be proud.
Most start to rethink the strict impositions they’ve put on themselves by the first weekend in January. Your WhatsApp starts to beep with the social overflow from Christmas - that friend you meant to see during the festive season but never got round to because you were too busy getting sozzled elsewhere - and inevitably you agree to start seeing people again after a week of hibernation in your flat and eating nothing but lettuce leaves. By mid-January most people have given up entirely, forgetting that they had ever vowed to restrict themselves in the first place.
The best thing to do is buddy up with someone who is giving up the same things as you. Safety in numbers has a lot to be said for it. Get someone to join the same gym as you and book all the same classes so you feel like you have to go or you’ll let them down. Find a friend who is doing dry January and made Friday night plans to go the cinema together.
One of the most basic things you can do to ensure you at least remember that you ever had a New Year’s Resolution is to write it down somewhere. On a blackboard in the kitchen, as a repeated reminder on your phone, or on a pad next to your bed - wherever you will look on a daily basis. What you could even do is order a Silly Cushion with your New Year’s Resolution emblazoned on the front and put it on your bed or your sofa. That way, even if you don’t stick to the diet or the plan to exercise more, you’ll feel a little bit of guilt every time you get comfortable with a cup of tea and a biscuit and maybe, just maybe, you’ll put the biscuit down and decide to go out for a stroll instead. It’s certainly worth a try.