Should You Try Dry January?
If you find that your alcohol intake has increased over the last few years, you may not be alone. A survey about alcohol use in the time of COVID-19 found that many American adults report drinking more since the pandemic began in March 2020. If you’re among them, you might want to start the new year on a healthy note by committing to a Dry January. Dry January began in 2012 as a public health initiative from Alcohol Change UK, a British charity. Now millions of people all over the world take part in this health challenge every year.
While drinking a moderate amount of alcohol may be associated with health benefits for some people, heavier drinking and long-term drinking can increase physical and mental problems, especially among older adults. Heart and liver damage, a higher cancer risk, a weakened immune system, memory issues, and mood disorders are common issues that affect heavy drinkers.
Cutting out alcohol for even one month can make a noticeable difference in your health. Regular drinkers who abstained from alcohol for 30 days slept better, had more energy, and lost weight, according to a study in BMJ Open. They also lowered their blood pressure and cholesterol levels and reduced cancer-related proteins in their blood.
A month may seem like a long time, but most people can be successful. If you need assistance to stay dry in January here are some tips:
- Find a substitute non-alcoholic drink. Reach for alcohol-free beverages like sparkling water, soda, or virgin beverages (non-alcoholic versions of alcoholic drinks.) Note that some beers labeled NA might still contain a small amount of alcohol. You may find “mocktails” available on some drink menus and there are many recipes for them on the internet, including Facebook pages devoted to a non-alcohol lifestyle.
- Avoid temptations. Keep alcohol out of your house and when you are invited to someone’s home, bring your non-alcoholic drinks with you. And while it seems obvious that you might want to avoid socializing in bars, if you choose to do so you can volunteer to be the designated driver for your friends.
- Create a support group.Let friends and family know about your intentions and encourage them to keep you accountable. Better yet, enlist someone to do the challenge with you!
- Use an app. Apps like Try Dry or Drinker’s Helper can help you track your drinking, set personal goals, and offers motivational information like calories and money saved from not drinking.
- Don’t give up. If you slip up, don't feel guilty. Just begin again the next day.
Giving up alcohol altogether might not appeal to you, but if you can do it for one month and notice improvements in your health, you may find it worthwhile to limit your alcohol intake in the future.