Starting the new year by cutting out alcohol for the entire month of January is a growing health trend known as Dry January. This can serve as an excellent time to reevaluate your alcohol intake and make healthy changes that last throughout the year.
****If you have an alcohol dependency or drink extensively daily, you should talk with your doctor before stopping alcohol abruptly. You could be at risk for Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome, which can be a life-threatening problem. It can be managed or avoided with advanced planning or monitored detox from alcohol. ****
What is Dry January?
Dry January generally refers to complete avoidance of alcohol for the entire month of January. It can be used as an impetus to stop drinking alcohol altogether or to drink less over the long term, but for some people it is simply a month without alcohol with no long-term change in overall alcohol intake.
Why is this important?
Drinking alcohol is often woven into the fabric of social life. While the occasional alcoholic drink is not usually harmful, excessive alcohol intake can increase the risk of many health problems or poor health outcomes, including:
In the US, between 1999 and 2016, the number of deaths caused by end-stage liver disease rose more than 10% each year among people aged 25-34 years old, due to rising rates of alcohol-related liver disease.
Next week, we will talk more about the adverse health effects of alcohol. Today, since New Year’s Day is coming this weekend, let’s talk more about how to make your Dry January a successful one. Having a plan in place ahead of time, can help you reach your goal more easily.
Here are a few tips to help make your Dry January a healthy and happy experience:
Make goals –
Have realistic expectations for yourself.
Write down your goals and consider posting them somewhere as a physical reminder.
Get your friends and/or family involved (it doesn’t have to be everyone). Letting others know your goals can help you to follow through with them.
Ask for support –
Avoid triggers –
First you need to understand what triggers you to reach for alcohol, then avoid those triggers. It may be watching sports or going to a bar with friends. This doesn’t mean you have to avoid those activities forever. But knowing the triggers can help you to avoid them in the short term or to prepare for the situation in advance.
Plan alternatives to alcohol –
Decide what you will drink ahead of time when going into a situation where you might normally drink alcohol. Make sure there are nonalcoholic drink options available.
If you use alcohol as a way to relax or cope with stress, plan other activities that can help do that for you. Here are some ideas:
EXERCISE – Taking walks, doing Yoga, hiking, riding a bike, etc.
Hobbies – Such as woodworking, needlework, gardening, etc.
Plan how you will say “no” –
It can sometimes feel awkward to turn down an alcoholic drink, so think through the situation in advance and plan what you might say.
Avoid thinking in “all or nothing” terms-
The best laid plans can sometimes go astray. If you slip up and have a drink half-way through January, it is not the end of the world! But don’t use that one drink as an excuse to keep drinking for the rest of the month. Take it all in stride and then get back to your original resolution.
What happens after January?
That is up to you! No matter what you choose to do after the month is over, a Dry January can help you get some perspective and reflect on how alcohol makes you feel. If you get to the end of January and realize that you feel much better, are sleeping better and exercising more, and maybe even have lost a few pounds, consider that your body is sending you a message! Whether you stop drinking altogether, or just cut back after January is over, it is an excellent exercise to help you reflect on your relationship with alcohol.
Many studies have shown that even short-term abstinence from alcohol can improve health. So, by participating in Dry January, you will have done your body a favor.
If you have any questions about alcohol use, please log into your account and send us your question. We are here to help.
Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor