Why do we usually feel more optimistic in January

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

It's January!

Am pretty sure you noticed that people generally become more optimistic in January. After all , it's the beginning of a new year and the time where many people write their new year's resolutions.

But the more important question here is : why do many people feel more optimistic when there is a new beginning?
Why do we feel more optimistic at the beginning of new years?

In order to understand that behaviour you need to know how our brains perceive time.

We humans divide time into sections which include days, weeks, months and years. The fact that we refer to those sections in our everyday lives makes them very powerful markers of the beginning and the ending of certain phases in our lives.

For example , If bad things happened to a person on a certain day he will quickly say that he is having a bad day. You might have also heard people complaining about a certain month or waiting for it to end because many bad events happened on it. In other words we like to connect the events to their respective time phases.

So why do we want to divide time that way?

One of the very powerful motives human beings have is the desire to feel in control of their lives. If bad things happened to a person on a certain day then this person will want to make sure that those bad things won't happen again or that more bad things will happen.

By saying something like 'i had a bad day' that person is actually telling himself indirectly that tomorrow might be a good day. Because we want to make sure that the bad events are behind us we tend to associate the life events that happen to us with days, weeks, months and years.

In addition to that most people like to assume that the bad behaviour they did in the past was connected to a certain time zone. For example by assuming that you behaved badly on a certain year you can reassure yourself that in the next year you will behave in a better way.

So why we become optimistic in January

January marks the end of an important time period which is the past year. Most People want to believe that the bad things that happened in the past year are already behind their backs and that the good things they are hoping for might actually happen in the next year. See also Restoring hope to your life.

I personally encourage this kind of positive thinking provided that it does not turn into wishful thinking. If for example you set new goals and made serious plans for the new year then certainly being more optimistic in the beginning of the new year isn't wishful thinking but it's good positivity that is based on solid facts.

If on the other hand you did nothing, made no plans or even wrote plans but didn't have intentions to pursue them then the positivity you are experiencing might fall under the category of wishful thinking that lead no where.

Wish you a great new year :)

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