RED January 2019

Like many people, I use the start of a fresh year to revisit past ambitions and devise plans to engage more closely with the things that bring me joy, and discard the things that don’t. It’s a challenge, because January feels tough for many reasons. The inevitable return to the routine of working life after a holiday hibernation. The social pressure to be resolute and plan for a “better you”. Short dark days, easy to miscount, that condense activity into brief sunless packets. Don’t get me wrong, I love Winter, but I am at my most anxious and self-doubting when the new calender rolls around, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

The start of 2019 could have been another difficult one, but it has turned out to be one of the most energising, inspiring and energetic beginnings I can remember experiencing.

At the start of the year I was tipped off about the RED January campaign, an initiative that was founded by Hannah Beecham to help “beat the blues” through a commitment to physical activity every day of the month. Originally the aim was to Run Every Day, hence R.E.D. Backed by Mind – The Mental Health Charity – it aims to encourage physical and mental wellbeing during one of the darkest months.

This year over 60,000 fellow “REDers” took part, many with their own experiences of poor mental health. I live with shadows of my own, and know that getting outside and being active can be effective remedies – for me, more so than medication or counselling. Having a purpose, a direction, and a connection with a wilder and peaceful world has proven to help undo the inner-dialogue knots of hopelessness, anxiety and uncertainty.

I committed to getting off my post-Christmas lazy butt and active outside every single day. I set a daily goal of at least 5km walking come rain or shine. Many days I did a lot more than this, and it didn’t take long for it to become a joyful commitment.

Active outside, every day, through rain and shine

I also seized the opportunity to get back into running, something I’ve neglected for a couple of years, and I’m already building up my distance and time.

Happy to be back into running!

Along the way I began picking up litter on my walks, including a huge woodland clearup, and the extra little buzz of prosocial pride became quite addictive. By the end of January I had completed almost 250km (324,000 steps!) and gathered over 700 pieces of litter. I’ve been fundraising too on behalf of Mind, and it’s not too late to donate on my Just Giving page.

The big Drumfork Woods litterpick

Connecting with the amazing community (through the hashtag #REDJanuary and #REDnotblue) has been a source of genuine joy, and the encouragement and kindness shared by participants has truly inspiring. Seeing the commitment of others as they face their own struggles, and their sheer willpower to get up, get out and be active every day has been amazing.

I’ve started the year healthier, happier, and Fitter and I can’t wait to take part in RED January 2020, I hope you will join in next time too.

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