You may have heard on the news over the last couple of years that Brits were drinking more alcohol because of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re among them, you may have kicked off your New Years Resolutions by committing to Dry January. Of course, there are so many benefits to cutting down alcohol consumption, but how do you get through Dry January without drinking?
Why should you do Dry January?
Dry January started in 2012 as an initiative from the British charity Alcohol Change UK. Millions of people worldwide now take the challenge each year to raise money for charity or simply to boost their health.
Before we find out how to have a successful Dry January, let’s look at some of the health improvements that a month without drinking can bring.
The NHS advises that men and women do not exceed 14 units of alcohol per week. Fourteen units are equivalent to six pints of average-strength beer or ten small glasses of wine. Heavier drinking, particularly long-term alcohol abuse, can increase the risk of physical and mental health problems – particularly in older adults.
Alcohol abuse in older people is associated with heart and liver damage, increased risk of cancers, as well as mood disorders, memory problems and a weakened immune system.
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Amazingly, abstaining from alcohol for one month could make real improvements to your health. According to a 2017 study, regular drinkers who quit alcohol for 30 days lost weight, enjoyed better sleep, increased energy. Notably, they also recorded lower blood pressures, lower cholesterol levels and fewer cancer-related proteins in their blood.
Tips for a successful Dry January
A month may seem like a long time to abstain, particularly for regular drinkers. Still, it’s certainly possible with the proper support. Here are some tips for staying on track during Dry January:
Find a delicious substitute. Social situations may be difficult when you’re avoiding alcohol. Others may crave an alcoholic drink when stressed. Finding a great-tasting alcohol-free replacement may help curb cravings. Alcohol-free beers and wines are one option or soft drinks such as soda water.
Get rid of temptation. Clearing alcohol out of your house or out of your eyesight can help avoid impulsive decisions to drink. If you can’t rid your home of alcohol completely, try removing it from the refrigerator or cupboards you use often.
Build a support group. Tell your family and friends about your commitment. and encourage them to keep you accountable. Even better, ask someone to do the challenge with you.
Be kind to yourself. Many people slip up during Dry January. If you do, don’t feel guilty! Restart the next day, thinking about what led to you having a drink. Tough day at work? Friends tempted you to the bar? Think about how you can better approach situations like this next time you face them.
Remind yourself ‘why’. Everyone has different reasons for abstaining from alcohol. Perhaps you are aiming to shed a few pounds, or want to avoid hangovers. Whatever it is, reminding yourself of the reason can help you stick to your goal. Better yet, write it down and put it on your mirror or refrigerator for consistent motivation.
Being mindful of your drinking
Giving up alcohol for Dry January is an excellent opportunity to self-reflect on your drinking habits. You may even realise you don’t need to rely on alcohol in social or stressful situations. In fact, one study showed that 68% of Dry January participants had a lower alcohol consumption even six months later.
If you find yourself struggling a lot in Dry January, it may be advisable to seek medical help. The NHS can offer support for alcohol misuse and recommend treatments such as counselling, detoxification and medication.
You must not rely on the information on this blog as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or therapist. If you have any specific concerns about your mental or physical health, you should consult your doctor and you should not delay seeking medical advice, or treatment for your mental health, because of the information on this blog.