As a New Year begins, one of the resolutions that seems to reign popular year after year is the adoption of “dry January” or the period of eliminating all alcohol intake for at least 30 days. For some it serves as a kicking off point to vow to drink less in the new year not only for the betterment of their health, but also for their wallet. After the pandemic, many even saw their drinking habits increase and are looking to get a better control on their drinking habits that have escalated over the past few years.
Some simply use the dry period as a way to detox from the heavily fueled holiday season and give their liver a break before introducing alcohol back into their diet in the following months. So, is dry January actually a beneficial tool to be utilized? Experts say that it can be if done the appropriate way.
First, consumers are advised to look at their baseline drinking habits and then clearly state why they want to take part in “dry January.” For someone who drinks an occasional glass of wine, this deprivation period will most likely not do much for them. However, for someone with a more moderate drinking pattern, abstaining from alcohol abruptly could cause mild, but obvious, withdrawals like headaches. Yet, once that passes, your body will be running clearer and cleaner. Taking a one month break won’t recalibrate your drinking patterns or health, so it’s important to evaluate why you want to partake in dry January and the steps you plan to take once the month ends.
Perhaps the biggest benefit is seeing how your body functions (mentally, emotionally, physically, socially, etc.) without the dependence on alcohol. Are you sleeping better? Getting through your workouts easier? Is your skin feeling more hydrated?
During this season where COVID, the flu and RSV continue to surge, it could also be beneficial to your immune system. Intoxication can suppress your immune system making you more susceptible to pathogens, especially during the colder months where people flock indoors in smaller spaces where germs accumulate. Drinking less, consuming more water and having more energy could up your chances of not catching the flu.
Once the month is up, evaluate how it went. Do you feel better? Feel healthier? Saved money? Thinking a bit clearer? Do you just miss the social aspect of drinking?
While the pattern of indulge-abstain-indulge is never highly recommended by any health professional, dry January can be a crucial evaluating period if done correctly to see what your relationship with alcohol is. It’s also important to note that your tolerance will also be lower if you do decide to start drinking again so it’s important to return to it slowly.
While dry January is extremely popular, it doesn’t need to be the first month of a new year to evaluate your drinking habits. Pick any month that suits your schedule and see how much of a difference it could possibly make to your well-being.
According to psychologists, it takes approximately 21 days of conscious and consistent efforts to create a new habit but breaking an existing habit can take considerably longer. Patience is key and while it may take baby steps to ultimately reach your goal, the bigger picture could be worth it.