How to Do Dry January for Incredible Health Benefits
Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to go one whole month without drinking alcohol? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, so many people have had this same thought that it inspired a series of sober months where people challenge themselves to do just that.
One popular sober month is called Dry January. It’s one way to kick off the new year with health and wellness in mind, and anyone can participate. During Dry January, people take a pledge to go 31 days without alcohol. And, at the end of the month, they celebrate their accomplishments. But where did the idea for Dry January come from, and does it actually have health benefits?
What Is Dry January?
Dry January, also known as sober January, takes place at the start of the year and involves abstaining from alcohol for the duration of the month. All forms of alcohol are off limits if you choose to take the challenge. Many people view it as a fun goal to make it through the first month of the year without drinking. And some people view it as a welcome relief after holidays filled with many food and drink indulgences.
January offers people a fresh start with a new year and new possibilities. In fact, many people make New Year’s resolutions to help set them up for a great year ahead by making positive life changes. Some people even include Dry January in their resolutions as part of their short-term goals. It offers people a unique way to kick off the month with wellness in mind.
How Did Dry January Start?
Dry January was started by a woman named Emily Robinson who gave up drinking for the month of January. Her goal was give up alcohol while training for a half marathon. She experienced some benefits, such as better sleep, more energy, and even lost some weight. The results of her dry January were so appealing that she did it again the next year in 2012 when she started working for Alcohol Change UK.
Emily Robinson shared her experiences with giving up alcohol for 31 days with her friends, family, and co-workers. Many people were interested in the effects and benefits it had on her. Her idea gained so much interest that the next year Alcohol Change UK launched a Dry January campaign to encourage people to try it for themselves.
In 2013 Alcohol Change UK promoted Dry January. This charity is dedicated to helping people in the United Kingdom evaluate their relationship with alcohol and drink more consciously. They aim to help protect people from alcohol harm, such as mental health concerns and financial difficulties through education and resources.
Who Participates in Dry January?
According to Alcohol Change UK, an estimated 4,000 people participated in the very first Dry January in 2013. Today, reportedly over 130,000 people participate in the campaign through Alcohol Change UK. Many other people partake in Dry January but don’t officially sign up. In fact, according to a survey, four million people in the UK said they planned to participate in Dry January.
People participate in Dry January for various reasons. Some people want to focus on their health and wellbeing at the start of the new year and want to be more mindful about what they put into their bodies. Some people are just curious about what it would be like to go a month without alcohol. And, some people want to test it out to see if they experience any health benefits.
You can participate in Dry January by yourself, or get a group of friends to join with you. Challenge people at your office to get involved, or encourage your family members. The more people you get involved the more support and solidarity you’ll feel throughout the month.
Benefits of a Dry January
There are different reasons why someone might want to do a Dry January. Maybe you want to experience better sleep or other health benefits. Or, maybe you want to explore what your life would be like without alcohol in it. Regardless of the reason why you want to try a Dry January, it can be a good short-term goal to ring in the new year.
During the first Dry January campaign, Alcohol Change UK partnered with Dr. Richard de Visser from the University of Sussex. Together, they wanted to see how a month without alcohol affected people that participated in the campaign. Some benefits of Dry January and abstaining from alcohol found in Dr. Visser’s work include:
- Better sleep quality
- Higher rates of concentration
- Improved general health
- Improved skin
- Increased energy levels
- Weight loss
The research found that participating in Dry January actually had profound and lasting benefits for individuals. For example, seven out of ten people that participated in Dry January reported less risky drinking behavior than before they entered the campaign. In addition, almost 25% of participants that were at a ‘harmful’ drinking level up entering the campaign were at ‘low risk’ levels six months after.
Dry January Tips
Some people think that participating in Dry January means that they can’t go out to dinner or party at social gatherings. However, that’s not necessarily the case. Part of the challenge of Dry January is that you will face situations where you are around alcohol or where people ask you if you want a drink. In these situations, you need to call on your willpower to be able to say no.
You shouldn’t have to give up gatherings and celebrations in Dry January. In fact, being tested by these situations might even help you better understand your relationship with alcohol. Don’t be afraid to have fun during the month. There are some tips and tricks you can use to help you along the way.
Make It a Resolution
For many people, January means that it’s time to make New Year’s resolutions. It’s a great time for people to make lifestyle changes that they’ve always wanted to try. You can incorporate Dry January into your resolutions. In fact, you might be able to have family and friends add it to their resolutions, as well. This will give you a support group for the month as you try the challenge together. You might also find it helpful to have another specific resolution that you can accomplish in just 31 days such as a workout goal or learning a new skill.
Prepare for Social Gatherings
Social gatherings are likely to happen during your dry January. People celebrate winter, ring in the new year, and spend time with family and friends. You might find yourself invited to a house party or out to a nice dinner. These events can be obstacles in your Dry January if you are not prepared.
Think about how you will respond when offered a drink. Practice different approaches so that you are ready with a response when the offer occurs. It may be easier to say no to a drink when you’ve already thought about the challenges and maybe even thought up your responses to offers.
Make the Switch To Mocktails
Are you saddened about the thought of not being able to drink your favorite spiked holiday beverages? That’s understandable. The good thing is that there are non-alcoholic versions of most of your favorite holiday drinks that can be great substitutes during Dry January. Ask for mocktail versions of whatever drink suits your fancy. In addition, many bars and restaurants offer booze-free selections on their drink menus. Experiment with different offerings. This way you will be able to enjoy the “drinking” experience but still keep your Dry January streak.
Bring Your Own Beverages
Another way to enjoy social gatherings during Dry January is to bring your own non-alcoholic drink to parties. This is a great way to ensure that when you get to a family dinner or a party with friends that you have something to drink that you enjoy, and that doesn’t contain alcohol. In fact, if you bring your beverage to a dinner party, you might just be able to encourage others at the table to make a drink swap, as well.
Track Your Progress
Another way to maintain your Dry January experience is to track your progress. Try keeping a journal. Write down how you are feeling each day to monitor how you feel inside and out. You can even write about challenges you face during the month, and what you did to overcome them. Each day, give yourself credit for the days already behind you.
Go Easy on Yourself
If you want to participate in a Dry January, but aren’t sure if you can stick with the commitment, that’s okay. Breaking a habit is tough work. It’s okay if you can’t make it the whole month without drinking, or if you slip up now and then. The purpose of Dry January is to promote conscious drinking. So, if you’re being mindful about when and why you’re drinking, you’re getting the hang of it. Try not to be hard on yourself. Focus on your progress and not perfection.
Either way, it’s something worth cheering for.
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