January is on the horizon, which means you have that one friend who has announced they’re ready to give up alcohol for an entire month. Or maybe you’re that friend who says, “Come over for just one drink!” Your response is already being practiced. Many people try Dry January every year with varying degrees of success.
As the new year approaches, Dry January may be on your mind, along with questions about how a few weeks of sobriety will affect your physical and mental health. Here’s what to know about Dry January and whether its reported benefits are real.
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What is Dry January?
Dry January is a challenge to completely abstain from alcohol throughout the month of – you guessed it – January. Dry January began in 2012 as a public health initiative by British charity Alcohol Change UK, according to Harvard Health. According to the publication, what started out as something small has grown into a challenge that millions of people participate in every year.
People choose to start Dry January for a variety of reasons. Some want to avoid the negative effects of drinking (think: weakened immune system, sluggishness, poor digestion, and liver damage, as Shape previously reported) while others use the time to reevaluate their relationship with alcohol and how alcohol affects them. is required. Everyday Life, notes Hilary Sheinbaum, journalist, and author of The Dry Challenge. “Elements such as a person’s lifestyle (leisure time and work schedule), social circle, and goals can greatly influence whether they abstain from alcohol for 31 days and decide to continue abstinence over the next month,” she says. Dry January is “not intended to be a detox for alcoholics and should only be done under medical supervision.”
Some people decide to participate in changes in Dry January. For example, “Damp January” has emerged as a recent trend, involving limiting rather than completely eliminating alcohol. That could mean anything from allowing one alcoholic drink each week to only drinking during birthday celebrations.
According to Kelley Kitley, LCSW, a licensed psychotherapist at Kelley Kitley Serendipitous Psychotherapy, LLC, the benefits of participating in Dry January can be more pronounced than the benefits of participating in Dry January. That is, some people commit to a dry January, give up, and drink more than they commit to a wet January. “If people aren’t in the right frame of mind, they have a tendency to lose,” Kitley says. “And then, when they decide to ‘give it up,’ they ‘go off the rails.’ Therapeutically, this is called all-or-nothing behavior or black-and-white thinking.”
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Does dry January make a difference to your health?
According to Alcohol Research and Health, you may have heard that alcohol can have negative health effects, including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, liver disease, and high blood pressure. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that committing to a sober January has benefits. Giving up alcohol for a month “can lead to improved sleep, more energy, better hydration, and less anxiety and depression,” notes Harris-Pincus.
31 days is a small part of the year, and you may have to drink less in the months after participating in Dry January. In a study of more than 800 people who participated in Dry January in 2018, participants (including those who tried and failed the challenge) averaged 3.3 drinks per week in August of that year, compared to 4.3 per week before they participated in Dry January. . Participants also reported that they saved money and felt they slept better, had more energy and had better skin after trying Dry January.
For many people, Dry January can be a gateway to avoiding or limiting alcohol, even if the thought of getting sober indefinitely may seem like a loftier goal. “The longer someone goes without alcohol, the more likely they are to become abstinent,” Kitley says. “…Sometimes people decide to go the whole year, but for many, it’s too much of a challenge to start with [a year]. Thirty-one days doesn’t seem too difficult.”
If you’re curious about the benefits of Dry January and want to try it out in the new year, adopting the right mindset is the key to success. “Communicate a personally meaningful reason why you’re choosing to abstain from alcohol for the month of January,” says Julia Samton, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist and neurologist and co-founder of The Midtown Practice. “Whatever the reason, think clearly about why you want to make this change and use that as motivation to take action.”