Dry Free January - Tips On How To Succeed
It is the one health-promoting New Year’s resolution that seems to be building momentum
I think we can all agree that New Year’s resolutions are not very effective when it comes to long-term self-improvement. In fact, most New Year’s resolutions fizzle out in weeks. However, there is one health-promoting New Year’s plan that seems to be building momentum, promising interesting results.
Dry January, the concept of swearing off alcohol for the first month of the year, gained traction through a public health campaign introduced by Alcohol Change UK in 2013. It is a response to the common overindulgence in alcohol during the holidays in addition to the very real harm caused by alcohol use and abuse. While alcohol is a socially acceptable beverage used for celebrations, relaxation and cultural traditions, it is also associated with mental health issues, liver disease, certain types of cancer, economic difficulties and other concerns.
A 2021 study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reported that binge drinking has increased over recent years among men aged 65 years and older as well as college-educated women. Men who are separated or divorced and men and women who smoke are also more likely to report binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as consuming 5 drinks or more on the same occasion for men and 4 drinks or more for women with a certain level of frequency.
One might wonder how not drinking booze for one month can matter in the long run. In reality, studies have shown that those who participate in Dry January experience both immediate and long-lasting benefits. Unlike dieting, which is often short-lived and may result in feelings of deprivation and a lack of control around food, leading to overeating and feelings of guilt, abstaining from alcohol for just one month appears to have many positive effects. For example, Dry January participants are drinking less often and decreasing the number of drinks consumed at six to eight months after the month of abstinence is over. Plus, participants experience immediate benefits affecting finances, sleep, diabetes risk and intentional weight loss.
Dry January is an opportunity to take a step back from drinking alcohol and reassess one’s drinking habits, potentially with a goal of adding more balance and moderation. Dry January is not a campaign to address alcohol addiction or substance abuse.
If you are interested in Dry January, here are some considerations:
If you are typically a social drinker, it may feel awkward to suddenly cut alcohol out of the equation in social settings. While the pandemic is affecting how most of us socialize anyhow, it’s still important to stay connected with others during Dry January. Dry January is not meant to be isolating or cause participants to miss out on the fun. Instead of meeting a friend for a drink, how about going on a hike or a walk? If your group normally orders wine at dinner, plan a lunch outing at a booze-free establishment instead.
Enjoy Non-alcoholic Beverages
Even though you might not be drinking alcohol this month, you can still enjoy a wide variety of fun and tasty non-alcoholic beverages like teas, sparkling flavored water, mocktails, low-sugar soda, kombucha, and non-alcoholic beer, to name a few. Having delicious alternatives to booze can make sober-living taste great.
Journal to Stay Mindful
Consider recording your Dry January experience in a journal to keep track of your mood, thoughts and how your body feels throughout the month. You might be pleasantly surprised by insights gained during the process. Plus, your journal may serve as extra motivation to keep you on track.
Do It Again Next Year
Whether you go completely alcohol-free for the month or fall somewhat short of your plan, there is great potential to benefit from the experience. It is an opportunity for those who drink somewhat regularly to take a break from alcohol without fully giving it up. With millions of people across the world now taking part in Dry January, it’s clear that this public health campaign has proved quite successful. Dry January can become a New Year’s tradition with staying power.
Credit Author: LeeAnn Weintraub
Local Over-Drinking Consultant: Dr. Sherry Price