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An ode to January: Why it’s the best month of the year | Elizabeth Wellington

So yes, January, as long as the wine fridge is stocked, bring on the surprise snow day. Or two.

January is Elizabeth Wellington’s favorite month.
January is Elizabeth Wellington’s favorite month.Read moreGetty Images/iStockphoto

Welcome, January.

I look forward to your crowded gyms and icy-cold mornings.

You’re short on daylight, but we are past the winter solstice, so we can count on you for a few extra minutes of sun each day. Yippee. That warms my heart, even if my hands will still be cold.

Yet, if I’m being honest, those dark-before-we-get-off-work evenings aren’t really that bad. The frigid winter winds chase me home, where I curl up under my Snuggie to binge-watch Grey’s Anatomy or cozy up with my Kindle in my quest to reread all of Toni Morrison’s novels. I’m almost finished Song of Solomon.

“January is a time of to rethink and relink,” said Pax Tandon, the Philadelphia-based author of Mindfulness Matters. “The holidays are a time when you are doing so much, your energy becomes eroded. It takes us away from self-care. We are so outwardly focused, we aren’t doing what we need to do to stay balanced. We can’t be in service of the world if we are not in service to ourselves.”

So yes, January, as long as the wine fridge is stocked, bring on the surprise snow day. Or two. Why? Because even with your whiteout snowstorms and deep car dig-outs, your arrival brings the calm. All that fa, la, la, la, la is safely over, at least for the next 11 months.

The end of the never-ending Hallmark Christmas movie season isn’t the only reason why I can’t wait for Jan. 1. To me, a new year means a new apartment lease and that my car insurance is paid through the next six months. After the settling of Christmas debts, my money is mine again: to better budget, to save, or to plan a slamming vacation with. Perhaps I’ll take that writing retreat. Or practice yoga in Cozumel while visiting the ruins in Tulum. Why not? My vacation time has not yet been spoken for.

This, January, is why I love you. Who doesn’t love breaking in the spine of a new planner? The months are empty. Birthday parties have yet to be planned. Hair appointments haven’t yet been scheduled. I haven’t agreed to attend a networking event or speak to a class. Will I use ink or pencil? Last year I was a sucker for stickers. I’ll use them again. While I’m at it, I’ll create a new vision board. This isn’t just the start of a new year, it’s the start of a new decade.

The 2020s will be for dream-building. I’m claiming it now.

But I’m no fool, January. You do arrive with lists and restrictions and resolutions. How will I ever lose that 10 pounds? It’s become trendy to get through you dry — as in no wine at all. What’s there to look forward to, asks a girlfriend of mine as we drag our galoshes through the sooty slush, wishing the first day of March wasn’t a whole two months away.

My answer: I look forward to me. After a solid month and a half of helping everyone and fixing everything, January is when I take the space that I need instead of cramming my needs into the space that’s available. This year, however, I refuse to fall back into the same old patterns that find me overwhelmed and overcommitted before Valentine’s Day. How will I do this?

Here are a few expert tips for learning to love January and making the most of it.

Write down your goals

“Writing things down makes things more concrete,” says life coach LaVerne Adams.

The saying goes, “A goal not written down is merely a wish.” This year, I’ll write down my goals and also the actionable steps that will make them happen. At the beginning of each month, I’ll break my goal down into manageable tasks and try to schedule time throughout the week and month.

Default to ‘no’

Sure it sounds fun to go out with the girls to Restaurant Week or shopping or even to that new workout class. But is this really something that I will want to do when 5 p.m. on Thursday rolls around? I’m going to avoid getting overwhelmed by starting at no, and taking the time to figure out if I really want to say “yes.”

“Who do you want to be?" Tandon counseled. “What do you want your life to look like? It’s a good opportunity to change the optics. And if this activity doesn’t fit into your life vision, then really think hard about committing to it.”

Less screen time. More you time.

Everyone I know seems to be craving a digital detox of some sort. Why? Because social media is a serious time-suck that takes you away from what you’d really like to get done, whether that’s writing that business plan or learning a new language. And why start the year by comparing yourself to others? “I’m going to start skipping Instagram and instead read 15 minutes in the morning. That will be my new norm in 2020,” says Mindie Barnett, motivational speaker and author of Intermission: How Fervor, Friendships and Faith Took Me to the Second Act.

Now’s the chance to make the new decade what you want it to be: Ditch the bad habits and bad feelings of the last year, fill up that new planner, and fall in love with January, the best month of the year.