A hand holds a clear drink.

By Laurie Herrick, Preventionist

Dry January is when an individual voluntarily refrains from drinking alcohol for the month of January. Some people do it annually as part of their New Year’s resolution while others use it to detox from overconsumption of alcohol over the holidays.  

Dry January began as a public health campaign in Europe and the United States around 2013. It was initiated by a woman who decided to give up drinking for the month of January while she began to train for her first half marathon. She saw many health benefits and decided to share those with others through the organization that she worked for, Alcohol Change UK. Alcohol Change UK used the campaign to raise money for alcohol abuse and treatment.

Many recent research studies show that alcohol use increased during the pandemic. Due to stress, anxiety, isolation, and loss, it is estimated that alcohol use by adults over the age of 30 increased by about 14% since the start of the pandemic. Whether it is due to overconsumption during the pandemic or increased drinking during the holiday season, there may be some benefits to avoiding alcohol for a month.  

Here are four benefits of a dry January. 

  1. You can save money. Giving up drinking means that you are not spending money on buying alcohol or consuming it when you are out.  You can use the savings to pay down holiday debts, create a savings account to monitor the amount you have saved, or donate the money to a charity.
  1. There are physical health benefits. Some reported benefits of not consuming alcohol are an increase in energy, better sleep, and an improved mood. Drinking alcohol in the evening before bed can interrupt REM sleep and contribute to bouts of insomnia.  Some alcoholic drinks contain a lot of sugar, which can cause a spike in your blood sugar. The toxins in alcohol can also speed up your skin’s aging process. Eliminating alcohol leads to eliminating unnecessary calories.
  1. There are mental health benefits. Abstaining from alcohol for the month can improve your mental health. Consuming alcohol can have negative effects on mental health and increase episodes of depression or mood disorders.
  1. It provides the opportunity for reflection. When individuals refrain from drinking, it provides them an opportunity to reflect on the reasons why they were drinking. Were they drinking due to stress or indulgence during the holiday season? It is important to examine the amount you have been drinking and any contributing reasons. If there is a worry about an alcohol use disorder, individuals should reach out to their physician or a treatment referral agency.

Individuals who engaged in a Dry January have also been able to feel more in control of their drinking in later months, find a new understanding of why they drink, and demonstrate that they do not need alcohol to have fun. In some cases, individuals reported continuing to drink less throughout the year.

Sometimes people aren’t able to give up alcohol completely or they cheat a little during dry January. The most important thing to remember is that it provides an opportunity to become more mindful of drinking habits. Creating mindful drinking habits allows individuals to be more aware of why and how much alcohol they are consuming. In some cases, it can lead to a decrease in alcohol consumption, and that’s a great start to a new year.

Learn more about Wellspring’s prevention education programs here.

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