The New Year typically comes with a whole set of resolutions to improve our physical, mental, or spiritual health. Dry January is a shortened version of that, with the entire month dedicated to abstaining from alcohol completely to improve your health. It became popular in recent times as a response to overindulging during the holidays and as a way to intentionally avoid using alcohol as a coping mechanism during the pandemic for at least one month.
The goal of Dry January is to build healthier drinking habits. There are several benefits from practicing abstaining for one month—but only as long as you continue to be mindful of your drinking for the rest of the year. Too often, people try to reset their alcohol consumption in January but fall right back into it on February 1st. To continue reaping the health benefits, you can take the time this month to reevaluate how much alcohol you drink.
So what are some of the benefits of Dry January?
Though you may drink alcohol to alleviate stress or anxiety, alcohol is actually a depressant. That means it slows down your brain activity, impacting the way your brain communicates with your nervous system.
It may make you feel more social or happier, but alcohol can be hiding underlying stress, depression, or anxiety. Instead of working through those challenges or finding healthier ways to cope, it may feel easier to turn to alcohol instead.
Abstaining from alcohol may be difficult at first if you’re used to drinking at least three drinks every day, but your mood will become more stable as you find yourself not relying on alcohol to cope. This can positively impact your relationships with your family as you become more aware of other ways to manage stress or anxiety.
If you find that alcohol is straining your relationships with family members, starting with Dry January can help you better assess your relationship with alcohol and how you may need to cut back throughout the year.
Unlike popular belief, alcohol doesn’t help you sleep better. Though it may help you sleep quicker, your body doesn’t get the complete rest it needs. You may find you either wake up in the middle of the night or feel groggy in the morning. According to research, this is because drinking alcohol in moderate or high amounts decreases the crucial REM sleep you need to restore your body.
When you take a break from alcohol for a month, you may find yourself sleeping better than usual as you get your restorative rest. Better sleep will also give you more energy and focus during the day.
More Energy in the Morning
With better sleep comes more energy! After drinking a moderate amount the night before, you may feel groggy and less energetic. Dehydration and poor sleep can undoubtedly lead to you feeling grumpy in the morning.
However, taking a break from drinking may boost your energy levels in the morning and help you feel more focused for your day. Especially if you have an essential task to fulfill the next day, drinking the night before will not help you feel more prepared for it.
Since it is a depressant, binge drinking alcohol suppresses your immune system’s response to viruses or other diseases. That means your body becomes more susceptible to illness when you drink excessively, even if you are a healthy individual.
Having a strong immune system during this pandemic is more vital than ever. Dry January can give you a chance to reset your body and build up your immune system with a healthier lifestyle instead.
Though the cold January weather may dry out your skin, alcohol makes it look dull due to the lack of hydration. Alcohol causes you to urinate more than you intake water, so your body becomes dehydrated very quickly. Hydration directly affects how your skin looks, so it’s important to drink lots of water every day. Research has also found that some alcohol toxins even increase your skin’s aging process.
To help brighten your skin, take a break from drinking alcohol and consume lots of water instead. You may find your skin improving over time as your body resets and stays hydrated.
More Money in Your Pocket
It’s no secret that the money you spend on alcohol can quickly add up, especially if you’re going out for happy hour and having several cocktails or wines every weekend. Participating in Dry January can help save you a lot of money depending on how much you typically drink, putting more in your pocket each week.
Though it may be difficult to abstain from drinking at your regular happy hour with colleagues or friends, you may find that most people won’t mind. However, if it’s too much of a temptation, taking a break from those kinds of social gatherings for the month may be more helpful for you to stick with it.
Emily currently lives in Orange County, California after spending four years in Illinois and half a year teaching in Florence, Italy. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Knox College and an M.A. in Counseling from the University of San Diego and has taught English to native speakers and ESL students for over three years. When she’s not working as a School Counselor or writing, she enjoys traveling the world, playing instruments, and blogging about Millennial experiences at Long Live the Twenties.