Every January, I used to feel a sense of pressure and unease. I used to feel this inside pressure to “be done” with the previous year and have made my plan for the new one.

Seeing other people take on the “new year new you” challenge with gusto, used to add to the pressure and make me feel inadequate.

This year it felt different. I still heard that voice in my head that said I ought to be further along, but I was conscious of it, and it was less present than before.

Over the last year I’ve been on a journey of trying to become kinder to myself. Part of this journey has involved becoming more aware of my inner voice. Discovering that I have ADHD, and hyperfocusing on the topic, has led to a deep new understanding of the way my brain works, and why I tend to put so much pressure on myself.

So when January rolled on, I noticed the voice in my head that said I ought to have reviewed the year and already entirely planned the new year. Except I haven’t reviewed 2022 yet and I haven’t even made a start on planning 2023. There is a very logical reason for this.

Over the last couple of years, having spent a lot more time in nature, wild swimming, doing shamanic drumming in the local woods at dawn on a weekly basis, and hanging out with people who celebrate the Celtic wheel of the year, I have become more aware of the cycles of nature.

Right now, in the Celtic wheel of the year, we just passed the Winter Solstice, where the days were the shortest of the year, and are still in the depth of Winter. The Spring energies will not start to rise until Imbolc, which is on the 1st of February. Spring itself doesn’t start until the 21st of March.

If like me you feel at odds with the frenzy of planning that occurs in January, this is biologically normal. 

The depths of Winter aren’t the time to do goal setting and planning. I wrote about this in 2019 already, but I want to talk about it again because my understanding of it is different.

Midwinter is a time to go inwards, for deep rest and for dreaming. Whether you resonate with this spiritually or not, scientific evidence agrees with this. I spent my PhD and 2 postdocs studying our innate biological rhythms and how day length affects the reproductive cycle. Not that long ago, when we were still in tune with natural daylight, winter was a time when we slept more and worked less. It makes so much sense to wait until the days get slightly longer and the Spring energies start to rise, to plan things. February or March seem like much more logical times to do this.

I find it interesting that culture that follow a lunar calendar like the Chinese, have their new year at the beginning of February. It makes more sense to me.

If right now is a time of going inwards, rest and dreaming (and I really have to remind myself of this to tame my inner critic from telling me I should be further along), how can you best use the energies of this time? 

Reviewing the previous year is a good start to the dreaming. Try to you look at how you grew, instead of beating yourself up with what you didn’t achieve. Here are some questions to ponder which may help you do this from a place of kindness (set a timer for 3 to 5 min, and think about writing just 3 things):

  • What are you grateful for?
  • What gave you joy?
  • What made you grow?
  • What did you learn?
  • What do you want to take forward?

Another gentle intention setting activity I like to do at the beginning of the year, because it feels good and not pressured like goals, is choosing a quality I want to embody in the coming year by choosing a word for the year. I like Rebecca Wright’s free word of the year guided journey. I also like to make an altar, and I I wrote a this post about making altars.


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