January has traditionally been the time of year for self-improvement. It marks the beginning of a new year, and hence chimes in nicely with that ‘new year, new me’ mantra, plus it comes after our most indulgent period, where we binge on food and booze over Christmas. This obviously lends itself easily to resolutions to lose weight, eat healthily and save money – something the fitness, wellness and financial industries have been quick to capitalise on.
But for me, this apparently obvious decision for everyone to start anew when the new year rolls round seems arbitrary, and even a little silly. In many ways, January is the worst time of year to be doing anything self-improving, which is exactly why 80 per cent of people never stick to their New Year’s Resolutions past the first few weeks. Many people are overambitious with what they think they can achieve, setting ridiculous targets that they are unlikely to reach. How can anyone aim to bench-press their body weight when they’ve been inhaling the same in mince pies for a month? Is it really the best time to attempt quitting smoking, when you’re embarking on one of the most difficult and depressing months of the year? Probably not. So, isn’t September a much better time?
In many ways, September is the less stressful, less worthy, less in-your-face version of January. Just like the first month of the year, it comes after a period of indulgence. In this case, it’s the summer, with its beer gardens, festivals and alcohol-soaked holidays. But unlike the post-Christmas spiral of guilt, you’re hopefully not feeling as run down, because there isn’t as much of an emphasis on mince pie and cheese consumption. You probably are in just as much debt, though, because summer = spenny, just like Christmas.
The change of the seasons in September also helps with this mind set. There’s something about packing away your summer clothes and buying your new winter wardrobe that makes you feel like starting over. And I have to say it – because we know you’re thinking it – but there’s also that whole ‘hygge’ thing of wanting to stay in and get cosy. What better time to crack on with your Good Reads challenge for the year, watch all the new autumn telly and make a point of seeing every awards-season film?
As the traditional beginning of the new school year, September also has connotations of ‘starting anew’. Just thinking about it conjures up fond memories for me of excitedly buying my new pencil case for school, making sure my timetable was copied out as neatly as possible and selecting the best wrapping paper to cover my text books. It was when I started new subjects, took up new hobbies and made a renewed effort. Mentally a lot of this feeling remains whenever September rolls around again and I’m heading to the office instead of the classroom.
And I’m not the only one who feels like this. Journalist Daisy Buchanan has made a resolution to avoid spending money in September – something influenced by her overspending throughout the summer months – and is documenting it on Instagram.
‘My #nospendseptember was a bit of a panicked reaction to #spendallthemoneyaugust - and at this time of year my impulse is to start planning a winter wardrobe and get excited about the new drop,’ she explains. ‘It doesn't feel as deprivation based as it would in January, when I'd have no money to spend anyway - so it feels like a positive choice! And I'm really enjoying putting together outfits on Instagram, and trying to remind myself that I love shopping and clothes, and it's OK to have fun and celebrate that instead of sighing at my wardrobe and being cross that I'm losing the battle of me vs stuff.’
Similarly, author and journalist Laura Jane Williams has resolved to take better care of herself in September, sharing her journey on Instagram, too. ‘I wanted to document my self care in September because I am, truth told, totally knackered after an action-packed summer,’ she admits. ‘I thought by making it a public challenge I'd be held accountable to my followers, and maybe if they tagged me in their photos I'd be spurred on to keep looking after myself and being mindful as a way to ease into the gentleness of autumn.’
As evidenced by Daisy and Laura, it’s not about making massive changes. Personally, I’ve just resolved to bring in my lunch every day, try to only drink at the weekends and make some headway with the books stacked on my bedside table by waking up early and reading every day. Other achievable, useful things you can do include sorting through your wardrobe to trim it down to the things you actually wear (Marie Kondo, eat your heart out), start saving up a small amount each month towards the inevitable Christmas blow-out and doing your bit for the environment by starting meat-free Mondays.
So, what are you waiting for? Resolve now and January will thank you for it…