Dry January? Tips to be Successful
After the celebratory excesses of the holidays – gifts, parties and lots of drinks being poured – many people are looking to pare down all the extras as we head into the New Year. Resolutions focused on health and well-being are always trending this time of year. But so is Dry January – a month-long pledge to avoid alcohol that’s been growing in popularity in recent years.
Dry January started gaining attention about a decade ago in Britain as a public health campaign to encourage people to avoid drinking. It’s become more common on this side of the Atlantic in recent years, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic when surveys showed Americans were drinking more than they normally did.
Dry January does not mean the same thing to everyone. Those participating in Dry January are leaning in for different reasons. Some plan to cut out alcohol for the entire month as a way to cut calories or be healthier. Others want to use the self-imposed Prohibition as a way to “reset” their drinking pattern. But not everyone takes an all-or-nothing approach to Dry January. A 2022 poll by Morning Consult showed one in five adults planned to do a Dry January, but only about half said they planned to eliminate wine, beer and liquor entirely. Others planned to use the month to practice moderation. Used in this way, the mindset helps people try to push back from bouts of heavy or binge drinking.
While drinking alcohol in moderation has recognized health benefits for most adults, heavy drinking can contribute to health problems. According to Harvard Medical School, these mental and physical problems can include:
- Heart damage
- Liver damage
- Increased cancer risk
- Memory issues
- Weakened immune system
- Mood disorders
Studies have shown that people who regularly drink alcohol, then stopped to participate in Dry January, reported these benefits:
- Increased daily energy
- Better sleep
- Weight loss
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol
- Fewer cancer-linked proteins in their blood
Depending on how much alcohol you normally drink – and the environment when you drink – you may need to do a little planning before you embark on a Dry January resolution. If you typically only have a glass of wine with dinner a few nights a week, you may not have any issues with your lifestyle change. But, if your drinking usually is done when you’re out with friends, or as an evening ritual before bed, those situations might take a little more work. Think about what beverages you might want to substitute and if or how you plan to tell people why you’ve given up drinking for a few weeks. Here are some tips shared by Healthline to help make Dry January a success.
- Be public about your goals, at least with your family and close friends. They can offer support if needed.
- Find substitutions you like. For some, non-alcoholic beer or cocktails are a tasty compromise. For others, it might mean switching to flavored sparkling water or a soft drink.
- When you get the urge to drink, have an activity in mind you can switch to. This might be a hobby, a 20-minute exercise break or a walk outside.
- Forgive yourself when you slip up. Even if your goal is to not drink at all, you might make a mistake. Don’t beat yourself up. Move past it and finish out the month. Or decide on a more moderate approach to Dry January that gives you some room to drink (a drink on the weekends, but not during the week) and still helps you drink less than you normally would.
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