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How To Prepare For Dry January

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Category: Advice, Alcohol, Health, Lifestyle

Dry January can be an effective way to begin the new year with a fresh start. Armed with the right tools, tricks, and state of mind, this challenge can produce lasting health benefits and improved habits.

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Celebrate the new year by committing to dry January.

How Dry January Can Kickstart The New Year

It’s that time of year again where we rifle through the contents of our minds (and closets, drawers, and cabinets…) in order to take stock, reflect on the previous 12 months, and plan and prepare for the new season to come. Many New Year’s resolutions can be a bit overzealous when we get swept up in the “new year, new me” culture; think: deciding to become a daily gym goer when you’ve never before even worked out from home and other unrealistic, harsh expectations we place on ourselves. Dry January, however, is a straightforward and realistic goal.

What Is Dry January?

As the name suggests, Dry January requires the participant to cease all alcohol consumption, no matter the amount or regularity. The idea was born from a campaign created by European company, Alcohol Change UK, in 2013 and has since become a worldwide challenge with documented long-term effects. According to the organization’s website, 65% of people report improved overall health and research found that 70% of those who utilize Alcohol Change UK’s “Try Dry” app (available internationally) and other resources maintain a healthier relationship with alcohol even after the sober month is over. 

Why Should I Try Dry January?

Once a subject up for debate among scientists, a few years ago the myth that small amounts of alcohol, such as red wine, may provide certain health benefits was largely debunked. In a global study published in 2018, researchers found that “…the level of consumption that minimises health loss is zero” based on the data they collected and the overwhelming number of alcohol-related deaths between 1990 and 2016 across the 195 countries and territories studied.

Unfortunately, yet not surprisingly, a more recent study investigated the average American adult’s alcohol consumption throughout 2020 (and the height of the COVID-19 pandemic) and found roughly 60% of the survey respondents reported increased drinking habits. All that said, even if you’re not a heavy or moderate drinker, Dry January might be a well-appreciated reset. Here are some tips on how best to prepare your mind and body for a booze break.

Preparation Tips

Begin With Intention

Research shows that the simple act of setting your goals in writing makes you 42% more likely to achieve them. If you intend to start the next year dry and want to increase your odds of sticking to it, try writing it somewhere you’ll see everyday: a sticky note on the bathroom mirror, a piece of scrap paper you’re using as a bookmark, in the places where you might normally grab for a beverage, etc. Seeing your intention in your own handwriting should help you remain honest and motivated to achieve it.

Find A Non-Alcoholic Substitute

For the days when you crave your drink of choice, whether it’s to take the edge off after a stressful day or just as a relaxing way to wind down, grab for something non-alcoholic. Fortunately, there are so many low to zero calorie beverages that either mimic an alcoholic version or are perfectly satisfactory in their own right. Try switching over to sparkling waters, sodas, or even craft your own virgin cocktails with various juices and sodas! Be creative and see what kinds of alternatives you can come up with.

Rid Your Living Space Of Temptation 

While there are those with the willpower strength of the gods, many of us are not so trusting of our ability to stick to our guns and not drink those last few holiday beers hiding in the fridge. In order to avoid this temptation altogether, it would behoove you to simply remove all the alcohol from your house. When visiting family or friends, bring along your new favorite non-alcoholic drink so your hands are already full if they offer you a beverage.

Create Your Own Support Group

Like most other things in life, tackling Dry January will be made significantly easier if you inform/lean on your friends and family for support. By looping in those who you see frequently and speak with often, you create for yourself a little support system of accountability; while they might not know if you attempt to sneak a drink, odds are you’ll feel more guilty if you know that others are aware of your intention. Perhaps you can even invite your partner, sibling, roommate, friend, etc. to join the challenge, too!

Utilize Resources

Besides having an accountability partner and informing your circle of people closest to you, there are other tools at your disposal like the “Try Dry” app created by Alcohol Change UK. The app is free and while operated out of the UK, seems to be applicable to users everywhere. Try Dry is helpful in setting and tracking goals, as well as monitoring calories and money saved. Additionally, this tool provides access to coaching sessions and motivational tips and badges to support you through your month of sobriety. While Try Dry might be the official sidekick app for Dry January, it is certainly not the only drink-monitoring/sobriety encouragement one out there. Search around and find one that works best for you!

Use This Time To Reflect

A reset month can be immensely helpful for a number of reasons, but perhaps one of the most important is the space it provides for pause and reflection. Was this month hard for you? Did you find that under your normal circumstances you’d reach for a drink more often than you’d like? Were you harsh and critical of yourself if you slipped up and wound up with a drink in your hand? Dry January can provide a myriad of opportunities to get to know yourself and your habits better and adjust accordingly. And, always remember to treat yourself with kindness, especially when you make mistakes.

Potential Challenges With Dry January

Be aware that if you are someone who is a rather heavy drinker, going completely dry for the month of January may not be possible. You might need to adjust your expectations and plan to wean off of the amount you normally consume.

Alcohol withdrawal can create serious and life-threatening symptoms if you are not careful. Milder symptoms may range from bouts of nausea and vomiting, anxiety, headaches or insomnia, but in a more severe form you may experience a racing heart rate, fever, and even hallucinations. If you encounter any symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, seek medical attention immediately.

Looking For Support?

Dry January is a great, community-driven way to begin the next year with a clear mind and a clean body. However, if you are worried about the drinking habits of yourself or someone you love, there are resources available to you. Listen to your gut and get help before something becomes more serious. Contact a treatment provider today and they will help you determine your next steps.