Ah January. The long, cold month of self-introspection. In Waterstone’s yesterday there was displayed this array of New Year titles.


Well if you never thought inadequate before just take a look at this lot. Everything from ‘I can make you thin/rich/famous’ to detoxing to slimming to changing your thinking. It also includes a few classic self-help perennials as well as the frankly bonkers secret-type books.

But I say ‘Stop’. It’s too soon to be thinking of major changes in your life. We’ve only just got Christmas out of the way, and are in the middle of January – Winter proper in these Northern Latitudes. Its still dark and cold outside, it’s even snowing.

I believe this is a time for reflection and even contemplation, not wholesale changes. A time to stay by the fire and look after yourself. Carry on eating those Christmas left-overs including all the chocolates, the cake, pies and cheese that you over-bought. Any opened bottles of port won’t keep either. Don’t binge on them, just enjoy them. Don’t feel guilty just because some newspaper is running a series of ‘couch to London Marathon in 3 months’ type nonsense.

Pre-Industrial Revolution workers knew what winter was about, they stayed in doors and took it as easy as their lives would allow, notwithstanding the work on the land they would be expected to do. They would continue to eat well and make merry as much as they could. They certainly wouldn’t be shocking their system with faddy eating regimes. Or observing ‘Dry January’ FFS.

This is why I don’t really consider the 1st of January as a new year. Cosmologically nothing is different from the day before. We are often still in the middle of Christmas holidays – it’s only the 7th day of Christmas according to the traditional reckoning – and in our house we still have all the decorations up, and some family still to see. In our house we find New Year’s Eve something of damp squib, probably linked back to that Millennial non-event of 2000. Or maybe I can’t stay awake after 11:00 anymore!!!

This certainly isn’t a time for dieting – our climate isn’t right yet. Short days and long cold nights – going to and returning from work in darkness – is a time for comfort food and staying in. I think that’s why many dieters give up after a while. Eating salads and steamed fish in January is depressing on most fronts. Give me hearty stews, cooked breakfasts and more cake!! Mind you I’m skinny as a rat at the best of times so it makes no difference to me!!

Rather than rush out and buy all these depressing books, take the time instead to rest up a while. Use the dark nights and cold weekends to spend time contemplating and taking stock of your life. Fill up the bird feeders and sit with a cup of something hot and watch them for an hour. Go for walks or read. Gaze at the stars. Play games; sketch or write if you are so inclined. Listen to music. Plan the veg patch. Many of these activities border on light meditation as your mind wanders where ever it will. That’s no bad thing. It’s a good time to work out where you are in life and maybe where you want to be. Don’t act though – it’s not time yet.

Even physical de-cluttering can wait as no-one has any money for you to sell your stuff on to anyway, unless you are a sofa company offering interest-free credit, of course. Simply make a note of what you want to chuck and think about how you are going to shift it nearer spring time.

Oh and try and stay away from the telly – that will only exhort you to change your sofa, book a foreign holiday or build a scale replica of the Titanic in only 79 weekly parts.