5 mins

Hello 2019, goodbye self defeating patterns

Reverse the January blues – it’s time to reinvent yourself

It’s no wonder January is often perceived as being the gloomiest month of the year. After the excesses and indulgence of Christmas, many of us are left with maxed out credit cards and the realisation that we didn’t keep last year’s new year resolutions and habits very well at all.

In this article, we’re going to explore how this is a classic time of year when people contemplate the gap between how they’d like life to be and how it really is. We’ll explore the feelings that come up and what you can do to move through this time without getting stuck.

Experiencing the mania of Christmas

Christmas is a time where people are more distracted than usual, by attending additional events, parties and friendly get-togethers. There’s a lot more going on generally and people are often in a mildly ‘manic’ state – where there’s heightened excitement, and/or people forget to look after themselves adequately.

Once this period is over, there’s the inevitable and natural ‘come down’ – which usually starts just after the new year. Interestingly, this is one of the busiest times of year at the clinic, where we receive many new clients who are keen to improve their lives.

Exploring the drive to make changes

t’s interesting to note that some people who indulged heavily over the Christmas period, might be the ones who take up new gym memberships, sign up for veganuary and rid their kitchen cupboards of coffee, sugar and highly processed items. They go to great lengths to change at the start of the year, only to slip back into old patterns and habits some weeks or months later.

What many of these people don’t realise is that behavioural change needs to be more moderate in order to last. So, for example, instead of aiming to give up meat entirely for the month, just aim to go meat-free on certain days, or even just one day, of the week. Jamie Oliver advocates campaigns like ‘Meat-free Monday as a way of bringing a healthy balance back into our diets.

Let’s say you’re trying dry January, as another example. Many people can do the month, however, when February comes around, that long anticipated first drink quickly turns into several – and so, a real change to their relationship with alcohol hasn’t really been made. While dry January is a wonderful concept, from a psychological perspective, we advocate making small incremental modifications over time to achieve change that lasts. Perhaps a better strategy might be to stop after one or two drinks, or drop the frequency of drinking to once a week – as an example.

Addiction isn’t just about food or alcohol

While this time of year focuses heavily on the physical body, as clothes shops dress their mannequins in the latest gym gear, addictions come in all shapes and sizes. Professor Marc Lewis explains how a prolonged addictive state can be brought about by goal-orientated activities that become all-consuming, like gambling, online shopping or even learning a new language or instrument. Then there are also addictions to high-tech devices (iphones, ipads), the internet, sex, video games and even plastic surgery.

While you may not need to opt for dry January or veganuary, perhaps there is another area in your life that features some kind of addictive behaviour. And while this may be the case, it’s equally important that we don’t stretch the term addiction so far that it loses meaning. Changing bad habits is one thing, and treating severe addiction is another. At its most serious, addiction can be a matter of life and death for some individuals and requires the assistance of trained professionals.

How you feel about the gap in your life

One of the main things people deal with psychologically at this time of year, is understanding the gap between how you’d like your life to be and how it is in reality. Even with the best laid plans and consistent hard work towards some goal, life may not have turned out as you envision. Not only do you stop and see that you didn’t achieve what you wanted, a flood of emotions that you’d didn’t plan on feeling can accompany the failure – like anger, sadness, guilt, shame, heartbreak and worthlessness.

What’s important, is to understand that this happens to everyone and that part of maturing into adulthood is gaining perspective on the things we can’t control. Perspective might come only after we grieve the loss of what could have been and instead of sub-consciously passing these emotions off onto someone else, it’s important that you allow any negativity to be recognised, processed and released within you first.

We’ve helped countless individuals transform their internal world to be more supportive and empowering. If you would like to discuss how we can help, then please do contact us for a confidential chat.

Dr Elena Touroni

Dr Elena Touroni

9 January 2019

"Dr. Elena Touroni is a skilled and experienced Consultant Psychologist with a track record of delivering high-quality services for individuals with all common emotional difficulties and those with a diagnosis of personality disorder. She is experienced in service design and delivery, the management of multi-disciplinary teams, organisational consultancy, and development and delivery of both national and bespoke training to providers in the statutory and non-statutory sector."

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Dr Stacie Tay

Dr Stacie Tay attained her BSc (Hons) Psychology at the University of Nottingham and worked as a psychologist at the Institute of Mental Health, Singapore, before returning to the UK to complete her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the University College London.   

Dr Tay has worked in a variety of settings within the NHS for more than eight years, including primary and secondary care, specialist psychological services and forensic inpatient settings. She currently works as a Clinical Psychologist at the North East London Foundation Trust.  

She has extensive experience working with individuals and groups, providing evidence-based psychological therapies including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Psychotherapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) and Mindfulness-based approaches as well as Schema-informed therapy.   

Dr Tay’s clinical experience involves working with people who present with a range of mild to severe mental health difficulties. This includes depression, anxiety (OCD, social anxiety, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, health anxiety, phobia-related disorders, PTSD), stress related issues, low self-esteem, complex trauma, interpersonal difficulties, grief and bereavement, and long-term health conditions.