Winter Plunge (Getty)

    How to survive January

    1 January 2020

    Are you ready for January? You’ve probably been busy planning Christmas, so haven’t given much thought to what follows it. Perhaps this is why the first month of the year always seems to sneak up on us rather grimly. The best way to survive January is to treat it the same as December. Forget all that ‘got to get healthy’ nonsense – there’s plenty of time for that later in the year. January’s dark, cold days are enough of an endurance test without trying to muster the willpower to train for a marathon or shed the Christmas belly. If you try dieting and giving up booze, you’re asking for trouble. Here’s our guide to getting through the trickiest one-twelfth of the calendar.

    Don’t diet

    Save the dieting for the summer months when the long days are on your side. The cold bleakness of January doesn’t need to be made any more depressing by shunning every packet of Hobnobs you encounter. Get stuck in. Let sugar be your friend.

    Drink and be merry

    If ever there was a recruiting sergeant for Dignitas, it’s Dry January. Where’s the sense in compounding the post-Christmas desolation by depriving yourself of alcohol? Beat the blues, stay on the booze. Janus, after whom January is named, was the Roman god of both beginnings and endings, which is why he’s depicted with two faces – one to look forward, the other to look back. Accordingly you should carry on drinking as you did in December, but knock it on the head a bit to avoid hospitalisation. Luckily the excess of Christmas and New Year will help you with this: you’ll probably be tired of Buck’s Fizz for breakfast. (But if you’re not, get a cab to work rather than drive.)


    Get that diary filled up. It doesn’t have to be expensive socialising – just a few people round to yours for dinner. Tell them it’s going to be cheap and cheery (cottage pie, chocolate cake – see earlier comments about sugar). What matters is that you’ll be enjoying yourself. Especially as, unlike at Christmas, you’ll be with friends rather than relations. In fact spreading your socialising across January as well as December makes sense in itself – how many people do you miss out on seeing simply because there wasn’t time during the festive season? The Mail on Sunday travel desk used to have its Christmas party in January, and the guests always commented on what a stroke of genius it was.

    A dose of daylight

    There’s precious little light at this time of year, so make sure you soak up as much of it as possible. Go for a walk in your lunch hour, cycle to the shops, do whatever you can to get the endorphins flowing. This isn’t about exercise, it’s simply about boosting your spirits. Though every yard you cover justifies another chomp on that Mars bar …

    Jet off to the sun

    Not a practical or affordable step for everyone, of course, but if you are in a position to move yourself nearer to the equator for a few days, you’ll find January an awful lot easier to bear. Winston Churchill certainly thought so: he favoured winter trips to Marrakech to combat his famous ‘black dog’. Actually, when you think about it, taking your big annual holiday in winter rather than summer is better all round. What’s the point heading south in August, just to sweat your unmentionables off for a fortnight? Spend the money getting some rays in January, when you really need them.

    Whatever you do this January, make sure you have fun. It really makes no sense at all to head straight from the excess of Christmas into full-on self-denying misery. You’ll already have had enough literal cold turkey, without enduring the metaphorical type as well.