Then things are looking bleak indeed. January seems to be considered the gloomiest month of the year. So it could be very difficult to get enough exercise. How can you change that?
Why can January be so sad? The joy and waiting for Christmas and New Year’s is over (even though for most of December the days are getting shorter). And by the time the end of January reaches, all those wonderful New Year’s resolutions that you had (quite possibly involving eating healthily, exercising more, going for walks in nature and alike) have quite run out of steam. Even though the days are getting longer, and we nearly got an extra hour by now, it is often hard to notice it. It still seems gloomy for most of the time.
Let’s get into some reasons why New Year’s resolutions begin to dwindle in around the 3rd week of January. Nope, I don’t think it has anything to do with the Blue Monday in January – the saddest day of the year. First, let’s get over one thing:
1. Motivation will always run out at some point
If your one and only strategy to achieving any goal in life, not just anything related to moving more, than do understand that no matter how much motivated you are feeling right now, you will have times when that motivation will be zero. It could be just for a day, or a couple of days, or it could be for a few months. As you can imagine, the latter would be quite a setback, if you were just sitting and waiting for the motivation to get you going again 😊 Find a different strategy – ask yourself why are you doing this?
Having said all that, use your motivation when it’s there to your advantage. If you woke up and feeling super motivated, get a much longer walk. Perhaps find a park or a nature reserve, where you can not only walk, but connect to nature more. Perhaps have a lovely hour or even 90 min yoga session (especially, if you normally stick to shorter options). Use the extra motivation when you have it, as it helps with consistency.
2. Novelty of New Year wares off quickly
I don’t know about you, but I always feel like there is something a little bit special about the New Year. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a huge fan of partying, drinking (in fact, I don’t drink alcohol at all), staying super late, only to wake up on New Year’s Day at some point way past lunchtime feeling absolutely exhausted.
It’s not the New Year’s Eve and all the associated societal norms of what constitutes a good New Year’s celebration that I find special. It comes from the feeling of the new beginnings. Every time the 1st of January arrives, it’s like you can close the page in your life’s book and start afresh. Whatever has happened last year, now there is a feel of the change in wind blowing you to the land of possibilities. I guess this could partially explain why many set New Year’s resolutions at this time.
How does it work?
The feel of freshness, the feel of novelty (even if it does repeat every year 😊 ) are the powerful propellers moving us forward. They do run out of steam rather quickly. They are similar to motivation in that respect, just getting it back might take another year 😉 I am sure you remember the time when you got something you really wanted, may have even waited for many weeks if not months. If you can’t remember anything recent, go back to your childhood and remember getting your favourite toy. What happened then?
Let me guess – you’ve had a load of positive emotions, happiness, joy, elation, you’ve played with your new toy for hours, maybe for days and if lucky, perhaps weeks of months. And then – boom! Nothing. You were no longer interested in it at all. The novelty has worn off, and this no longer gave you any pleasure. So it’s exactly the same principal, just the effects finish much faster with the New Year.
3. Lack of light can affect some people’s mood
Light and mood – such a link between them. I am glad that doctors now recognise SAD = Seasonal Affective Disorder. For all of us living in the Northern Hemisphere in those latitudes that are closer to the North Pole – life with reduced light can be tough.
Do you need a medical diagnosis of SAD to be affected? Absolutely not. I think we are all somewhere on the spectrum with those being severely affected (and have severe SAD) on one end and those to whom the diminished light in winter (and part of autumn and spring) has no effect at all. It could be something as mild as being more irritable, struggling to wake up in the mornings, feeling more tired. Or it could be much more severe, shifting your sleeping and eating habits, affecting your mood, feeling hopeless and sad.
This won’t be a revolutionary statement, but needs to be said – it is much harder to move and to stick to your goals when you are feeling sad, experiencing other emotions, or just simply are feeling tired (and not because you have actually exercised a lot on the day or a day before).
It often can help to join others in exercises (self-paced or live sessions) as the sense of comradery can help alleviate negative emotions. It also helps to set yourself a routine (and it can be something small, like 5-10min a day) to help again with negative feelings and emotions, but also to keep with your exercise goals. The latter points can also help too.
4. Injuries can deter you from exercise for weeks or months
So this is not something that will happen to everyone, but it’s something that is more likely to happen to someone who has just started exercising after New Year’s and haven’t done so for a long time before that. It is in human nature to take on way too much when motivation is running high. We think we can conquer the world when we are running high on motivation. So what tends to happen, we jump into the deep end of the swimming pool hoping for the best. And forgetting that we don’t even know how to swim yet ☹ .
Doing too much, too quickly leads to injuries. And injuries require time to heal. Pushing through them can make things worse and even cause long term problems (see next point just as an example). But being completely idol and resting alone can prolong the recovery process too. It is always a thin line between helping your body to heal and making it hurt more. And if you are in doubt, consult a professional. E.g. a yoga therapist or physiotherapist (some yoga teachers have a very good understanding on anatomy and physiology too).
The main thing is that in a lot of cases, movement will help your injury heal quicker. Also it is important to move the rest of the body, even if initially resting the injured area.
5. But how to exercise with chronic pain?
And now I can almost hear some of you saying – yeah, all is well, when you don’t have chronic pain. I do absolutely agree, life is easy when one is not pain. Life is easy when one isn’t ill. Life is actually absolutely amazing when you are healthy. The thing is chronic pain is very prevalent. Around 20% of people have it. So if you are someone who has chronic pain and looked at 9 random people, one of them will be in chronic pain too. If you are lucky enough and don’t have chronic pain, then looking at 9 random people, you will get two that have. Not quite a great place to be in.
Can you heal chronic pain? It depends on what is causing it. But you sure can manage it so it interferes with your life less. Whether it’s a chronic back or digestive issues pain, the key still remains – you need to move. The two can often be linked.
And I don’t mean starting jumping up and down into stars and planks. But I do mean moving regularly – moving your joints, so they stay healthy, moving your muscles, so they don’t get broken down by your body as something you don’t need and moving to keep your mind healthy. It can be extremely frustrating and can even lead to depression and anxiety to have chronic pain.
So what do you do?
So what do you do? Set yourself mini-goals, something super small, that it almost feels like nothing. Something small, that your brain wouldn’t have time to register and come up with a miles long list of why you shouldn’t do it. Seriously, our minds can be so inventive sometimes – if only they used that power for good 😉
A good example would be to lift your arms up and down, moving your fingers individually, feeling each finger, each movement, breathing throughout. Same with legs. If that feels ok, incorporating more movements, just never ever pushing through pain. If you experience pain, back off! Take a break, make a smaller movement.
But keep moving every day 😊