The premise behind Dry January is simple: it’s a month of sobriety to encourage people to reassess their relationship with alcohol. But it’s also a gateway to a healthier lifestyle, experts say.
For many participants, the main benefit is more clarity around navigating social situations where drinking may be part of the agenda.
Other benefits include better sleep—alcohol is a common cause of insomnia, and researchers have found that it decreases the quality of our rest—and lower blood pressure.
But it’s essential to remember that anyone who wants to continue being sober needs to plan. Building new, healthy behaviors requires patience and perseverance.
The health benefits are significant if you stick with Dry January or keep the alcohol-free trend going all year. These include better sleep, more energy, and clearer skin.
But the benefit you see depends on how much alcohol you consume now. Here are the perks you can expect.
A Clearer Head
Many people who participate in Dry January find that the month allows them to rethink their relationship with alcohol.
During a month without alcohol, people might also revisit activities they used to enjoy but have abandoned as their drinking habits increased. Whether reading a book or playing chess, returning to old pursuits may be psychologically beneficial for individuals.
Aside from the health benefits of dry January, a month without drinking can have financial benefits. Cutting back on cocktails and other alcoholic beverages can save you money and potentially lead to weight loss, according to research. Those savings could add up over time, which can also help if you’re trying to pay down debt. But it’s important to remember that a month-long alcohol break is not a substitute for professional treatment for those with an addiction.
Another benefit is improved focus. Problems with memory might result from heavy alcohol consumption, and a recent study found that heavy social drinkers were less likely to remember verbal or visual information than those who did not drink.
Those participating in Dry January often notice that their sleep improves almost immediately. Alcohol is known to cause snoring and keep you awake at night, so taking it out of the equation can help with both. Additionally, drinking can increase the number of trips you make to the bathroom, leading to a less restful night overall.
In addition, alcoholic drinks are full of empty calories that can add to excess weight over time. Cutting them from your diet can help you lose weight and feel more energized.
Alcohol can significantly contribute to conditions like high blood pressure, kidney problems, and liver disease. While stepping away from alcohol for a month may not solve these issues, it can start you on the road to recovery. If they have successfully changed one bad habit, people find it simpler to work on other good behaviors, like going to the gym or eating healthier. However, consulting with a health professional might be a good idea if you have trouble sleeping or cannot control your drinking.
Alcohol can zap energy levels, so not drinking for a month might help you feel more energized. That extra energy could also be beneficial if you’re trying to stick with a workout or diet routine.
Many people who try dry January notice a reduced alcohol intake long after the month.
But experts caution against viewing Dry January as a cure-all for alcohol problems. For those who struggle with a severe alcohol use disorder, it’s essential to seek professional treatment to address the issue.
It’s common for people who take part in Dry January to continue drinking less after the month ends. Taking a break from alcohol allows one to assess consumption patterns and cultivate alternatives for relaxing, socializing, and dealing with stress.
Sleep is also better when you don’t drink because alcohol can disrupt REM sleep and prevent your body from fully resting. And a good night’s sleep is crucial to mental health, according to researchers.
The month of abstinence can also help you reassess your relationship with alcohol. It’s often a time to realize that you may have been using a glass of wine or beer as a crutch for other issues, such as anxiety, depression, and social anxiety.
One of the primordial reasons people choose to participate in Dry January is to improve their health. Drinking too much can negatively affect your sleep quality, increase the risk of certain cancers and lead to weight gain, which is often a contributing factor in high blood pressure and heart disease.
However, abstaining from alcohol for a month might also make people more aware of how drinking fits into their daily routines. For example, if someone typically drinks three beers per night while watching TV, they may learn to see that spending their evenings working out, hanging out with friends, or doing other things that make them happy.
Many GPs see patients drinking at or above the recommended levels, and it can be challenging to broach the subject in a non-threatening way. Still, an alcohol-free month could be an excellent opportunity to encourage people to reconsider their alcohol intake. It’s also a chance to start the year with healthy habits and a sense of accomplishment.