Stuck in a day, or living the moment?

We are not doomed to wake up day after day in the same dreary domesticity like the protagonist of Groundhog Day.

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Ever get that feeling that things are just going around in circles and you are stuck? Well, if you are that person, then this coming week's big event is just for you. February 2 is Groundhog Day.

The legend of the day says that if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, winter will soon end. On the other hand, if it's sunny then the groundhog will retreat into its burrow and winter will continue for six more weeks.

Groundhog Day celebrations are held in the United States and Canada, the largest of which is in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. You're probably not remotely interested in furry vermin and their springtime habits, but what you might remember is that Groundhog Dayis a film from the 1990s. It centred around this peculiar event, but is more specifically remembered for pioneering the concept of a day that keeps repeating itself over and over again and from which there appears to be no escape.

The film has lodged itself into our contemporary psyche because the feeling of being stuck in the same day over and over again is endemic to modern life. If the TV news or the morning newspaper didn't tell us whether it was Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, would we know the difference? The days seem to blur into each other. And once we hit middle age, trapped by limited career choices, a family to support and the mortgage to pay, there appears to be no way out. We're doomed to wake up day after day in the same dreary domesticity, just like the protagonist of Groundhog Day. No wonder we empathise with the film so much.

But wasn't life in the 20th century and earlier, pre-industrial ages a sequence of similarly dull days? If you worked at the factory, days might consist of 15 or 20 hours of repetitive toil. And in agricultural societies it was the same story of milking the cows, tending the animals, tilling the land, day in day out. Our modern treadmill doesn't seem that different to the monotony of earlier generations. It's just that now we have higher expectations that life will be more thrilling, more variable. We not only expect excitement from life - we demand it. And when we don't get it we feel betrayed.

Some of our angst is due to the overly high expectations that life should be a constant high of experiences. But I think more of it stems from our own selves letting us down by failing to achieve our aspirations. This is particularly true at this time of year. Not only is Groundhog Day coming up this week, it's probably around this time that the last of the new year resolutions is beginning to crack.

Apparently only 12 per cent of people see theirs through to the end of the year. And according to studies, the most successful way to make it is to give yourself a penalty if you fail. Thing is, I would just exempt myself from the penalty if I wanted to give up. Which might explain why I've abandoned the ritual of the new year resolution.

Before you let this week's celebration of Groundhog Day fill you with gloom that your days are an endless cycle of drudgery, I should let you know that there is another way to look at Groundhog Day. Instead of feeling trapped in the same day, we can change our perspective - instead, let's think of living each moment for all that it is because sometimes it's what happens in the moment that is most important. Don't miss out.

Shelina Zahra Janmohamed is the author of Love in a Headscarf and writes a blog at www.spirit21.co.uk