Even if you aren’t a big drinker, taking a month break from booze might be just what the doctor ordered. According to one UK study, people who abstained from alcohol for an entire month reported higher energy levels, better sleep, a healthier body weight, saved a bunch of money, and felt less of a need to drink alcohol—even several months later. If you are interested in taking a vacation from all things alcohol-related, here are 8 tips to help you indulge in 30ish days of alcohol-free self-care.
Try A Month Other Than January or September
Sure, “Dry January” and “Sober September” may be the trendy months to take a break from booze, but there are 10 other months out of the year where you might not feel so much pressure. Also, it should go without saying, but you also don’t have to start a sober month on the first of a month.
Keep Media Consumption At A Minimum
Today’s 24-hour headline news cycle can be a great distraction. However, one of the main reasons you are probably doing a sober month is for self-care—and how can you focus on yourself if you are heavily absorbed in what is going on with everyone else? “The primary benefit of sobriety is having clarity to focus on who you are, what you like, and who you want to become,” says Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, author of Fragile Power. Instead, during your month of sobriety view the news on an at-need basis. “Spend your media time watching inspiring movies and shows that can teach you how to be a more compassionate, better person. Read inspirational books. And, if you must do social media do it with the spirit of generosity and service,” Dr. Hokemeyer encourages.
The primary benefit of sobriety is having clarity to focus on who you are, what you like, and who you want to become.
Focus On Friendships
Because many of us only have time to see our friends and family at night and on weekends, many of our social interactions may involve alcohol. Dr. Hokemeyer encourages using a sober month to focus on connecting to other people not through alcohol and drugs, but through friendship. “It’s easy for us to focus on our friends and families, but we also need to do a better job of connecting with our neighbors,” he points out. “Make it a point to get to know them. A simple and fun way to do that is to throw a pizza party and invite three or four of your neighbors over for it.”
Nurture Your Relationship With Nature
There is no better time to connect with nature than your sober month! “No matter where you live, no matter what the season, you can take yourself outside for a 20 minute walk around the block,” says Dr. Hokemeyer. "In so doing you will discover things about the natural world in your neighborhood that you’ve never experienced. You’ll also enjoy a number of wonderful hormones that will fill you up with a sense of well-being.”
Make Sure You Exercise
Research has shown that exercise can be beneficial for people who are attempting to abstain from alcohol—so much so that many treatment programs have regimented it into their programs. It is also a healthy replacement for drinking. Instead of arranging nights out at the bar with your friends, try organizing a Saturday morning yoga class or an afternoon jog instead.
Avoid Triggering People And Places
“If you walk into a barbershop, you will probably end up getting your haircut,” is a popular saying in the recovery world about the importance of avoiding people, places, and things that you associate with drinking that may be triggering. “If you're serious about doing a sober month, you'll want to avoid situations where you would usually be drinking,” explains Sal Raichbach, PsyD, Director of Clinical Services, Ambrosia Treatment Center. “The human brain forms strong associations between how it feels to drink and your environment. Similarly to how hearing a song can flood your senses and train of thought with emotions from yesteryear, these associations can also be quite impactful.” He adds that if you're not familiar with these associations and you're out to your old haunts, it could thwart your plans for staying sober, no matter your intentions. “That includes being mindful of the people you are with, locations that you usually drink at and things that remind you of drinking,” he continues. “You may see improvement not only because you cut out alcohol, but also because you cut out the other unhealthy associations that come with it.”
You may see improvement not only because you cut out alcohol, but also because you cut out the other unhealthy associations that come with it.
Focus On How You Are Feeling
A great tool to help motivate yourself to keep on making it through the month without alcohol, is to focus on how you are feeling—both physically and psychologically. Even if you are a moderate drinker, you'll notice a difference when you cut out the booze, points out Dr. Raichbach. “Besides skipping the hangover, you'll feel more refreshed when you wake up, have more sustained energy throughout the day, and feel more clear-headed and alert.”
Keep A Journal
In addition to observing these feelings, Dr, Raichbach encourages keeping a journal of them. In addition to helping you stay sober throughout the month, it may help you assess your relationship with alcohol. “It's my observation that people who try a sober month either learn one of two things: they do not have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol and it was a breeze, or they realize it was much harder than they expected,” he says. For those who experienced a challenging time, it could be wise to consider further trials of cessation or learning to moderate your drinking habits more rigidly. “It's always easier to get out ahead of a habit or vice than react once you're fully engulfed in it,” he points out.