Dry January is when people decide to abstain from alcohol for the entire first month of the year. Should you partake in taking a break?
Did you make too much merry this holiday season? It happens. Many of us come into the new year longing for a break, a cleanse, a fresh start.
It’s the impetus behind Dry January, an increasingly popular observance where you give up alcohol for the first month of the year.
Dry January started in 2013 as a public health initiative by the British nonprofit Alcohol Change. That year, 4,000 people participated. Only eight years later, in 2021, 6.5 million people were estimated to have taken part.
“Any amount of cutting out or cutting down on alcohol is going to be positive, so Dry January can be a step in the right direction for many people,” Sheena Horgan, CEO of the charity Drinkaware, told the Irish Mirror. “Once people start seeing the benefits, they actually realize that there is a very positive thing to cutting it out.”
Why try Dry January?
There are many reasons why people try Dry January. You might want to give your body a rest after a month of revelry. And if you’re making any health-related New Year’s resolutions, like losing weight, abstaining from alcohol can only help.
Or you might use Dry January as an opportunity for self-evaluation. How would you feel if you had to give up all alcohol for an entire month? How would it change your day or your habits? Would it be difficult? Would you discover new hobbies and tackle some old goals?
Or you might suspect you have a problem with alcohol. If you do, you’re not alone.
Alcoholism in older adults is a typically under-recognized problem in the United States. The University of Michigan recently conducted a poll of older adults who drink. More than 25% of them reported having six or more alcoholic beverages at least once in the prior year. Seven percent reported “blacking out” after drinking.
If you’re wondering about your own drinking habits, Dry January can be a good time to try out sobriety.
Benefits of abstaining from alcohol
Whatever your reason for giving Dry January a try, there are plenty of benefits to abstaining from alcohol for a solid chunk of time. Here are just a few.
You’ll probably sleep better
While drinking alcohol can help you fall asleep faster, it has a negative effect on your overall quality of sleep. If you’re used to knocking a few back before bed, you might notice you wake up in the morning far more rested and energized during Dry January.
You might lose a little weight
Alcohol has lots of empty calories, which can lead to weight gain and bloating. Just swapping in water for all those drinks could help you drop a couple of pounds.
Your skin will probably look better
Drinking alcohol dehydrates the body, and no place is that more noticeable than on your skin. Too much alcohol can make your skin dry, sallow, and puffy. Simply eliminating alcohol will naturally give your skin a more glowing appearance.
You may get sick less often
Drinking alcohol in excess weakens your immune system, putting you at greater risk of viruses and illnesses. Eliminating it from your daily life will do wonders to help you fight off infections.
Your understanding of your relationship to alcohol might improve
Abstaining from alcohol for a month will help you better understand your relationship to it. Do you drink out of habit? Do you drink when you’re stressed? When you’re happy? Knowing when and why you drink will help you get a better handle on it.
Tips for success
If having a drink is part of your regular routine, it can be hard to break the habit. Be ready for the challenge with some smart strategies.
Don’t go it alone
It’s tough to tackle any challenge solo. See if you can enlist a friend or two to try Dry January with you. You can keep each other accountable and lean on each other for support.
Find alternate activities
If you usually go out for drinks on Saturday night, schedule something different during that time. Take an evening yoga class, or sign up for a film series.
Brush your teeth
It may sound silly, but you may want that glass of wine less if your mouth is minty fresh.
Go for a walk
Sometimes a desire to eat or drink passes if given a little time. Before giving in to your craving, take a twenty-minute walk. The exercise, fresh air, and change of scenery may be all you need to find your willpower again.
Journal about your reasons
Write down why you decided to abstain from alcohol for the month, and keep your reasons handy. When the urge to drink strikes, it can sometimes be hard to remember why you wanted to take a break. Refresh your memory regularly.
What if you slip-up?
If you decide to give Dry January a try, make sure you approach it with lots of grace. If you make a goal to completely abstain from alcohol and you slip up, forgive yourself. Just use that experience to help you better understand your relationship to alcohol and get back in the saddle the next day.
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