When the New Year rolls around, many people see it as a perfect time to reset and refresh. Particularly after the richness and festive meals during the holidays, many people set a New Year’s Resolution to start eating healthier and exercising regularly, for example. The holidays are also a time where many of us enjoy our fair share of alcoholic beverages. Between holiday parties, happy hours, and social drinking, spiked eggnog, festive cocktails, Christmas wines, and throwing back some craft beers while spending time off from work with family and friends, you may be feeling like your liver needs a bit of a break. Dry January was designed for exactly this purpose — to encourage people to abstain from alcohol for the entire month, with the goal of restoring both your physical health and your healthy relationship with alcohol.
If you’ve never participated in Dry January before, it can sound downright daunting or entirely unnecessary, but you may be surprised at just how beneficial it can be and that it’s totally doable with a little discipline, flexibility, and planning. So, if you’re looking for a different way to boost your health and start the year off by taking care of your body, keep reading for our guide to Dry January to help you take a month off the booze and into better health.
Started in 2013 by a British organization called Alcohol Change UK, Dry January, which now boasts millions of followers worldwide every year, aims to help adults improve their health and reset their relationship with drinking by challenging them to abstain from alcohol throughout the entire month of January. What once began as a simple initiative now has a robust app and a host of supportive resources online, helping participants stick with their goals and stay sober for the 31-day challenge. There are also many non-alcoholic beverage companies with zero-proof options, giving Dry January participants alternatives for social, ritualistic, and flavor substitutes for their favorite alcoholic beverages.
Abstaining from alcohol during Dry January can result in several key benefits, including the following:
It can help you sleep better
Alcohol can interrupt normal sleep patterns and prevent deep sleep. You can also wake up groggy or hungover.
It can help you lose weight
Alcohol contains seven calories per gram, which is near twice as much as carbohydrates and protein. Most alcoholic drinks are also packed with sugar, and as drinking is often accompanied by snacking or feasting, cutting out alcohol can do wonders for trimming down the waistline.
It can save you money
Let’s face it: A trip to the bar or a nice bottle of wine can be quite expensive, so your wallet may enjoy nice padding by participating in Dry January.
It can improve markers of health
It can help improve and stabilize your mood
Though the short-term effects of a drink or two may include a bubbly, gregarious, upbeat mood, alcohol is actually a depressant and can negatively impact your mental health, particularly when heavy drinking is chronic or if you deal with dependency issues.
It can keep you safer
Alcohol negatively impacts your coordination, reflexes, judgment, and decision-making skills, and is associated with an increase in accidents. You can prevent these risks by abstaining during Dry January.
It can prevent making poor decisions
Have you ever enthusiastically agreed to something after a fun night at the bar only to woefully regret it the next day? We’ve all been there, but Dry January prevents alcohol-driven impulsivity and poor decision-making.
It can boost your immune system
Studies show that bingeing on alcohol can cause an immune response and may contribute to a reduced ability to fight off infections and illnesses. Dry January is a good time to boost your immune system because colds and the flu tend to run rampant in the winter months.
It can increase your energy
Alcohol can negatively impact energy levels by compromising sleep and generally depressing your nervous system.
It can improve your relationship with alcohol
Dry January can help you examine your relationship with alcohol and understand whether you are relying on it as a coping mechanism for stress, as a crutch in social situations, or otherwise feel some sort of dependency on it. By challenging yourself to complete Dry January, you can discover other potentially healthier substitutes for alcohol and you may find that you return to drinking in subsequent months with a more balanced approach as well as an appreciation for non-alcoholic alternatives to enjoy instead of as many drinks as you previously would’ve imbibed in.
These tips will help you navigate Dry January and hopefully successfully abstain during the month.
- Get Your Friends or Significant Other Involved: Any challenge can be easier when you tackle it together with a supportive partner or friends. Commit together because then you’ll all be looking for non-alcoholic activities.
- Keep a Journal: It may sound cheesy to too touchy-feely, but taking a few moments every day to just jot down how you feel can help you connect alcohol to symptoms like bloating, low energy, and poor sleep. You may notice a trend over the month of abstaining that you’re not experiencing some of the normal negative effects you usually feel after a night out (or in) with a few too many.
- Change Your Routine: Drinking can be habitual. Perhaps you crack open a beer nearly on autopilot when you come home from the office, have a post-dinner scotch out of habit, or always hit up happy hour with your buddies on Friday. Switching your routine can remove the normal stimulus to drink, making it feel like you’re not missing out on your alcoholic beverage. Instead, try taking a walk when you get home, playing a game after dinner, or hitting up the gym instead of happy hour to remove the triggers to drink.
- Get Creative With Socializing: If many of your social events revolve around drinking or eating, suggest alternatives like going bowling or to an arcade, shooting hoops at the rec center, or going for coffee or tea.
- Enjoy Non-Alcoholic Alternatives: There are some great non-alcoholic options for nearly every type of booze, and you can even make healthy mocktails. Check out our guide with all sorts of options for what to drink during Dry January.
- Keep the Benefits In Mind: When your motivation is waning, remind yourself of the reasons why you’re doing Dry January, whether to drop a few pounds, sleep better, cut down on spending, or reset your relationship to alcohol. Keeping your “why” in mind can give you the fortitude to keep at it.
- Reward Yourself: Choose non-alcoholic rewards for yourself for sticking with your goal to complete Dry January. The options are endless, but suggestions include treating yourself and your significant other to dinner at your favorite restaurant, buying a new pair of sneakers, going to a movie, or getting a massage.
- Get Professional Help: If you are concerned about your relationship with alcohol, consider speaking to your healthcare provider or seeking therapy or a support group.
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