There are many reasons, in the early throes of a new year, to feel glum.
It’s typically cold outside, with the hours of daylight so limited that many of us leave our homes in darkness in the morning and then subsequently travel home from work in the dark too. That’s not good for the soul.
And the over-indulgences of the festive period may have left your finances and health in complete disarray.
The summer months, where hope tends to be more prevalent, feels like a lifetime away.
It’s no wonder that psychologists have coined their own phrase – Seasonal Affective Disorder – to explain the depressive state of many at this of year.
It pays to stay positive, if possible. This will (hopefully) improve your mental health, and at least enable you to cope with the January blues until the first glimpses of spring are in bloom.
So, I’ve compiled a wide-ranging list of five reasons to be cheerful in 2019, which take in the political landscape, my second love (horse racing) and a belief that all will turn out just fine in the end.
Remember, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse there will still be Netflix and Thornton’s Continental….
#1 – Brexit Might Still Go to Plan
If you were in the 48% who voted Remain, unfortunately you might be feeling pretty helpless right now.
And if you were in the 53% who voted Leave, the chances are that you will have been rather underwhelmed with the Prime Minister’s proposed ‘deal’ to leave the EU.
So nobody’s happy, really, which is not in a good position to be in.
Of course, discussions of a second referendum are hokum – like it or not, it would make a complete farce of the democratic process, and so we have to soldier on the best we can.
The likelihood is that Cabinet ministers will reject Theresa May’s deal in their meaningful vote on January 21, and that will force the PM back to Brussels to beg for better terms. If she can resolve the issue of the Irish backstop, for instance, a second vote would be far more likely to succeed.
Even so, the chances we settle for a ‘No Deal’ seem unlikely given the catastrophic forecasts for UK business and the economy in such an event.
It’s all whisper and rumour at the moment, so the best thing to do is crack on with your daily lives and not worry too much about something that is out of our collective control. The godfather of stoicism, Marcus Aurelius, said that ‘….the tranquillity that comes when you stop caring what they say, or think, or do.’ That might be a motto worth living by in the year ahead.
#2 – Increased Political Engagement in Young People
Around 71% of voters under the age of 24 voted for Remain on polling day.
It’s little wonder the younger generation feels betrayed by their elders, then, with 64% of people aged 65 or over voting to leave the EU.
But the reality is that young people simply didn’t vote in any great quantity; only 64% of 18-24-year-olds voted, according to the data, as opposed to over 90% of pensioners.
Perhaps the Brexit vote will act as a catalyst for more political engagement from young people in future; that can only be a good thing for the UK in securing a more rounded view going forward.
#3 – Gender Equality: Are the Times A-Changing?
Let’s make no bones about it: the gender gap is still a chasm when it comes to pay and working conditions.
Women are being paid less than men for doing the same jobs, and that really is a stain on a supposedly modern and progressive society.
But the discussion is being had more and more in the public domain now, and the 2010 Equalities Act, which has finally come into existence, means that all major firms (defined as those with 250+ employees) now have to legally report their pay-gap data.
That should, hopefully, facilitate change in 2019 and beyond.
#4 – A Focus on Mental Health….And Why We All Benefit
One of the biggest crimes of 2018 was the re-invention of the word ‘snowflake’.
Beloved by heartless attention-seekers like Piers Morgan, a snowflake is somebody seen as weak or ‘too PC’ for showing empathy for their fellow man and woman.
Well, the good news – not so good for Morgan and co – is that a change to a more kind-hearted and good-natured society is likely in the wake of Brexit, with communities pulling together to help one another out.
That should extend to an increased awareness and acceptance of mental health concerns; still criminally and tragically overlooked in many parts of the ‘developed’ world.
The landscape is changing on that front, and to paraphrase the band Idles from their song ‘S.C.U.M’: these snowflakes could form an avalanche. Let’s hope that Morgan isn’t in its path, eh?
#5 – The Cheltenham Festival
And to finish on the brightest note of all, the Cheltenham Festival is just nine weeks away.
This is the greatest show of UK and Irish racing, with many of the best horses and trainers descending on an otherwise unspectacular town to duke it out for the prize money and prestige.
It’s four days of beautiful, chaotic madness. And I for one cannot wait!