Dry January: Tips for Success
Making a resolution to spend the first month of the year alcohol-free has become so popular, there’s even a term for it now: Dry January. Let’s face it, for many people the holiday season is a time for over-indulging on sugar, carbs, and booze, so January can be the perfect time to switch gears to more healthful practices. Whether you want to cut back just a little, or do a fully sober January, here’s what you need to know in order to achieve your goals.
What are some reasons people participate in Dry January?
There are several benefits that can come with cutting out alcohol, and while results can vary depending on how much someone normally drinks and the way their body processes alcohol, some common benefits of sober January may include:
- Potential Weight Loss
Alcoholic beverages can contain a lot of sugar and calories, so depending on your beverage of choice and overall eating habits, cutting out alcohol could lead to weight loss. Some people may not see the number on the scale move much but may notice less bloating or puffiness.
- Reduce the Risk of Certain Diseases
Studies have shown links between excessive drinking and the increased risk of illnesses like liver disease, stroke, breast cancer, and heart disease.
- Improved Sleep & Energy
We all know about hangovers and how you can feel after a night of excessive drinking, but even small doses can be problematic for getting a good night’s rest. Even a small amount of alcohol can be disruptive to sleep patterns which can cause a feeling of brain fog or sluggishness the next day.
- Understand How Your Body Feels Without Booze
Even if you are a light drinker, going several weeks without drinking may help you see your body in a new light. Many people who have done Dry January find new connections between drinking and headaches, brain fog, bloating or other conditions that they would not have realized were due to alcohol until they cut it from their diet. Being aware of how alcohol affects your body can help you make more mindful decisions.
Tips for a Successful Dry January
Determine Goals & Motivators
Why are you doing this? What do you hope to achieve? The answers to these questions will give you a purpose to focus on when you need a motivator to help you stay on track.
Avoid Old Routines
If you normally drink at a certain time or place, it might be helpful to find something else to do at those times (like go for a walk or pick up a hobby that keeps your hands busy) and avoid the places you are most likely to want to have a drink, at least for the first few weeks when it may be too hard to stick to your new plan.
Ask for Support
Tell your family and friends about your plan and why it’s important to you. Ask them to support you by not offering you drinks or put you in situations that may make it hard to achieve your goals. Ideally, find someone to do Dry January with you that you can turn to for a pep talk when you need one!
Reconnect with your Hobbies
Finding other things to occupy your time and your hands will make it easier to not think about pouring a drink. If weight loss was one of your goals, then schedule a walk or a workout during the time you’d normally have your first drink of the day.
Don’t Change Too Much at Once
If you have other goals for the New Year, work them in slowly, or save some to start in February. After all, imagine how frustrating your life may become if you had a long list of lifestyle changes to start on January 1st — you don’t want to set yourself up for failure by taking on too much at once!
Document the Process
Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings each day. What days are hard to not drink, and which are easy? What happened that day to contribute to the ease or difficulty? How does your body feel each day? Did you sleep well? How is your mood in the morning vs the evening? Write down as much as you can look for any patterns. This will be helpful in determining your body’s relationship with alcohol and can help you plan how you move forward after Dry January.
Learn New Non-Alcoholic Cocktail Recipes
If you enjoy the routine of mixing a nice drink at the end of a long day, experiment with a non-alcoholic recipe: here is a list of mocktail recipes to try. This could also be a great time to try kombucha or various tea flavors and discover some new favorites!
Be Kind to Yourself
Changing routines is hard, and giving up something you enjoy is even harder. Don’t be upset with yourself if it’s challenging the first few days, or weeks! Remember that it doesn’t need to be all or nothing — just start fresh the next day!