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The January Blues

How are you feeling?

by Claire Law

Suitable for Key Stage 4/5


To reflect upon the sense of dissatisfaction that January can bring and to consider Christian and Buddhist teaching on satisfaction.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (The January Blues) and the means to display them.


  1. Show Slide 1.

    Welcome the students to the assembly and ask the following questions.

    - How are you feeling today?
    - How is your mood?
    - How happy or content are you?
    - Do you feel down, disappointed or fed up?

  2. Ask the students to decide what score they would give their mood at the moment if zero is totally fed up and ten is full of joy and happiness!

    Show Slide 2.

    Point out that if they have given themselves a low score, they are not alone. January can feel like a tough month to lots of people. Many of us report feeling fed up in January. The term ‘January blues’ is sometimes used to express this idea.

  3. Show Slide 3. 

    Ask the students to suggest some reasons why we might not feel as happy or content in January as at other times of the year.

    Pause to allow time for discussion.

    Of course, problems and challenges can leave us feeling in need of support at any time of the year. However, we can link our general sense of feeling fed up in January to the cold, dark, wintry weather, the tight budgets that we have to adopt after splashing out for Christmas and New Year’s resolutions that deprive us of treats. This can seem like a big contrast to the celebrations at Christmastime.

  4. The Buddhist concept of dukkha, which means suffering, shares similarities with the sense of dissatisfaction that many people experience in January – that feeling of being a bit disappointed, a bit lacking, a bit empty.

    For Buddhists, this feeling comes about because humans have a tendency to want or crave things. We crave the summer sunshine; we desire a holiday; we want to eat tasty treats, regardless of the calories; we long for money to spend. For Buddhists, a life that is spent craving and wanting is a life of dukkha, or suffering.

    You might identify with that this January. You may even envy people who are going away on holiday, or who have money to spend. This feeling of envy is unpleasant and is also a form of suffering. To want things all the time, and to want them now, is unpleasant. A life that is spent wanting all the time is hard - there is little chance to experience deep contentment or satisfaction.

  5. It is not only Buddhism that has something to say about feeling unsatisfied and disappointed with life. In the Christian tradition, there is an emphasis on a God-filled life as an antidote to dissatisfaction. In other words, a life without trust in God entails a feeling of dissatisfaction. We may try to fill our life with things that we buy, places that we visit, activities that we do and even relationships that we forge. However, without God, Christians believe that ultimately, our lives will be empty and lacking in some way.

  6. Show Slide 4.

    Psalm 73.25 states, ‘Earth has nothing I desire besides you.’ This is a high ideal, but it is one of the things that Christians aim for in life, to find satisfaction and contentment in God.

  7. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells a parable about a farmer who stores up more and more grain so that he can make more and more money.

    Show Slide 5.

    He builds bigger and bigger barns so that he can hoard more and more grain. Jesus calls this farmer a fool because he focuses so much on satisfying his greed that he neglects his need for God and other people. He forgets what is important in life.

  8. The idea that craving things will not bring about satisfaction was explored by Blaise Pascal, the seventeenth-century French mathematician, physicist, inventor and philosopher.

    Show Slide 6.

    In a book that was published in 1670, Pascal wrote, ‘What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words, by God himself.’

    The language in this quotation can be confusing, but what Pascal is indicating is that we each have a longing that cannot be filled by consuming more and more things. The philosopher is describing a ‘God-shaped hole’ that he believes is found in people. It is a feeling of emptiness that cannot be filled without some faith or trust in God. Pascal is speaking about a deep longing for God in our lives.

  9. Remind the students where they can find help in school if they are feeling down or in need of support.

Time for reflection

As we think about the January blues, so often linked with a feeling of dissatisfaction and wanting, let’s pause to consider what we really want in life.

Money makes life easier and means that we can buy things, yet a life without love is empty. Someone who lives without any love in their life is experiencing a form of poverty.

Being recognized and appreciated by others feels nice. However, if we don’t believe in ourselves or love ourselves just as we are, other people’s praise feels empty. Someone who lives without knowing that they are precious and good enough is experiencing a form of poverty.

So, what is it that we really want in life? What is it that helps us to feel truly content and satisfied?

Let’s take a moment to bow our heads and consider this important question.

Pause to allow time for thought.

Let’s also consider the idea of a God-shaped hole. How do we feel about the idea of God? Do we have any sense that there is a God who loves us and wants us to feel satisfied and content?

Let’s take a moment to bow our heads and consider this important question.

Pause to allow time for thought.

Dear God,
We have many needs in our lives:
The need to eat, to sleep, to feel safe.
We also have many wants.
Sometimes, it is easy to get caught up in wanting more than we need,
Wanting things to fill our lives.
Yet we are also aware that buying more and more does not necessarily leave us satisfied and without want.
We ask you to help us to find true satisfaction in life.
Please help us to find meaning and a sense of contentment.
Please help us to feel a sense of serenity, no matter what month of the year it is.

Publication date: January 2022   (Vol.24 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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