Dry January – Trendy and Healthy?

Dry January seems like it’s everywhere right now! From social media challenges to local bars offering mocktails in honor of the month, Dry January is bigger than ever. 

What is Dry January? Today we’re diving into this health trend and exploring the potential benefits of cutting down on booze for 31 days in a row. 

What is Dry January 

According to Alcohol Change, Dry January officially started as a public health initiative in 2013 with 4,000 people and has grown every year since. The concept is simple – take a break from drinking any alcohol for an entire month. Technically, this can be done anytime of the year, but January feels like a perfect time for many as it comes on the heels of heavy holiday indulgence and coincides with New Year’s Resolutions. 

Why Try Dry? 

Alcohol use has been up for the past 10 years, and the pandemic spiked those trends even higher. Not all alcohol use is detrimental, and moderate drinking has even correlated with some health benefits, but heavier drinking and long-term drinking can cause serious health problems. Heavy drinking is defined by the CDC as 8 drinks or more per week for women, and 15 drinks or more per week for men. Especially during the holiday season, you may find yourself hitting those numbers often, and taking a 31 day break can provide physical benefits as well as offering a chance to mentally reset and learn new emotional coping skills. 

Health Benefits 

Chronic heavy drinking is linked to higher cancer risks, weak immune systems, memory issues and mood disorders. Lowering your alcohol consumption could provide you with some immediate benefits in the short term, and help your health improve in the long term if you are able to reset your drinking habits. 

  • Better sleep: Alcohol messes with the sleep/wake cycles in your brain, and drinking before bed, while it may make you feel sleepy initially, can interrupt your REM cycle, resulting in fitful sleep that doesn’t really allow your body to rest deeply. Cutting out alcohol will help you get good sleep, which means more energy and more time for your body to heal itself. 
  • Weight Loss: This isn’t a guarantee, as every body and metabolism is different, but alcohol packs a calorically dense punch, and cutting out those liquid calories could lead to a few pounds dropping off without much effort. 
  • Saving Money: While studies show that the average American household spends $579 annually on alcohol, the number could be much higher if you’re regularly going out for drinks. If you regularly enjoy just 2 drinks each day on Friday and Saturday at $10 each, that totals to over $2,000 annually, not including taxes and tips! 
  • Blood benefits: According to a study in BMJ Open, regular drinkers who cut out alcohol for one month lowered their blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and cancer-related proteins in their blood. 

Tips for Success 

Whether you’re nearing the end of your Dry January experiment, or you have decided you want to try a Dry February instead, we’ve got some tips to get you over the finish line! 

  • Find a substitute drink! For many, having a glass of wine or a cocktail is more a force of habit than anything else. Finding something that still feels like a ritual can help you stay dry. Try crafting your own mocktails at home, or even serving yourself your sparkling water in a wine glass. 
  • Keep alcohol out of the house. It will be easier to stick to your goals if your favorite drink isn’t within arm’s reach of your couch. 
  • Let others know your plan and ask for support. If you let your friends and family know your goals around alcohol, they will be less likely to tempt you with drink invitations. You may even get a few friends to join you on your 31 day journey! 

Be mindful of your emotions through this process and be aware that individuals with alcohol dependence or addiction could experience dangerous and even life-threatening side effects from a complete detox. If you are worried for yourself or a loved one, consult with a medical professional before attempting a month of alcohol abstinence.  

Dry January is a great opportunity to explore the health benefits of lowering your alcohol consumption, but it also provides a moment of reflection on our habits and our coping skills. Some people try dry and never look back!