January is a strange juxtaposition. The sun flickers like a gentle flame for what feels like a sliver of a moment before we are plunged into evening darkness, and yet we yearn to be reborn. We write resolutions from deep within our caves—about movement and connection and progression while our most primitive instincts beg us to hibernate and recuperate. Arriving in a new year, we itch to spread our new wings, knowing full well that we may be wrapped up in our cocoon for some time longer.

What does it mean to give birth to a new year in the deadest month of its life?

It is strange indeed to push newness against the winter’s deadness. We pledge to clean out our car from holiday shopping madness, only to find temperatures dropping below freezing and the task seeming nearly impossible. We decide to start running, only to find ourselves up against darkness, or ice, or a bout of never-ending flu. The New Year gives us so much ambition and so little sun and warmth and energy to carry it out.

So how can we aspire for newness and growth, given what we have? How can we plant seeds in frozen earth, and feed them with only flickers of daylight? Here are some ideas to cultivate both optimism and renewal in one of the most difficult months of the year:

–       Make a list of all the things you appreciate about winter and find a creative way to display them as a reminder. Write them on a reclaimed window. Hang ornaments with their words from a tree branch. Make prayer flags.

–       Shift your activity-oriented resolutions to those activities that are better in winter. Snowboarding is an obvious one. But I personally find hiking and running to be more pleasant (and less crowded) in the winter months, out of the heat.

–       Bring your inspiration inward to your home. Use the extra time you are spending there to redecorate a room or start a homey project.

–       Enjoy being cozy. Maybe this means lots of soothing baths and homemade mud masks. Maybe it means allowing yourself a decadent cappuccino each day. Or maybe it means scarves, or putting on PJs still warm from the dryer, or the moment you step inside from a cold walk home. Indulge those burrowing instincts while it feels good.

–       If you’re craving summer, find little ways to create your own summery moments. Have an evening of raw oysters and crisp white wine. Spend a half hour walking around your favorite plant store and bring home some fresh flowers or a tropical fern. Enjoy being barefoot in your yoga class. Paint your toenails for the occasion.

–       Try to remember the moments in summer when you were craving winter. See if you can bring back the feeling of jumping into a freezing river, just to cool off. Appreciate the mercifulness of sun in January.

–       Look for beauty in nakedness. Nakedness of the trees. The skeletons of gardens. Fresh snow yet to be scratched by footprints.

–       Watch how dogs react to freshly fallen snow. Try to figure out exactly what makes it so magical for them, knowing that it may always be a mystery.

–       See if you can hear the silence of winter. Search for the serenity in auditory spaciousness that is so often under-appreciated.

–       Enjoy your holiday presents, AND the space created once the tree (and guests) are gone.

–       Think of a creative way to display all of your holiday cards, inviting the warm wishes of your community and family to linger through the winter. Use them as a reminder to connect with your loved ones when you feel isolated.

–       Watch as the days get longer, little by little.

–       Even if you find yourself inspired to make a change that’s incompatible with winter (planting that veggie garden), write it down. Take steps now to make it possible later. Consider shifting from new year’s resolutions to “new season resolutions,” inviting newness with each solstice or equinox and remembering that growth and renewal is part of each day.


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Rachael Uris, MA, LPC is the owner of Atacama Counseling, LLC, offering sex therapy as well as individual and couple's counseling for issues surrounding sexuality, love, and pregnancy. All services are located in downtown Boulder, Colorado, and are provided in English and Spanish.
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