What does the phrase ‘New Year New Me’ have in common with Michael Bublé, tinsel… cloves?
For 91.7% of our lives, the phrase is dormant. Out of sight, out of mind (in the dusty attic of the brain). But, just like clockwork, when mid-December comes around you can be sure it’ll be back.
We grow out of Santa and the Tooth Fairy, but if we grow out of New Year then, as of December 2019, we haven’t. Like a cringeworthy but ultimately loveable Christmas film, it wins us round every year. The reason we are so receptive to it is simple.
Human cultures find the possibility of re-invention compelling. We always have. The ancient Babylonians are said to have been the first people to make New Year’s resolutions, 4,000 years ago. Wind forward two millennia and the Romans made January the western calendar’s reset button. Roman new year celebrations honoured Janus, their god of beginnings and endings. We honour beginnings and endings to this day. They frame our lives. They divide up the profound dimensions of time and space into neat sections. Today, tomorrow, next year. It gives us control in a mysterious and often unknowable universe.
Few people make religious resolutions these days. Even fewer know who Janus is (now you’re one of them). But the first day of the year and the decade (1/1/2020 of course being both) are new beginnings to us now as much as they were to the Romans.
At the dawn of a new decade, maybe we should ask ourselves if traditional resolutions are worth the sacrifices we make for them? Think of the classics: you buy a gym membership, or vow to diet, or give up something you enjoy. Resolutions usually involve strict sacrifice and obedience. It’s small wonder we tire of them so quickly; we need wriggle room and more positive reinforcement. Forget compulsive exercise and carb vetoes. Maybe the answer lies in finding sports and healthy foods we actually enjoy, and slowly building them into our routine?
So far so good, but the meteoric rise of wellness trend has changed our New Year New Me mentality. Wellness, the pursuit of optimum wellbeing in our emotional and physical lives, has changed when we seek re-invention. It needn’t be once a year. It cannot be undone by a false move. Wellness suggests that we can improve ourselves in any moment of any day. It’s as easy as breathing deeply with a calm app, and as quick as a five minute sauna session to sweat the small stuff away.
Crucially, wellness is about feeling good, rather than looking good. You know the fizz-fuelled optimism of midnight on December 31st ? Wellness rides the same wave, but it doesn’t come crashing down on Jan 1st , or even Blue Monday. Wellness won’t tell you you’ve failed, or serve you a mocktail of guilt.
The best thing about focusing on wellness in 2020 over a set of narrow resolutions is that it tends to last. Traditional NY resolutions tend to be about purging ourselves after our festive indulgences. They smack of guilt and dissatisfaction. But wellness is part of a wider commitment to living a good life.
Maybe it’s the lack of regiment that makes it sustainable in the long-term? We might like to shake things up every now and then, but that’s the exception to the rule. We are creatures of habit. Harsh measures like giving up sugar or signing up for a 6am boot camp might last a few weeks. Making time for simple pleasures and noticing how they benefit your health can last a lifetime.
Escape the city to wander in dense greenery, spotting wildlife and breathing fresh air. Curl up before a roaring fire and read a good book. Take a reflexology class or have a massage and reconnect with your body’s signals. These behaviours are naturally rewarding, so you are far more likely to fall into the habit of repeating them.