Since 2012, people worldwide have declared Dry January: a month without alcohol. The observation was the brainchild of the British charity Alcohol Change UK, which proposes a month off from alcohol as a way to save money, find out whether you might be drinking too much, and test out a sober lifestyle.
The process is simple. Don’t drink any alcohol during the month of January. On February 1, you can go back to your regular relationship with alcohol, or continue your new alcohol-free lifestyle, or something in between.
Alcohol Change UK offers a free app to help keep track. The app also allows users to track the money they save by not drinking during the month.
Why go dry?
For some participants, Dry January is just another 30 (well, 31) day challenge. It’s a test of willpower and something to track on social media.
However, studies show that people who try temporary abstinence from alcohol often end up drinking less in the long run. They also show general health improvements. One study found improvements after just one month in insulin resistance, weight, blood pressure, and cancer-related growth factors. The study controlled for exercise and smoking, among other factors, but it may also be true that people who give up alcohol for a month might make other lifestyle changes that would be good for their health.
Turning down alcohol at a party could make it easier to get up early for a run the next day, for example.
While heavy drinkers who are dependent on alcohol might need a different approach to safely stop drinking, the average social drinker is likely to see benefits from taking a month off from alcohol and resetting their relationship with liquor.
Make it easier
Dry January makes it easier to try out an alcohol-free lifestyle. If your friends or family would otherwise question your decision to avoid alcohol or try to persuade you to drink, saying, “I’m doing Dry January,” is an easy way to head off that kind of response.
There are also many more non-alcoholic drink options than in the past. Choosing club soda at a bar may not be as much fun as ordering a fancy cocktail or a trendy craft beer. Now, mocktails, non-alcoholic wines, and beers are readily available and are often just as trendy!
Try out some fun options at the beginning of the month, and pick one as your go-to drink. Then, when you’re offered a drink or asked for your drink order, you can easily name your choice without automatically going for your favorite beer or cocktail.
Remove all liquor, wine, and beer from your home as soon as you begin your Dry January. Get a friend to join in or join an online group that’s also trying it out.
If you slip up — and many people do, especially in the first couple of weeks — don’t worry. Just start over. Research has shown that people who have a slightly drier January also see some of the benefits.