January is a cold and dark month. Low energy and low moods are common, and to make it even tougher, it’s often a time of careful spending after the Christmas splurge, fragile health thanks to winter viruses, and a quiet social calendar after all the festive fun. But acknowledging the problem is the first step to overcoming it! January has as much to offer as any other month, and with a little care we can enjoy January as much as any other time of year!
INTENTIONAL LIVING IN WINTER
The trick to living well, at any time of year, is living intentionally. That means actively choosing how you’re going to do things instead of letting your emotions, your circumstances and the people around you sweep you along. It means paying attention, making positive plans, taking action, and caring for yourself. Instead of just letting January happen to you, make up your mind to take control of January and make the most of all its opportunities!
When we care for ourselves in this way, we feel better and manage challenges better, we live fuller lives, we set ourselves up for a better year and a better future, and we have more to give in our relationships and commitments.
31 WAYS TO ENJOY JANUARY
Use the 31 tips below to have a great January and make the most of the longest month!
1 – PRIORITISE REST
Take a lead from nature, which is resting too this month. Make the most of the dark mornings and evenings and quiet social calendar, and get some extra sleep. Especially if you’ve been ill or had a crazy Christmas, it’s a great time to heal, decompress, and recuperate.
2 – JOIN THE NEW YEAR PLANT HUNT
Venture out for a walk and see what plants you can find in flower in your area, as part of the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland’s annual winter survey. The fresh air and exercise will help to blow the cobwebs away, and connecting with nature is known to boost our mental health too. If you’re not so hot on identifying wild plants, try the PlantNet app or Google Lens, but the BSBI’s recording system allows you to submit unidentified plants with photos, too.
3 – SET SOME GOALS
If you haven’t yet, set some goals for the year ahead and take the first steps towards achieving them. If you’re not sure where to start, you could begin with my goal-setting posts (below). Or simply consider your goal ‘to be the best version of myself’, and figure out what daily habits would move you closer to that end.RELATED: – Goal-Setting in Uncertain Times, Part 1: find your direction: HOW TO HAVE A JOYFUL JANUARY – Start the Year Strong: 10 ways to have your best year ever: HOW TO HAVE A JOYFUL JANUARY – Bullet Journaling for an Intentional Life: HOW TO HAVE A JOYFUL JANUARY
4 – LOOK FOR THE GOOD DAYS
The weather in January can be utterly rubbish. But it can also be utterly beautiful: clear blue skies, low golden sunlight, and sparkling frosts or snow. On the rubbish days, sure, make like a dormouse and snuggle up indoors if you prefer. But one of the main reasons we struggle in the dark months is lack of sunlight and exercise. Getting outdoors is always good for you, so to really enjoy January, be prepared to change plans and make the most of it when the sun shines.
5 – LET THERE BE LIGHT
Twelfth Night is the traditional time to take down your Christmas decorations, but first consider: are there elements of your winter decor that deserve to stick around a bit longer? A string of fairy lights over the mantelpiece to brighten dark evenings, perhaps? Or an array of festive scented candles to add some extra warmth and light? Christmas may be over, but a little extra light and colour lifts our spirits any time.
You could also consider making Twelfth Night a celebration of its own! Bring out the last of the Christmas booze and cake, put some music on and get that de-decorating party started!
6 – ENJOY YOUR CHRISTMAS GIFTS
Christmas gifts – we’re grateful on the day but how often do they go directly onto the shelf or into the cupboard and get forgotten? January is a the perfect time to make sure you really enjoy them. Read that book, play that game, savour that special bottle, spend that voucher, learn to use that gadget, and wear the heck out of that jumper.
7 – GET YOUR VITAMINS
In the winter we’re commonly at higher risk for illness, we get outdoors less, we get less exercise, our diets can be more limited (hands up, comfort-food lovers) and we certainly get less sunshine. There’s no substitute for maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise 365 days a year, but if you’re struggling then January is prime time for updating your supplement regime and getting a little seasonal boost if it helps you.
Vitamin D is really important for immunity and can help you fight the winter blues, and we’re almost all deficient, so that’s always top of my list. In fact I take vitamin D all year round now and have seen a massive improvement in my immunity to common viruses. Vitamin C and zinc are immunity boosters too, while iron and vitamin B-12 can help with low energy and keeping warm. Or you might choose a high-quality multivitamin for all-round support.
Not medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or another qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health.
8 – BUY YOURSELF A GIFT IN THE SALES
Always avoid mindless shopping! But if there’s something you’ve had your eye on for a while – perhaps a special pair of shoes, a winter coat, a new appliance, or something to improve your home – then do your research and see if you can get a great deal during the January sales.
Or maybe there’s no big ticket item on your list, but a favourite shop has your favourite treats for half price… *cough* Hotel Chocolat *cough*
9 – PLAN A MEETUP
Social calendars are often quieter in the new year, but it doesn’t have to be that way! Take matters into your own hands and organise something to connect with your nearest and dearest, whether it’s a cosy coffee with a bff, a relaxed dinner party at your place or a grand night out with the girls.
10 – READ A POSITIVE BOOK
Reading books is a great way to open your mind, learn new things and discover new ways of thinking. If you’re not sure where to start with your TBR list this year, choose a book to enjoy in January which will improve your perspective and add value to your life.
Consider 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think for self-awareness and personal growth; Big Magic for creative encouragement; The Compound Effect for motivation; Better Than Before for help to improve your habits; or The Alchemist for inspiration to follow your dreams. Of course, there are hundreds you could choose from, so if none of these grab your attention then ask friends for recommendations or search online.
11 – LOOK FOR WINTER FUNGI
Most of nature is sleeping, but not all. Some fungi (and lichen) are easier to spot in winter, and getting to know them – and know where to look for them – can open up whole new worlds you’ve never noticed before.
Slow down your woodland walk and search damp, shady areas and decaying trunks. You might just find otherworldly treasures such as green elf cups, cobalt crust, jelly ears, turkey tails, candlesnuff fungus and many more!
12 – LEARN A NEW COMFORT RECIPE
Comfort food doesn’t have to be unhealthy. Try a new stew, soup, curry or bake recipe with winter ingredients you love, and see if you can find a new favourite!
One of my favourite comfort dishes at the moment is a simple carbonara with added mushrooms – it’s so easy to make and so satisfying! There are lots more ideas on my Foodie Inspiration Pinterest board.
13 – INDULGE YOUR CREATIVITY
Set aside some time with your inner artist and get stuck into a creative project, whether it’s a familiar pursuit or you’re trialing a new hobby.
If this is new for you then remember, you often have to suck at something before you get good at it, so do it for your eyes only if you need to.
Creative activities stretch the mind and heal the soul: they boost mood and self-esteem, grow cognitive function, and reduce stress and anxiety. What are you waiting for?
14 – TREAT YOURSELF WITH A HOT DRINK
My hot chocolate habit can easily get out of hand if I’m not careful… But instead I make it a January-only treat, and don’t buy it the rest of the year. If there’s one time to treat yourself a little more warmly and a little more kindly, it’s January.
(Save it for your cheat day though if you have weightloss goals right now. Or find a new favourite warming herbal tea instead – I love Revitalise by Pukka!)
15 – PLAN A TRIP
December is really the darkest month, but it feels brighter for most because we’re looking forward to Christmas and all its festivities. In January we need to give ourselves something to look forward to as well.
Planning a summer holiday, or even just a weekend away with your partner or a friend, is a great way to raise a bit of excitement and motivation for the year ahead and take your mind off the greyest winter days.
16 – PAMPER YOUR BODY
Go on, the full works. Take a bath, grab a hair mask, do your nails, indulge in a bit of self-massage with a moisturising oil – what better use is there for one of those long, dark evenings? Put on some favourite music or an enjoyable podcast, properly relax and give your body some love.
And don’t forget body brushing – winter is the time it’s most needed, both for keeping your skin smooth and for draining lymph nodes after all that sitting down you’ve probably been doing…
17 – IDENTIFY TREE BUDS
The trees may be bare, but if you look closer they still have plenty of interest to offer, and they’re already getting ready for spring… I once thought it was impossible to identify trees in winter, but if you examine the buds it’s much easier than you think, and it’s so interesting to see the variety and beauty on show even in the dead of winter.
18 – DECLUTTER SOMETHING
We all like to see January as a fresh start, and starting the year with a tidy, organised and clutter-free home can be a great motivator, energise you and help you to feel in control.
Of course, depending on your priorities, you don’t have to declutter the whole house at once… But at the least, try picking one room or one corner that’s getting you down or that would make a real difference to your days, and blitz it. You’ll thank yourself later!
19 – TREAT YOUR GARDEN
In winter, gardens can often be a mess: a tangle of brown stems and decay. But there is plenty you can add to your garden for winter colour and beauty, and I bet it’s waiting for you at your local garden centre right now…
Buy a beautiful hellebore, a pot of snowdrops or primroses, a winter jasmine, daphne, or flowering witch hazel and add it to your garden now. It will return for you to enjoy every January. Make sure to plant it somewhere you can see it from your window!
20 – MAKE BROTH (OR BAKE)
For me, cooking up a big pot of bone broth filled with goodness, and packing jars of it into the freezer, is a therapeutic process and a real joy, knowing that I’m storing up rich and delicious nutrition to add to meals and health-boosting soups that I’ll continue to enjoy far beyond January.
I know that bone broth isn’t for everybody and a lot of people love baking in the same kinda way: therapeutic and joyful. Whichever you prefer, spend some time in the kitchen mindfully creating something wonderful to share.
21 – HAVE A FAVOURITE FOODIE TREAT
Mine’s a steak sandwich, with rare rump, onion chutney, real butter and baguette. What’s yours?
If I’m in a sweet mood, sometimes it’s a doughnut. Whatever it is, enjoy it mindfully and remember: treating yourself doesn’t have to mean overindulgence – one doughnut is enough!
22 – PLAN FEBRUARY FUN
I hate to break it to you, but winter ain’t over when January ends. Personally, I find February the hardest of all, because I’ve really had enough of the cold by then…
But these days I always make sure I have a bunch of fun things in the diary when February hits, to get me out of the house and keep me busy, and it makes a huge difference. Think days out at local museums/galleries, winter gardens, trips to see friends, a restaurant dinner or two… Get them in the diary now!
23 – DO A TREASURE TRAIL
I know I talk about Treasure Trails a lot, but it’s for a good reason. They’re such a great way to get out and explore a town, city or village, and there are so many available I can guarantee there’s one near you (in the UK). Spend a couple of hours exploring your town (or one nearby) with a treasure trail and you’ll see it in a whole new light as you follow the clues! You don’t need to wait for a beautiful day, you usually don’t have to worry about mud, and chances are there’s a choice of nice cafes or pubs en route for a cosy stop-off.
24 – JOIN THE BIG GARDEN BIRDWATCH
Birds need our support in the winter, and hopefully you’re already feeding them in your garden. On the last weekend of January, the RSPB holds a nationwide survey asking people to watch birds in their gardens for an hour and report what they see. It’s valuable citizen science and a lovely way to spend an hour, paying quiet attention to nature. And you might be surprised what you spot!
It can take a while for birds to find new feeders, so if you’re not already feeding your birds, make sure you get feeders in place as soon as possible!
25 – CELEBRATE BURNS NIGHT
Burns Night is a Scottish celebration, but more and more people in other parts of the UK enjoy marking it too, and let’s be honest, it’s timed perfectly for a late January pick-me-up and a bit of fun to celebrate Scottish and other folk culture.
A proper Burns supper includes bagpipe music, Scottish soup (cullen skink, Scotch broth or cock-a-leekie), and a main course of haggis with neeps (swede) and tatties (mashed potato). Don’t forget to recite Robert Burns’ ‘Address to a Haggis’ and raise a whisky toast to the haggis before tucking in! After dessert or cheese there are toasts by the men to the women present, toasts by the women to the men present, more poetry, ‘Auld Lang Syne’, and doubtless a lot more whisky…
26 – BUY YOURSELF FLOWERS
It’s a lovely way to brighten your house and your mood. Spend time arranging them just right and put them somewhere you’ll see them plenty.
27 – DO A JIGSAW
Jigsaws are a classic ‘rainy day’ past-time and surprisingly therapeutic and satisfying – and they’re always available in your local charity shop. Clear the table, grab a friend or partner if you like, and have a go. If jigsaws really aren’t your cup of tea, play a board game instead!
28 – PLAN A GARDEN
I encourage everyone to grow something, because it increases our understanding and connection with the natural world more than pretty much anything else, it encourages mindfulness, responsibility and nurturing, and it is hugely rewarding.
January is the perfect time to plan what you’re going to grow this year, so whether you’d enjoy a few pots of flowers, revamping that bare strip of soil next to your lawn, popping some herbs on the windowsill or growing a whole allotment full of food, sit down this month and make your plans. It’s a good month to buy your seeds and containers too, before the rush begins!
29 – SOW SOME SEEDS
There aren’t many things you can sow in January, but there are two popular choices that you can: sweet peas (scented climbing flowers) or broad beans (for the veg garden).
Check that the varieties you’re buying are suitable for January-sowing and follow the instructions; they’re usually best sown in pots in a sheltered place outdoors, and protected from mice. You could also start some salad greens on a bright windowsill indoors!
Sowing seeds evokes big feelings of hope and anticipation – and seeing the seedlings emerge is even better!
30 – LOOK FOR SIGNS OF SPRING
Spring begins earlier than you think. Look closely and you might spot snowdrops, daffodils, crocuses and primroses beginning to flower; bluebell shoots emerging from the ground like green stars; catkins fluffing up and, if you’re lucky, the very first early buff-tailed bumblebees foraging for nectar on sunny days.
Keep your eyes peeled in your local park or woodland, or even as you pass front gardens – and take note!
31 – WATCH A FAVOURITE MOVIE
Watching an old favourite has way more feel-good factor than bingeing Netflix. Set an evening aside to snuggle up on the sofa and enjoy that classic again this January.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
How do you make an effort to enjoy January? Do you have any favourite activities or traditions for making the most of the dark months? Please let me know in the comments!