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Although January is made up of 31 days, just like six other months of the year, it somehow feels like it lasts forever. Christmas must have been about three months ago, and November is a distant memory. There are actually a couple of reasons for this – it’s not just in your head! We’ve looked at the three main causes of an eternal January below:
Did you know that there’s a genuine scientific reason as to why January seems to last forever? A study published in The New Statesman found that the feeling of January dragging on is due to your internal dopamine system. As you may know, dopamine is a hormone which is released by the brain when you’re feeling things like pleasure or satisfaction. In the run up to Christmas, our bodies release dopamine frequently. We’re usually busy, have little downtime, and are brimming with excitement.
When we reach January, and we’re back to the usual grind, our dopamine levels return to normal, which can be a bit of a shock to the system. If these levels have been extra high for the last few months, it’s no wonder that normality feels jarring.
We don’t generally do much in January – work is usually our main concern. This means the mind has a tendency to get bored, slowing down our internal clock. Time genuinely feels like it’s going slower as a result of this! It’s often not until Spring, where we can get outside, have picnics, go for walks, and meet with friends, that time seems to get back to normal.
Not only does science indicate that January feels longer than it really is, but our bank balances tend to suffer too. Many of us receive our wages before Christmas, even if we usually get paid at the end of the month. This means that it can be five or six weeks in between pay cheques.
There’s also the expenditure over Christmas itself to consider. This, alongside the gap between wages, may mean we feel a financial sting in January. Not to mention all the January sales, which entice us to spend even more money! You may not need these products, but if they’re a bargain, it’s tempting to buy them anyway.
Overall, January is often a lean month. We can’t really afford to go out and do anything exciting, and the wait until we get our next pay packet often seems endless. The bad weather doesn’t help much either!
Many people, throughout winter, suffer from something known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. It’s a type of depression, sometimes referred to as ‘winter depression’, as the symptoms become much more apparent in the colder months. The symptoms of SAD include irritability, a low mood, feeling lethargic, and the inability to feel pleasure from everyday activities.
Some people will be more affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder than others, but it is likely to negatively impact their lives either way. If you think you may be suffering from SAD, it’s a good idea to contact your local GP. They should be able to assess your mental health, and direct you to further support if needed.
Now that January has come to an end, we can start looking ahead to the rest of the year. The months will soon become warmer, and our internal dopamine levels will sort themselves out. And as most of us will now have received our January wages, our finances should start getting back to normal!
The end of January may also be a good time to think about our ongoing financial situations. Managing your money, through planning and saving, can make a huge difference to your overall mental health. It can give you peace of mind, especially if you are generally worried about your finances. For instance, anyone with a lot of outstanding debt might get stressed about their budget.
If you’re concerned about your finances, your first target should probably be to pay off any historic debt. There are two key things to remember when it comes to saving up for this sort of thing – you need to have a clear goal, and you should set aside money as soon as you’re paid.
So with old debt, you may decide that you want to be debt free within a year, taking into account how much you can realistically repay each month. Then, when you receive your wages, put this money into another account. This can be used to pay back your debts at the end of the month, supposing you haven’t needed to dip into the money for a true emergency.
You may also wish to make longer term goals for yourself. Once you’ve repaid your debt, you could start saving for something exciting, such as a holiday or a new car. Simply create a budget, work out how much you need to save every month to hit your target, and track your progress as you go!