Stuff Dry January and veganism - I’m ditching new year guilt this year

James says good for you if you've turned over a new leaf in 2019 - but you don't have to tell the wh

James says good for you if you've turned over a new leaf in 2019 - but you don't have to tell the whole world about it - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

James Marston on why New Year's Resolutions are largely a waste of time

Now it's January I've suddenly got a lot on.

The luxury of sitting around eating chocolates and drinking unusual drinks that we drink at no other time of the year has all come to end.

The television adverts suggesting we spoil ourselves because its Christmas or we are worth it or we deserve it – all spurious reasons if you ask me – have disappeared. Families sitting round enjoying even slices of a perfectly bronzed turkey, with trimmings and smiling children and cheerful old men are a thing of the past, at least until next time.

The overindulgent and excessive festivities over we seem to have replaced it with something even more sinister – false guilt.

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Suddenly we've decide to purge ourselves like some medieval ascetic with things like veganism because of the climate, the so-called and medically nonsensical 'dry January', and resolutions to go to the gym – how dull, in a false attempt to atone for our debauchery.

At the moment I'm trying to cut down on coffee, stop smoking (yet again), eat salads, eat less carbs, eat less meat, eat less cheese, tidy my utility room, plant a well-established garden, think about wildlife, go swimming, walk more, be kinder to people, stop swearing… I'm exhausted, and perversely giving up coffee is making me tired, and no cigarettes are making me cough.

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Thankfully I haven't quite yet jumped on the veganism bandwagon or the dry January fad – I don't know about you but haven't got time to feel guilty about meat and alcohol as well as everything else.

And I don't really understand veganism – is it a fad, a diet or a philosophy or a political position or a melange of all those things? Dry January, I must admit, seems a bit daft to me, but then I don't drink that much anyway.

I don't like it much either when people make a virtue out of their lifestyles by telling anyone who might listen what they are doing for the environment, their bodies, their health, their children etc. It's a way of making someone else feel guilty and the collective and individual guilt that seems to come along at this time of year does concern me.

Guilt creates a vicious circle which leads to self-punishment, feelings of inadequacy, negativity, anxiety, irritability, the list goes on. There are also physical symptoms like headaches, stomach aches, insomnia etc.

So instead of making up all these guilt-prone resolutions and following the fad crowds, I suggest some alternative ways to live in 2019.

Do stuff you've always wanted to do. Create a list of things you'd like to do in 2019. For example, last week I visited the Crown Jewels for the first time in years.

n Have a think – is there anything you could change gradually about yourself or your habits. Is there something about yourself that you could change but don't?

n Write a list of things you've got to look forward to? There's always something on the horizon that is positive.

n Try to spend more time with friends. Is there someone you haven't connected with for a while? Make the effort.

n Express gratitude – be thankful. Whether it is half-empty or half-full, be pleased you have a glass at all.

n Remember that life is a journey – it's not all good and it's not all bad.

n Read more – we all ought to turn off the iPad and the television a little more often than we do. At least I think so.

n Send fewer emails – wouldn't life be lovely without them?

In the meantime my mother tells me that unless I go to the gym I won't be able to fit into any clothes – I had better make an effort, I suppose.

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