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Dry January: What It Is and Why You Should Try It

A new year offers a fresh start. People all around the world use the beginning of a new calendar year to kick off healthy habits or changes in their lives. It can be an excellent opportunity to make resolutions, set goals, and tackle self-improvement.

Group movements have sprung up around the tradition of New Year’s resolutions. After all, coordinating your efforts with others makes you more likely to follow through on your goals. Many people enjoy and benefit from the accountability of joining a group movement.

One such movement that’s gained popularity over the last few years is Dry January. Dry January involves committing to live alcohol-free for the entire first month of the year. Alcohol consumption has risen since the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s common for people to make resolutions to drink less of it.

Dry January may be for you if you’re one of those people. It can help you reset your alcohol habits and identify if you have a problem. Read on to find out how you can participate.

What is Dry January?

Dry January began in 2012 as a public health initiative in the United Kingdom. Since then, it has spread to all corners of the globe as a personal health challenge. Millions of people participate in Dry January yearly as part of their New Year’s resolutions.

The concept of Dry January is simple: for the entire month of January, you abstain from alcohol 

use. After the holiday festivities of November and December, taking January off from drinking can be a great way to give your body a break from the effects of alcohol.

Participating in Dry January is easy; you simply commit to staying away from alcohol for the month. You can do it on your own or recruit a friend or two to tackle it with you. Doing so can help you stay on track and give you a source of support when you’re tempted to abandon your resolution.

Why Should You Try Dry January?

Alcohol use can negatively impact your health, and taking a break from it can help restore your body and show you what life can be like without alcohol. It can also help you reflect on your relationship with alcohol so that you can make the best decisions for yourself moving forward.

The Health Benefits of Dry January

There are many health benefits associated with Dry January. Some of the positive changes you might notice throughout the month include:

  • Better sleep and more energy – Alcohol can interfere with the quality of your sleep, especially when consumed late at night. It might help you pass out faster, but it keeps you from getting deep, healing sleep. You may notice better sleep and higher energy if you avoid alcohol.
  • Clearer skin – Alcohol can dehydrate you and wreak havoc on your hormones, leading to troubled skin. Dry January may help clear up any skin issues you’ve been having.
  • Improved mental health – Though many people turn to alcohol to destress or distract from a negative mood, it can worsen their mental health. If you step away from alcohol use, you may notice less anxiety and an overall boost to your mood.
  • Fewer headaches – If you experience headaches when drinking alcohol, you’ll get some relief during Dry January.
  • Weight loss – If one of your goals in the New Year is to lose weight, Dry January can help you with that. Alcohol is often a source of many calories, and cutting it out can help you work towards your weight management goals.
  • No hangovers – Those pesky hangovers that dog you after a night of drinking? Say goodbye to those during Dry January. You may enjoy the lack of hangovers so much that you’ll drink less after the month ends.

Understanding Your Relationship with Alcohol

It’s undeniable that Dry January can bring all kinds of positive health changes. It can also help you identify if you have a more severe problem with alcohol. Look out for these symptoms while participating in Dry January:

  • Anxiety
  • Shakiness or trembling
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia

These mild symptoms can indicate you may need to reevaluate your relationship with alcohol. Severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal might be:

  • Racing heart
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium

These symptoms can crop up after two or three days of abstaining from alcohol. Seek professional help immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.

Is Dry January Right for You?

Dry January can be a great personal health challenge at the beginning of the year, but it’s vital to understand whether it’s the right step for you.

If you’re a casual drinker and have control over your relationship with alcohol, Dry January is an appropriate event to participate in. However, it doesn’t make sense for everyone. Heavy drinkers and binge drinkers may need more support than what Dry January can offer. 

The CDC defines heavy drinking as consuming 15 or more drinks a week for men or eight or more for women. Binge drinking is a pattern of consuming alcohol that brings your blood alcohol level to 0.08% or more. These types of drinking can be dangerous to your health.

If you meet the criteria for heavy or binge drinking, you should speak with your doctor or a mental health professional before participating in Dry January. You may need some additional support to reduce your alcohol consumption.

5 Tips for Participating in Dry January

Committing to Dry January can be an incredible opportunity for growth and deepening your understanding of your relationship with alcohol. Follow these top tips for success during Dry January.

1. Find your favorite swap

If alcohol is a regular part of your daily life and social situations, finding an appropriate substitution for January is best. You might get creative with mocktails or grab a can of sparkling water instead of a glass of wine.

2. Recruit a friend

Dry January is more effective with support. Ask a partner, family member, or friend to participate with you. You can hold each other accountable and buddy up at events where you might be tempted to partake of alcohol.

3. Avoid triggers

Avoid or prepare for situations you know will trigger you. Make a plan for coping with stress or other things that might typically have you reaching for alcohol. 

4. Be kind to yourself

Making a significant change takes work. Dry January can feel challenging, especially if it’s your first time trying. Be patient with yourself, and if you do slip up, simply choose to start again the next day. It’s your overall effort that counts.

5. Get help when you need it

If Dry January reveals a deeper problem for you, it’s okay. You’ve begun an essential process that will lead you to better health and a more balanced life. 

Don’t hesitate to reach out and get the support you need at Jackson House Recovery Centers to take the next step. You’ll be glad you did.

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