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Dry January: What Is It And How It Can Benefit Your Health

Does taking a break from alcohol for a month sound like a difficult task? It may seem crazy, but as many as 1 in 7 people participated in Dry January in 2021, a trend that has been increasingly popular over the past several years. Read on to learn more about Dry January and how it may benefit your health.

What is Dry January

Dry January is pretty much what it sounds like – a pledge to not drink alcohol during the entire month of January. It’s a trend that has caught on in recent years and doesn’t seem to be disappearing anytime soon. In 2021, more people than ever participated in Dry January, partially to offset some of the heavy drinking that was done while stuck at home for much of the year.

But, there are other reasons to go dry. Refraining from alcohol, even if just for a month, can not only provide some serious health benefits, but it can help you to reframe your relationship with it, especially if you’re someone who likes to indulge in a nightly beverage. Dry January forces you to reassess your drinking habits, a positive effect that may linger long after January comes to a close.

What Are The Benefits Of Dry January

  1. Weight loss. If you’re used to tossing back a cold one (or two) after work on most days, cutting out alcohol may help you to lose some weight. With most drinks averaging around 150 calories, that can add up over the course of a month. What’s more, alcohol generally can make you more hungry, and, because your inhibitions may be down when drinking, you’re more likely to reach for that bag of chips at 10 PM.

  2. Better sleep. It may sound counter-intuitive since most people drink alcohol to help them relax. You may even argue that after a few drinks you find it easier to fall asleep. While this may be true, alcohol is actually very disturbing to your sleep, since it disrupts the normal sleep cycle. This is especially true if you drink within an hour of going to bed. And while you may not wake during the night after you’ve been drinking, the quality of your sleep has gone way down, leaving you fuzzy and groggy in the morning.  After a couple of weeks of quitting alcohol, your body may be able to experience more deep sleep, leaving you feeling well rested and alert in the morning.

  3. Better skin. Drinking alcohol can be detrimental to your skin, since it acts as an inflammatory, bringing blood up to the surface of the skin. This can leave your complexion looking dry and dehydrated, blotchy, and ruddy the next day. Not drinking allows your skin time to repair itself, and you’ll likely see noticeable differences – in the form of dewy, more youthful-looking skin –  in as little as 2-4 weeks.

  4. More energy. This ties a bit to the better sleep we mentioned above. When you’re not drinking, your body is able to get a higher quality of sleep vs. when you indulge, allowing you to wake up well rested and full of energy.

  5. Less bladder irritation. Alcohol is a common bladder irritant and for those who suffer with an overactive bladder or bladder leaks, indulging in a few drinks can have unwanted side effects. Cutting out alcohol for a while reduces this irritation, making leaks less likely.

  6. Better immune system. Alcohol acts as an inflammatory and can really impact your immune system. According to a recent study that examined alcohol’s effect on the immune system, disruptions to the body from alcohol “can impair the body’s ability to defend against infection, contribute to organ damage associated with alcohol consumption, and impede recovery from tissue injury.” All the more reason to give it a rest.

  7. Your relationship with alcohol may improve. As we said above, one of the biggest benefits of Dry January is that your relationship with alcohol may get better. When you notice how your body feels without it, and learn ways to lessen your drinking habits, that’s likely to carry over into the rest of the year, which will benefit your long-term health.

Tips for success

If you’d like to try Dry January, but cutting out alcohol sounds too challenging, take note of some of these suggestions below to help you succeed this month.

  1. Create a plan – and tell people about it. The common saying, “fail to plan, plan to fail” couldn’t be truer. Set yourself up for success by making a plan for quitting for the month. This may include getting rid of all the alcohol in your house, having a response ready for when people inevitably offer you a drink, and planning outings with friends around activities that don’t involve alcohol, like grabbing a coffee or going for a walk.

  2. Avoid Your Triggers. We all have them – going out with coworkers after work, or indulging in a glass of wine during a favorite show. Know the things that entice you to drink and try to avoid them for a few weeks.

  3. Sub-ins for alcohol drinks/Find alternatives/Experiment. One of the fun benefits of Dry January is you get to experiment with new and different drinks. Buy a few different types of tea, try your hand at a mocktail, or learn how to spice up plain old drinking water.

  4. Make your new drinks feel special. It may sound crazy, but what you drink out of may just help you fool yourself into not noticing that what you’re drinking isn’t alcohol. All those new drinks you’re experimenting with? Be sure to serve them in your fancy wine and cocktail glasses, and add some fun ice cubes for a little something extra.

  5. Add in some extra exercise. While it may not directly contribute, adding in some exercise can help you destress naturally – something that you may be used to using alcohol for.

  6. Indulge in other cravings – in small doses. Just because you’ve cut out alcohol doesn’t mean you can’t have anything fun. Work in some of your favorite indulgences, such as a fancy cheese or dark chocolate for a treat.

Will you be partaking in Dry January this month? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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