Psychologists Share Their Top Tips for Staying Positive in January

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The start of the year can test the resolve of even the most upbeat people.

January is no fun; the weather is miserable, our New Year’s resolutions tend to immediately get broken, the booze kick has begun, and we’re back to work (even if we’re working from home).

So after a year like 2020, and a restricted Christmas, how can we cheer ourselves up?

We asked psychologists to share their top tips for making the start of 2021 a positive experience…


Start with Small Resolutions

It’s tempting to overhaul all your bad habits at the start of a new year, but this can set you up for failure, says Dr. Emma Davies, senior lecturer in psychology at Oxford Brookes University. “Don’t try to change everything about your life in January. While it is normally a time for resolutions, most of them fail, and we need to be kinder to ourselves having lived through a massive world event. So if you want to make any changes, start with something small.”

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Take a Moment to Refocus

Professor Margareta James from Harley Street Wellbeing Clinic says: “January is usually about goal setting and ‘new year resolutions’. Instead of putting more pressure on yourself to achieve and keep pushing, I would re-focus and encourage everyone to breathe, stop, be, and reset. There has been so much change, uncertainty and chaos recently; that leaves us confused, uncertain, and for lack of a better word, stressed. So in the midst of this, I would like to invite you to pause for a moment. Allow yourself the opportunity to know who you truly are and what is important to you. Reflect on your thoughts, emotions, actions, and align them with who you truly are.”

positive january
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Be Realistic with Your 'Dry' Rules

Cutting down on drinking alcohol can provide a big positivity boost at any time of year, but if you can’t face a fully dry January, Davies says you should “start small and stick to drinking once a week.” Although she does add: “The benefits of a fully dry January can be felt well into the summer.”

positive january
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Make Some Optimistic Plans

“Stay connected to others – make plans for the months ahead, when (fingers crossed) we’ll have more freedom,” says Davies. “Having something to look forward to gives us a focus, and planning with friends and family will provide a shared forward thinking task.”

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Get Outside

Even if it is raining, getting outdoors can help keep us physically and mentally well. “We need daylight and exercise to stay positive,” notes Davies. “You don’t have to start training for a marathon – a 30-minute walk each day can boost our feelings of positivity. Start small and build up to half an hour if you can. Give yourself a task, such as taking an interesting photo on each walk.”

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Try Something New

Stuart Duff, business psychologist and partner at Pearn Kandola, advises people to invest 30 minutes every day doing something new for themselves and their mindset.

“Imagine having an advent calendar for January 2021 and behind every date is a new and interesting experience. It could be walking a new route, doing yoga, learning a new language, trying a different recipe, reading something or sewing and baking. The options are endless, but the really important thing is that whatever you do gives you a breather.”

positive january
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Start Saving

Financial wellbeing is about a sense of security and feeling as though you have enough money to meet your needs, which can have a huge impact on your overall happiness.

If you are able to, “start a savings plan and put 5% of all you earn each month into an account and forget about it,” says psychologist and celebrity coach Susie Pearl. “You can later use it as an adventure fund, when travel begins to reopen again.”

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