Dry January

After the champagne bubbles have gone off on New Year’s Day, many people are taking part in the sobriety “Dry January” challenge.

Those who choose to feast during the first month of the year abstain from alcohol. From the over-indulgence of the holidays to the many health benefits—like better sleep and increased energy—there are several reasons people are giving up drinking in January. Participating in Dry January may be easier for some than others, but there are resources available to help you stay on track and even create healthy drinking habits.

When did dry January start?

The first official Dry January challenge took place a decade ago, in 2013, after British woman gave up drinking in January while training for a half marathon. During that time, she lost weight, had more energy and slept better. After her experience, she joined Changing alcohol in the UK, an organization dedicated to preventing alcohol-related harms such as drunk driving, domestic violence, neglect, and physical and mental health problems. Over the past 10 years, Dry January has spread and become more popular.

The US alone saw an increase in participants from 21 percent in 2021 to 35 percent in 2022, according to CGA — an organization that collects data about restaurant and bar industry.

As Dry January took root, participants noticed several health benefits from reducing their alcohol intake.

Benefits of a dry January

There is no way to sugar coat it; alcohol is not good for your health. Even a little drinking can harm your health, incl liver disease, heart problems and cancerand can even cause fatigue. Those who take breaks from drinking, such as for Dry January, have increased energy, a more positive mood and better sleep. And even better, the dry month has some long-term positive effects, too.

Data collected from participants in Dry January from Richard de Visser from the University of Sussex and Alcohol Change UK found that after six months, seven out of 10 people were still drinking less than before. And about 25 percent of people drinking at “harmful” levels are now in the low-risk category.

As popularity grew, Alcohol Change UK began resource provisionincluding daily emails and an app that helps people stay motivated to stay sober.

Tips for a dry January

It’s normal to need help when quitting a substance like alcohol. If you feel like you’re struggling, try these tips.

  1. Create a support group or network. Friends or family can do the challenge with you, or you can rely on people in your life to help you avoid temptation.

  2. Avoid temptations. Remove alcohol from your home and avoid bars and restaurants where drinking is common.

  3. Find a non-alcoholic substitute. If you don’t want to stay home all month, many bars and restaurants will provide non-alcoholic (NA) options such as NA beer and wine.

  4. Try different apps to stay on track. Apps can help you track the money and calories you’re saving during Dry January. You can also record your thoughts and track your mood and sleep throughout the month.

  5. Practice mindfulness. Use this time to analyze and reflect on your drinking habits. Do you feel better without drinking? Are you having more trouble downsizing than you first thought? Follow them feelings and goals.

  6. Don’t be hard on yourself. If you ever slip up, consider your Dry January more of a

    Wet January. After all, you’re only human.

If you are having a really hard time giving up alcohol and start experiencing symptoms like nausea, fatigue, headaches and even fever, be sure to seek help from a medical professional.

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