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I’m really pleased to introduce a guest writer for this post, Meaghan Roach. Meaghan works as a Research Scientist for Health Policy, and yes, she’s my daughter! Meaghan is an intrepid traveler, adventurous hiker, amazing baker, and rescue dog lover. Always up for a new experience, she jumped at the opportunity to share her Dry January experience on my blog. Thank you, Meaghan – Mom loves ya!
New Year’s Eve
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.
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.
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.
Never be afraid to try something new, because life gets boring when you stay within the limits of what you already know.
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!
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.
If you’d like to read an even more detailed personal story, check out Little Blog of Positivity’s post: My Break From Booze: The Benefits and How I Did It.
Challenge Yourself to 31 Days of No Alcohol
And hey, if you’re interested in experiencing a booze-free month yourself, there’s no need to wait until next January. There’s 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.
- The Alcohol Experiment: A 30-day, Alcohol-Free Challenge to Interrupt Your Habits and Help You Take Control
- Mocktails, Punches, and Shrubs: 80 alcohol-free beverage recipes