While many drinkers may never look forward to a month without alcohol, Dry January has many health advantages that everyone can appreciate. It began in the United Kingdom in 2013 with just 4,000 sign-ups, the one-month booze-free challenge now "helps millions reset their relationship with alcohol every year," according to organizers.
Studying 800 Dry January 2018 participants, the University of Sussex determined that 88% of those who stayed sober all month saved money, 71% slept better, 67% had more energy and 58% lost weight.
Quitting alcohol for even a month can also boost your mood. "If consuming alcohol has become a main coping strategy, it may be hiding underlying depression or anxiety, Ashley Jones, APRN-CNP, a certified family nurse practitioner at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center told Good Housekeeping. "Alcohol tends to make these symptoms worse, so you may find that your mood is actually more stable when not consuming alcohol," she says.
Some of the other benefits of quitting drinking for a month reached beyond the sober period. For example, the Sussex researchers found that six months after Dry January, participants had reduced drinking days on average from 4.3 to 3.3 per week and consumed fewer drinks, an average 7.1 compared to 8.6 for each drinking day. And they got drunk less frequently, reporting an average of two incidents of being drunk per month down from 3.4 per month.
"Interestingly, these changes in alcohol consumption have also been seen in the participants who didn't manage to stay alcohol-free for the whole month [of January], although they are a bit smaller," lead researcher Richard de Visser, a Sussex psychologist said in a press release. "This shows that there are real benefits to just trying to complete Dry January."
While a month off of drinking is beneficial any time, January is ideal. While some resolutions are more likely to succeed in the warm months, choosing Dry January as your month to abstain means you'll be getting support from all those who made New Year's resolutions to stop drinking alcohol. As reported in Gear Junkie, research from the athletes' social network Strava pinpointed Jan. 17 as the day most people quit pursuing their New Year's resolutions to be more healthy. But that gives you a solid two weeks of companionship from friends and family also intent on enjoying sober life.
Where to begin?
Thinking about joining the formal Dry January effort, or at least quitting drinking for the month independently? Alcohol Change UK recommended first tossing out all the alcohol from your home and then forming a plan for events that involve alcohol or saying, "Not for me" during the month.
To increase your odds of success, also adopt the framework developed by Harvard Medical School lecturer Marcelo Campos. It's designed to rewire your brain so you can establish new habits starting New Year's Day and continuing for the rest of the year. "Grab a piece of paper to write down the answers to the questions below," he advised in a Harvard Health blog post:
1. Why do you want to make the change?
2. Is your goal specific, concrete and measurable?
3. What is your plan?
4. Who can support you as you work toward change?
5. How will you celebrate your victories?
Be sure to be mindful of each success in the month of sobriety. "Incorporate the feeling of accomplishment and be mindful of how rewarding it is and how great it feels to achieve your goal that day," Campos recommended. "Bring emotion and feelings to what you just did...Let it sink in and try to truly feel how gratifying it is."
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