Blue Monday, acceptance and the ‘good enough’ New Year’s Resolution.

bluemonday

This year, Blue Monday* – reportedly the most depressing day of the year – occurs on 16 January. But for a moment, I’m not thinking about why, for so many people, things might get so rotten early in the year. In fact, I’m thinking back to a workshop I ran for therapists who came a from wide variety of theoretical backgrounds, and the theoretical approach I’m particularly reminded of as I write this blog is Winnicott’s ‘good enough mother’.**

Beyond the technical details of theory, there is something almost magical about the simple phrase ‘good enough mother’ – especially if seen as a contrast to the idea of the ‘perfect mother’. I often find the same sort of clarity when I examine the word ‘acceptance’, because both the idea of ‘good enough’ and ‘acceptance’ offer us the chance of freedom or liberation from expectation.

As Blue Monday approaches, imagine how quickly you could realign some of the simple hurdles you have already erected in 2017 if you begin to use the ideas of being ‘good enough’ or ‘acceptance’ rather than seeking unobtainable standards.

Reportedly, more than 30 per cent of people will have broken their New Year’s resolutions by the end of the second week of January. So, I wonder how useful the concepts of ‘good enough’ or ‘acceptance’ might be in helping people to continue with the positive changes commonly set around 1 January each year.

Imagine your resolution is to run regularly. At a packed party on 31 December you announced enthusiastically and publically at the stroke of midnight that you’d run a marathon before the end of 2017. On 14 January, as you put on your running shoes and realise how dark and cold it is outside, you notice your determination and enthusiasm shrinking. Despite wanting to save face, you throw in the towel and return to your sofa – crisps and beer in hand. At some point later, you beat yourself up for being weak-willed or lacking commitment.

But what if you take the option to reframe? Drawing from the ‘good enough’ idea, how would it be if you simply decide that enjoying a bit of running could be good enough? In the following days and weeks, you might discover that 1 kilometre turns into 2km, then 5km, then 10km. It turns out that you can accept where you find yourself right here and now and allow your ability to grow naturally, rather than demand of yourself that you adhere to the unrealistic goal you first chose.

Similarly, if you set yourself the task of losing weight – a popular New Year’s resolution – then be realistic. Don’t set your goal at a huge weight loss in an impossible period of time. At least at first, just try to lose something each week – which is actually going to be ‘good enough’ until you have firmly built the habit. If you focus on the small, the sizeable will quickly grow from it. You will then have a much better chance of embedding the change in your life long term; it will become achievable and, therefore, much more likely to improve, rather than knock, your self-esteem.

As you begin to succeed, come from your continued acceptance of the here-and-now ‘good enough’ perspective. This will undoubtedly create chances for you to grow more, but without that demanding self-expectation.

Let me wish you a happy, ‘accepting’ and ‘good enough’ 2017!

*The concept of Blue Monday, the point at which we are supposedly at our most melancholy, was first proposed by psychologist Dr Cliff Arnall as part of a 2005 press release from holiday company Sky Travel. It is claimed that the date was calculated using the equation: [W+(D-d)]xTQ/MxNA – W is weather, D is debt, d monthly salary, T time since Christmas, Q time since failure of attempt to give something up, M low motivational level and NA the need to take action. See: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/blue-monday-the-science-behind-the-most-miserable-day-of-the-year-a6816926.html

**Donald Winnicott (1896–1971), a British paediatrician and child psychoanalyst, was the original proposer of the ‘good enough mother’.


Why not visit my therapy website – therapy-space – where you can contact me or find further information about the therapies I provide for women, men and couples.

When to dwell on things

Dreamblogsmall20 August 2015

Rumination (the process of repetitive thoughts often but not always about a negative situation) is a common, if not universal human process. Most of us will have had the experience of finding it difficult to let go of certain types of thoughts at some point in our lives – perhaps things that are known unknowns like an upcoming business presentation or perhaps something in the recent past such as when one partner said something in the heat of an argument that really hurt the other, but was based on a level of truth both recognized.

What we know is that during the day, as we learn new things, a new connection forms in our brains between one nerve cell and another. As we sleep, this connection is strengthened forming a memory of the thing we learned while we were awake. This is very useful to know if, for example, you are studying and choose to do some trial answers in your head as you begin to drift off to sleep. However, what might be even more useful is to know that if you have traumatic memories or events it is a really good idea not to dwell on these issues before going to sleep because, if you do, this will tend to enforce the memory and strengthen the emotional fear response attached to it. Turning the results of this research on its head we can see that by attending to, and dwelling on, some of the positive memories and events of the day we can, for ourselves, cement and bolster positive experiences instead.1

So, just before you go to bed why not select a number of positive things you experienced during the day. Even simple things – e.g. reminding yourself how great the walk back from work was in the sun – will do and let your brain consolidate the positive memory and affect while you sleep. Sweet dreams!

1 Dr Hannah Critchlow, BBC Radio 4 ‘How to Have a Better Brain’ Sleep Ep4