December is all about excess—a time to give in to whatever we desire, because we damn sure deserve it after surviving yet another crazy trip around the sun. We bake and eat all the cookies, because during the holidays, calories and excess butter consumption do not matter. We spend like crazy on gifts for our loved ones, and a few for ourselves because—hey—we’ve been extra good all year. We feast, we splurge, we indulge, and maybe every once in a while we might go a wee bit overboard. The new year brings us new diets and gym memberships to atone for that month-long cookie binge, credit card bills that are a little more bloated than usual, and Dry January: 31 days of sobriety to help the body and mind detox from all those wild and tipsy celebrations the month before.
If you’ve never heard of Dry January before, that’s because it’s a relatively new tradition that’s grown more popular year after year. It began in 2013, and was founded by the British charity Alcohol Change UK. Its goal was to get people to examine their relationship with alcohol in the new year, and also to raise money by asking people to donate some of the money they saved by not purchasing alcoholic beverages. Alcohol Change UK has done it every year since, partnering with local groups worldwide to organize fundraising events like walk-a-thons, and creating an app to help people stick to their goals.
Dry January is as much a mindset as it is a personal challenge, and it’s important to use the time to improve your mind as well as your body.
Though still affiliated with a charity, Dry January has become more than an organized campaign, evolving into a broader movement that everyone can participate in independently. There are no requirements to join, no personality quizzes to take, no email addresses to submit, and no universal reason to commit to an entire month of sobriety. Some people do it as a post-holiday cleanse, or to jumpstart plans for a healthier lifestyle. Some are curious about their relationship with alcohol, or want to see the ways their lives might change when booze isn’t in the picture. Some people just like the challenge, and want to see if they can do it.
It honestly doesn’t matter why you may want to participate in Dry January, and no matter what your personal motives, you’ll definitely see a number of positive improvements in your life after 31 alcohol-free days. For one, you’re guaranteed to have a bit more money in your pocket, and if you have a particularly active social life, those savings can be considerable. An extended stretch of sobriety allows you to put a numerical amount on your alcohol consumption, and even if you have no plans of giving up drinking, finding extra cash in your bank account may persuade you to cut back a bit.
Physically, you’re bound to notice some changes, too, since eliminating alcohol can have fast health benefits. It takes only a month to lower a person’s blood pressure, and many people report that they notice an increase in energy and general well-being. Alcoholic drinks tend to be packed with sugars and calories, so provided you don’t replace them with unhealthy alternatives, there’s a good chance you’ll see some weight loss by removing it from your diet. If getting in better shape is one of your New Year’s resolutions, a long stretch of sobriety may help by cutting out empty calories.
Dry January is as much a mindset as it is a personal challenge, and it’s important to use the time to improve your mind as well as your body. Make a commitment to yourself and take it seriously, but don’t punish yourself if you slip up, because it’s perfectly normal to make mistakes—especially when trying something new or breaking out of a routine. Don’t give up on yourself; just pick yourself up and get right back on that wagon. Come February 1st, take note of how Dry January may have changed your life for the better, and use what you’ve learned to reexamine how alcohol fits into your life.
Field M, Puddephatt J-A, Goodwin L, Owens L, Reaves D, Holmes J. Benefits of Temporary Alcohol Restriction: A Feasibility Randomized Trial. Pilot Feasibility Stud. 2020;6:9. doi:10.1186/s40814-020-0554-y
Are You Thinking About Becoming Sober Curious? Cleveland Clinic. August 16, 2019