Ah, January. Here we go again. What with Christmas feeling “so last year”, temperatures plummeting and summative season picking up speed, it’s hardly surprising that January is renowned for being the most depressing month of the year. It isn’t helped by the pressure to reinvent yourself at the start of a new year, with glossy lifestyle influencers encouraging you to pick out your supposed “flaws” and rectify them with a cocktail of gym memberships, salads and hardcore budgeting. It’s not all just psychological either – the reduced daylight hours can give rise to Seasonal Affective Disorder and its invocation of anxiety, lethargy and low mood. And, to top it all off, the month just stretches on and on as if the usual passing of time isn’t applicable. Forget Christmastime – January is the time we need comfort and joy the most.
Sometimes, however, we need to make our own joy – a concept that was introduced to me by Studytuber Jade Bowler (UnJaded Jade) and her theory of casual magic. By being attuned to the little things in life, be it a robin perched on a fencepost or a passing smile with a stranger, we can find ‘casual magic’ even in the bleakest of days. Of course, noticing small sources of joy won’t magically write your summatives for you, but they nonetheless play a crucial role in altering your mindset, which in turn leaves you better equipped to tackle the larger problems and sources of stress in life.
The whole idea of setting goals at the start of a New Year compels us to think and live in the future. What does future me want to look like? Where does future me want to go? How can I make future me successful? While this internal dialogue can be motivating, it can equally cause us to forget about present me – it’s all too easy to overlook our present state of mind in favour of this idealised future self we hope to create. Additionally, it’s worth questioning who exactly is responsible for creating this idealised future self. For example, do you want to be able to run a marathon because you genuinely enjoy running and want to push yourself to a new level, or is it simply because running a marathon is a feat of athleticism which is praised in modern society?
So, combining all these ideas, I downloaded the 1 Second Everyday app – a video journal where you document one second’s worth of footage from that day before the app transforms it into a montage. While you may think your day spent working at your desk is unworthy of being filmed, the app’s concept encourages you to become more attuned to the smaller, more joyous parts of your day, be it your morning coffee that just hit the spot, or the sunset as you walk home from the library. As such, I’ve been capturing beautiful views, time spent with friends and other small moments that brought a smile to my face, and even though I only have around 20 seconds of footage so far, the feel-good effect is palpable. Driven by the need to find my one second of footage for the day, I’ve looked for joy in places I wouldn’t have necessarily thought of before. Case in point: I had jam on toast for the first time in ages the other day and it brought me so much joy, so naturally it became the subject of that day’s footage. Think of it as creating your own highlight reel, but without the pressure for it to be Instagram-worthy; if it makes you happy, it’s more than deserving of its place in the montage.
Ultimately, January is an emotionally chaotic time of year. Within days – hours, even – we can ricochet from motivation to dejection, and the unrealistic goals that Instagram pumps into our brains leads to unhelpful self-comparison and a fixation on the future. Instead, it’s time to reclaim the present, appreciating the here and now while knowing that brighter days lie ahead.
(For more information on winter pressures, check out the NHS’s Keeping Well page here.)