March 5, 2021

Why setting seasonal resolutions makes more sense

After hearing about the concept of Wintering by Katherine May on the On Being project, I began to think about how much we avoid ritual and our ancient understanding of the cycles of birth, death, and re-birth through our year.

Our celebrations, passed down to us from our ancestors, are mostly now converted into excuses for consumerism, or holidays from our punishing work schedules. Our idea of making resolutions, or things we will resolve to change or augment in our lives, happens just after mid-winter, in the New Year of the Gregorian calendar. With the luxury we now have of freedom of choice, we decide that this year will be different. Stuffed full of carb-heavy Christmas food and perhaps more than a little hungover from the night before, we scribble down ideas of a New Self, one that has their shit together, that works out regularly, and achieves their long-dreamed of goals.

I’ve written about New Year’s Resolutions in the past, but as winter becomes spring, I’ve begun to take a look at my own ones devised this January and wondered if they were inspired not by a full idea of who I wanted to be, but by my winter self. At that time I had been inside for around 23 hours a day, and while feeling inspired for the coming year (mostly because of the promise of a relief from the pandemic), the cold had been seeping into my bones for a good couple of months. Mid-Winter does things to you, just we can’t quite predict what they will be until they arrive.

Now, entering this new season of re-birth and hope, I feel the need to be outdoors, to meet and collaborate with other humans, and to spread my wings a little. On reflection, I also feel like I was too hard on myself in winter. I gave myself a punishing workout regimen, pushed myself to stare at my laptop screen as much as possible, and endeavoured to pretend this cold snap was merely a blip before the exultation of summer. I didn’t quite embrace the insights winter can provide.

Indeed, May addresses this in her book, writing:

‘’We like to imagine that it’s possible for life to be one eternal summer and that we have uniquely failed to achieve that for ourselves. We dream of an equatorial habitat, forever close to the sun, an endless, unvarying high season. But life’s not like that.’’

Reading more on ancient rituals (see my thoughts on the book The Year 1000) provides the context that I believe we should be bringing into our modern lives when addressing our ideas for what we want to do. We have this ingrained belief in the modern world that we can change everything through the power of will, habit, and technology. Indeed this is a much-discussed aspect of the current debate on how to address Climate Extinction: do we slow down, or speed up? Will technology be able to solve the multitude of complex problems we now have a short time to figure out? Technologists would certainly say yes. Naturalists would argue that a move toward how we once lived is more in-keeping with the equilibrium the earth so clearly wants us to adhere to.

However if we do indeed take as fact that our behaviours and habits are transformative in how we move through our lives, how happy we are, how much we weigh, and how we treat others around us, then surely these habits can be modulated by which season we are in?

The seasons have an enormous impact on our mood and state of mind. They affect how much we socialise, exercise, see family, and even how much we have sex. Why not adjust ourselves and our behaviours to these seasons.

By doing this, we would be able to take our feet off the pressure-pedal we so often apply too readily, causing shame and disappointment when we can’t live up to our own idealised self. Autumn can see us embracing the gradually lessening ours of daylight, and becoming more contemplative. Winter can see us sleeping more, thinking deeper about those we love dearest, and embracing the interiors: museums, cinemas, libraries… even if they must all exist in our own homes. By Spring and Summer, we can move around more, become more social and spread our circles of friendship and activity.

By moving with the seasons, and setting our behaviours and goals accordingly, we may be able to find the peace we all clearly so desire in our lives.

As Katherine May writes so eloquently, the period we are now in, the end of Winter and beginning of Spring, is a magical time, full of hope. We survived the dark! We are entering the light…

‘’That’s what you learn in winter: there is a past, a present. And a future. There is a time after the aftermath.’’

Life moves forward, at its own pace.

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