Welcome to January 2022. A time of change, of new beginnings, new goals, new “words of the year”. To kick off my year, I have chosen to forgo alcohol for a month – I’m participating in Dry January. Have you heard of it?
In order to bolster my willpower and inspire myself to succeed, I have updated this post from a couple of years ago. My daughter wrote it regarding her very positive experiment with Dry January, and we can all learn from her experience.
What is Dry January and Why Should You Go Alcohol-Free for a Month?
Dry January began in 2012 by an organization called Alcohol Change UK and has now spread world-wide and millions of people participate.
It’s premise is really simple – give up alcohol in all of its forms (beer, wine, spirits) for the 31 days of January.
Research shows that alcohol can be extremely damaging to both physical and mental health – especially for women.
After the excesses of the Holiday season, Dry January offers a reboot for your body and mind, a chance to focus on your health and wellness, and a means to reevaluate your relationship with alcohol.
Dry January helps you make more conscious choices about the role alcohol plays in your life.
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Benefits of Dry January
You may experience some or all of these benefits when you give up alcohol for a month:
- Weight Loss
- Less Bloating and Digestive Issues
- Brighter, Hydrated Skin
- Improved Immune
- Improved Immune Function
- Better Sleep
- Improved and More Stable Mood
- Increased Energy
- New Relationship with Alcohol
- New Hobbies, Interests, and Focus
This post describes an actual experience, the pros, the cons, and the end results of a month without alcohol.
Learn more about Dry January with these recommended books:
- The Dry Challenge: How to Lose the Booze for Dry January, Sober October, and Any Other Alcohol-Free Month
- Try Dry: The Official Guide to a Month Off Booze
- Dry January: 101 Alcohol-free Tips to Get You to February
A Personal Perspective from Someone Who Has Already Gone Through Dry January
I’m really pleased to introduce a guest writer for this post, Meaghan Roach. Meaghan is a Senior Research Scientist in Public Health Policy, and yes, she’s my daughter! Meaghan is an intrepid traveler, adventurous hiker, amazing baker, and rescue dog lover.
A couple of years ago, Meaghan chose to participate in Dry January, and here she shares her experiences.
New Year’s Eve – the Party Before Dry January Begins
I counted down the seconds to the new year with a flute of champagne in my hand, swallowing the last bubbly sip somewhere around the final “6…5…4…” seconds, as the old year ticked away.
January 1 – the First Day of Dry January
31 days. No booze.
That was the plan as the clock struck midnight and we welcomed a new year into our lives. Dry January, a concept popularized in the U.K., implores the individual to give up all alcohol for the month of January.
It’s become more common now in the US as well, particularly because the idea has spread through social media like wildfire.
People of all demographics are choosing to forgo alcohol for a month to better understand the many ways that drinking impact their lives.
February – and Dry January is a Success!
It’s now February, and while I have had a few drinks this month (I mean, we just had Superbowl Sunday after all), a month off from drinking allowed me to explore my relationship with alcohol and how I wanted to proceed with that relationship in the future.
With just a few days left in the month of December, a friend suggested we try Dry January out for ourselves. After a December filled with holiday parties and family gatherings (read: a December filled with alcohol), this came as a welcome opportunity to spend a little time detoxing my body.
Surprisingly, Dry January wasn’t all that hard.
And this is coming from someone who is quite used to a glass of pinot in hand while she cooks dinner, and has an active social life that frequently has involved going to bars or events where alcohol is present.
Health Benefits I Experienced During Dry January
Unsurprisingly, a sober month was really great for my health.
I have a Fitbit that tracks my heart rate and my sleep patterns, and a smart scale that tracks my weight and body fat percentage.
Overall, I lost about 4 pounds over 31 days, almost all of which was body fat, and spent more time in REM and deep sleep.
Perhaps most exciting to me, though, was watching my resting heart rate improve by about 8 bpm over the course of the month. Research supports that lowering your resting heart rate can reduce your risk of mortality.
Clearly, even short-term alcohol avoidance can have a positive impact on your health. I was surprised at the changes I encountered in just thirty one short days.
Tips for Avoiding Alcohol during Dry January
A few tips that helped me stay sober for the month:
- If you have a significant other, it helps to get them on board with the whole Dry January plan. In fact, the more of those close to you that you can get to join in, the better.
Thankfully, my boyfriend was committed to the idea with me.
It probably would have been a lot more tempting to grab a drink with dinner if he was, but sticking with water was an easy choice when the person sitting across from you was doing the same.
- Find a substitute for the booze.
We found that sparkling water gave our palates something to look forward to when plain water just wasn’t cutting it.
I know a few people who have opted for non-alcoholic beers or “virgin” versions of their favorite cocktails.
While we tended to stick with the sparkling water, find the replacement that works for you.
- Focus on new activities that don’t revolve around drinking.
For the whole month, I didn’t lose a single morning in the fog of a hangover.
Instead, we spent more time being active outdoors and exploring our city.
Additionally, we tried to get creative with our activities.
We spent an evening at an after-hours museum event.
We explored new green spaces with our dog.
We took a weekend trip down to San Diego and stayed with some friends who were also participating in Dry January.
We found a (free!) stand-up comedy event in the back room of a local bar.
That’s right, we were still able to hang out at bars. In fact, LA (where we live) has a whole slew of bars that have added mocktails to their menus.
What I Learned from My Dry January Experience
Though January has come and passed, I will continue to carry these lessons through the coming months.
My boyfriend and I made a long list of new weekend activities to partake in, none of which need to involve alcohol (okay, except for the Malibu Wine Safari – I mean, you get to hang out with giraffes while tasting local wines).
We have learned that we have so many options to choose from that don’t involve alcohol!
Dry January was also good for our bank accounts.
When you live in a city where an old fashioned regularly goes for $15, drinking a few nights a week can add up FAST.
Combine that with the morning headaches that now inevitably accompany a night of drinking (thank you, late-20s), and it has been an easy decision to limit myself to one or two drinks on nights that I do decide to drink alcohol.
- How to Have More Energy Every Day
- How to Motivate Yourself to Lead a Healthy Lifestyle
- How to Start a Walking Program for Better Health
If you’d like to read another personal story about a woman’s relationship with alcohol, check out Little Blog of Positivity’s post: My Break From Booze: The Benefits and How I Did It.
Final Thoughts on Easy Tips to Go Alcohol-Free for Dry January – or Anytime
If you’re interested in experiencing a booze-free month yourself, there’s no need to wait until next January.
There’s always a new month right around the corner, so why not try Dry March…Dry July…Dry September?
Whether you choose a week, a month, or a year, it’s a learning experience you owe to yourself to explore.