February resolution: Have more fun!

January has seemed like the longest month ever to me. As it – finally – comes to an end, I wonder if that’s because I didn’t set out this year with any new intentions. I just eased into 2020 and almost immediately became bogged down in boredom, and maybe a slight case of seasonal depression too. I’m beginning to see that the new year’s resolutions I’ve always scoffed at can serve a purpose — giving this long cold month something to organize itself around.

If that’s the case, then even if you’ve already given up on your resolution (as most people have by now) it’s still done you some good. Just the process of setting a goal and creating a structure for achieving it stimulated your productivity. And if you managed to shed a couple of pounds, try some new form of exercise, or save some money you would have spent at Starbucks, then you’re ahead of the game.

inspirational quotes on a planner
Photo by Bich Tran on Pexels.com

But don’t give up now. Think of it this way: February is the shortest month of the year, so it’s that much easier to keep up with an intention for the whole month. How about reexamining those January 1 goals – can you tweak them? Or, as in my case, set a new one now?

I decided to turn to my “52 Lists” book for inspiration since its ideas are loosely organized around the calendar year. The prompt for week #6 (which roughly corresponds to where we are in the year) was just the ticket: “List the ways you love to have fun.” And then the action step: “Plan to integrate something fun into every day this week.” What a perfect way to set goals for February – instead of focusing on what’s wrong about self, focus on what’s not satisfying about life right now, and do something about it. In other words, put the spotlight on emotional and social health instead of the physical or mental.

I started making the list of things to do for fun, focusing first on the ones that get me out and moving:

  • Hiking
  • Ice skating
  • Seeing friends
  • Going to the movies
  • Exploring new neighborhoods
  • Trying new recipes

The book provides two pages to list all the ways to have fun, but I think I can start with this list. I got a head start by going on a 3-mile hike last weekend, which was the most invigorated I’d felt in a while. And I’ve been talking about going ice skating ever since Christmas – even though I haven’t gone to a rink in years, something in me wants to lace up the old skates and get out there. I think it’s because I remember the freedom and weightlessness of gliding around on the ice.

Skaters

How to put my intentions into action though? If step one was the list and step two is writing about them here, what comes next? Psychology Today has a good article on goal setting and creating an action plan. There I find out that my intention should have a time frame around it, and include some intermediate steps if they’re appropriate. So my action plan for today could include calling a friend to set up a lunch date; checking the web for the hours of the ice rinks; and reading the reviews of new movies so I can plan what to see and put it on the calendar.

Every day is a fresh start, but it may not be smart to just let a day, or a month, unfold any which way. We can have a plan, and still leave the door open for serendipity. Dwight Eisenhower said, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” I think he meant that it’s important to create the structure, but don’t make it so rigid that there’s only one particular way of reaching the outcome.

 

 

Being grateful for January

By the time I was 18, I really hated winter. I spent my last cold season in my home state of Michigan just grumbling about how much I didn’t want to be there. Then I left for good.

Even now that I live in the Mid-Atlantic region, winter is my least-favorite season. By the time January arrives, I know it’s going to be cold for three more months, I’m already sick of my winter clothes, and don’t even get me started about all the kale I see on restaurant menus! (I’m sorry, I just don’t like it.)

But this year, I’m resolved not to be the winter grinch, so I searched for the silver lining and came up with ten things to like about January:

  1. The world didn’t end on 12/21/12. The misinterpretation of the Mayan prediction was not true, and I am grateful to be alive in January 2013. (That “2012” movie was pretty fun, though.)
  2. Inaugurations. Every four years, we have a reason to continue celebrating in January. In Washington, where I live, a party spirit pervades the air this week.IMG_0740
  3. The start of the new semester in my teaching job. I look forward to meeting my new group of students and feeling like I have a clean slate with them.
  4. Eating comfort food is okay. Even the healthy eating columns are full of recipes for stews, soups and pasta. We can enjoy the warmth and savoriness of heavier food and find it richly satisfying.Comfort food_109
  5. Catching up on books and movies. With outdoor activities curtailed, and holiday craziness winding down, it’s a good time to curl up with a novel, or have a marathon viewing of Pride & Prejudice.
  6. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. More than just another day off, this is a day to try to give back and be of service to the community.IMG_2315
  7. Starting my new calendar. I still like to keep a paper engagement calendar where I write with ink or pencil. I love the feel of cracking open the new book each year and starting to enter birthdays and appointments.
  8. There’s no one at the beach. January is great time to walk along the shore and have the entire beach all to yourself. Just bundle up!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  9. The days are getting longer. Yes, the mornings are still pretty dark, but we’ve crossed over the hump of the shortest day and the light will increase bit by bit from now until June.
  10. Snow days. There’s no guarantee of snow days where I live. Sometimes two years can go by without one, but that makes it all the more special to wake up to that awesome quiet that comes with a huge snowstorm. I may not like winter, but I enjoy the way all my neighbors talk and laugh while shoveling snow together. There’s a great feeling of camraderie and community at those times.IMG_1052

The month of January is named for the Roman god, Janus, who had two faces. That way, he could look back to the year just finished, and forward to the year just beginning. “Janus” is actually the Latin word for arch, which makes the month of January a kind of doorway for us. Knowing that, I can begin to appreciate how we need to pass through January if we are going to reach the balmier days of spring.