Updated: Nov 2
After the year end festivities, often starting late November, the idea of one month without alcohol - a Dry January - has become popular. The reasons behind doing so are varied but is it actually worth it? Are there tangible benefits?
Here’s what we know about the benefits of quitting alcohol:
Better sleep quality.
More energy, especially in the mornings.
Blood pressure reduced by a couple of points.
Clearer, healthier looking skin.
Improved liver function, but no reversal of actual scarring or damage.
Save some money.
More time to do other activities.
Weight-loss, although this is not likely to be by much over the period of a month.
Less snacking on unhealthy foods or binge eating.
Likely the greatest lasting benefit of going dry for a month is to understand and evaluate the role that alcohol plays in one’s life. This can have a positive effect on drinking habits for the rest of the year – you drink less and this can support your long-term health.
As we any endeavour, success is more likely if you make a plan. Take ten minutes and write it down, this will help you to reflect and organise your thoughts. Some issues to consider:
How will you react when in situations where it is normal to drink alcohol? What are the occasions or your triggers for drinking? This can be as simple as being at a place that serves alcohol. How will you react?
What alternate, non-alcoholic drinks, can you enjoy? Water, a virgin mojito, a fruit-based cocktail or one with substitute alcohol flavourings? Just beware of sweet concoctions if you are conscious about your weight, the calories can add up.
At times you simply might have to leave an event early. Either temptation is too much or you might not enjoy being around people that are drinking. It’s ok, quietly make your farewells or excuses and go home.
Consider, for the month, to take up a new activity. Sign-up for something health related to get double benefit of stopping or reducing drinking and starting something healthy. Try cardio exercise or strength training to get that exercise high!
It is beneficial to have the support of a friend or partner. Recruit someone to your cause who understands what you are trying to do and will likely be by your side at moments of temptation. Maybe they can join you in going dry.
Some friends or associates might feel threatened by your shift away from the norm. They might perceive that your shift towards health is an attack against their own lifestyle. They also might try to tempt you into drinking “Come on, just one drink…” against your explanations and protestations.
If you were not successful, don’t beat yourself up. Try to understand what went wrong, what were the triggers and learn from the experience.
If one month is too long, just try a weekend or two, or start with 'no booze' on mid-week nights.
What if you want to continue with the dry spell into February? If that is the case then health benefits are compounded. These can include improved insulin resistance, lowered blood pressure, a decrease in circulating concentrations of cancer-related growth factors, more potential for weight loss, improved brain health.
Arguably the greatest benefit is having a new relationship with alcohol, one that you can control and reduce overall intake in the following months.If you want to have a talk about healthier living, cutting back on the booze, losing weight or following the doctor's advice, we can help. Just drop us a line to see how our consults and programmes can help.
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de Ternay J, Leblanc P, Michel P, Benyamina A, Naassila M, Rolland B. One-month alcohol abstinence national campaigns: a scoping review of the harm reduction benefits. Harm Reduct J. 2022 Mar 4;19(1):24. doi: 10.1186/s12954-022-00603-x. PMID: 35246148; PMCID: PMC8895623.
de Visser RO, Robinson E, Smith T, Cass G, Walmsley M. The growth of 'Dry January': promoting participation and the benefits of participation. Eur J Public Health. 2017 Oct 1;27(5):929-931. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckx124. PMID: 28957493.