Contributer: Sharon Chen
What is it?
Dry January is a campaign by Alcohol Change UK where people abstain from drinking alcohol for the month of January. For 31 days, adults challenge themselves to cut out beer, wine, spirits, or even all alcohol entirely. It started off with a single person taking a break from alcohol for a month to prepare for her marathon in 2011 and has now become a worldwide public health campaign and health challenge. Through this campaign, Alcohol Change UK hopes to encourage people to reflect on their drinking habits and help people take control of their drinking.
Evidently, abstaining from alcohol comes with various physical and mental health benefits. Such benefits include sleeping better, having more energy, and losing weight. According to Alcohol Change UK, 70% of people who gave up drinking in January reported better sleep and about 66% had more energy. Moreover, heavier and long-term drinking can lead to heart and liver damage, a weakened immune system, memory issues, and mood disorders. Taking a break from alcohol for even a month can benefit your organs and overall well-being. Research has also shown that going alcohol-free for a month lowers blood pressure, diabetes risk, cholesterol, and levels of cancer-related proteins in the blood.
Despite these various health benefits, many may believe that they are temporary and only last until the end of January. As in, once the challenge is over, people will return to their old habits and participating doesn’t yield any long-term results. However, studies show that people who participate in Dry January and other sobriety challenges frequently experience lasting benefits. Oftentimes, participants drink less in the long run and form better drinking habits that lead to long-lasting improvements in their overall health and well-being. Habits that are developed during the challenge are reinforced by immediate health benefits such as weight loss, better sleep, and a boost in mood and energy levels. Moreover, the main goal of Dry January is not long-term sobriety, but rather long-term control. In that sense, Dry January is quite successful as many participants reported that they felt a sense of achievement and gained more control over their drinking after completing the challenge. Nevertheless, studies have shown that a small proportion of participants do experience a rebound effect and end up consuming more alcohol than in previous months. However, this tends to only occur with very heavy drinkers who are dependent on alcohol.
Tips to stay dry
While the health benefits of Dry January are definitely appealing, it is not always easy to remain dry for the entire month. Here are some tips to help you stay dry throughout the 31 days and even beyond the challenge:
Find a substitute non-alcoholic drink such as sparkling water, soda, or non-alcoholic versions of alcoholic drinks that would satisfy your cravings and act as an alternative in social situations. This drink may even end up replacing alcohol as your beverage of choice.
Keep alcohol out of your house and bring your non-alcoholic substitutes when invited to someone else’s home to avoid temptation.
Manage your triggers by going to a movie, taking a long walk, or having dinner at a restaurant with your friends instead of going to a bar or club.
Have friends and family keep you accountable by letting them know your goals. Even better, do the challenge with someone and keep each other accountable.
Use the Try Dry app to track your drinking, set personal goals, and read up on motivational information like calories and money saved from not drinking.
If you drink a bit during the challenge, don't give up. Just begin again the next day.
This year, Alcohol Change UK is celebrating a decade of Dry January. Throughout the past 10 years, the campaign has grown to reach hundreds of thousands of people all around the world. Especially with the increase in drinking and binge drinking over the pandemic, more people are encouraged to partake in this challenge as a way to reduce their drinking after the holiday season or start off the new year with a clean slate. People have begun to recognize the various physical and mental health benefits that come with abstaining from alcohol for just a month. While January has come to an end this year, consider partaking in Dry January next year. If you are planning on participating or are simply trying to improve your drinking habits, bear in mind the tips provided to stay dry throughout the month and maybe even the entire year. For more information about Dry January and Alcohol Change UK, visit the following links: