If you are considering taking part in Dry January but not sure if it’s right for you, our guide to the potential pros and cons could help you make that choice.
Each year, thousands of people across the UK abstain from alcohol for the month of January. People have varying reasons for doing so, the main ones being to challenge themselves and to raise awareness of alcohol dependence.
If you are considering participating in Dry January this year but not quite sure if it’s the right decision, our guide to the potential health benefits – as well as the possible downsides of the programme – is here to help you make an informed decision.
What is Dry January?
Committing to Dry January means abstaining from alcohol for the month of January.
The charity Alcohol Change UK has been campaigning to encourage a ‘Dry January’ since 2013. The organisation hopes to encourage people to think more carefully about their relationship with alcohol.
The campaign also hopes to raise awareness of the extent of the UK’s problem with alcohol dependence.
More and more people each year are committing to avoiding booze during the first month of the year. The initiative has been praised for its health benefits, but is cutting out alcohol for a month actually good for you?
The health benefits of Dry January
What are the potential Dry January benefits and are they proven? We consider the science as well as the results of the programme so far.
We may associate a boozy drink with quickly sending us to sleep, but drinking alcohol before bed actually damages the quality of your sleep.
By slipping straight into a deep sleep, you miss out the vital stages of dozing. This can result in lighter, less restorative sleep later in the night.
According to Alcohol Concern UK, 71% of people had better sleep by cutting out alcohol for a month, while 67% said they had more energy1
Getting better sleep has lots of health benefits, from improving your memory to reducing your risk of heart disease.
While you might not feel these benefits straight away, it’s likely you’ll start to feel more awake and alert during the day.
With more sleep comes more energy, and without the morning-after booze headache you’re likely to feel much better in yourself.
Lots of people find that with this new-found energy they get more done and even use the opportunity to take up more exercise.
Booze is famously high in calories – a glass of wine contains around 160 calories while beer has approximately 208.
The number of Dry January participants reporting weight loss is 58%1
Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important things you can do to look after your health.
A sense of achievement
Simply achieving something you found difficult can help boost your confidence and give you a feeling of success. Whether you do it again the next year, or you try something new, it can be a great benefit for your mental wellbeing.
Change in attitude
Arguably the most important health benefit is a general change in attitude towards alcohol. Simply not having it for a month can make people reconsider their relationship with drink.
One study of 857 participants found that 64% drank less alcohol even six months after dry January.3
Other health benefits
Drinking less alcohol can have great benefits for your health, from a stronger immune system to reduced stress and a healthy, functioning liver. As mentioned, you may well lose weight. Alcohol also affects your blood pressure, so you may see an improvement there too.
It’s easy to ignore the negative effects that alcohol can have on your body, but they can be very serious, and many of us drink more than we are aware.
Taking a month off drinking means a month away from these effects. It may also give you space to reassess how much you’re drinking and could make it easier to cut down in future.
Does Dry January sound like too much of a challenge?
Some people may find it harder than others, and those who find it particularly difficult may take the time to consider why they rely on alcohol on a regular basis.
If this is the case for you, consider asking your GP for advice. You can also take a free online assessment to see how your drinking compares to other people and to government guidelines.
The potential downsides of Dry January
Taking one month off drinking is not the best choice for everyone. We examine the potential cons of Dry January and highlight the pitfalls to avoid if you want to make the most of the programme.
You might be tempted to overindulge in February
Some people tend to overindulge even more than they normally would at the end of the month, which can be particularly impactful because your tolerance to alcohol is likely to have lowered. This can damage your liver and make you feel even worse than you did at the start of the month.
Try not to think of Dry January just in the short term, but as a way to kick-start a new approach to alcohol that you keep for the rest of the year.
When January ends, try to limit yourself to one or two drinks occasionally, rather than a binge-drinking weekend. Changing your approach to alcohol in the long term will significantly reduce the harm you are doing to your body.
For moderate drinkers, stopping alcohol for a month can be a challenge, but it is achievable and healthy. The same might not be the case for daily drinkers and those dependent on alcohol.
If you are dependent, stopping drinking completely induces alcohol withdrawal. This can cause anxiety, shakiness and even more serious symptoms like seizures, and can eventually lead to heavier drinking in the long run.
If you’re concerned about your relationship with alcohol, get in touch with us to discuss our alcohol dependence treatments.
Your ‘dry’ month doesn’t have to be January
Dry January can be a great time to take a break from alcohol for a few reasons. Lots of other people will be doing it, which can make it easier socially.
It’s in January, meaning many people are tightening their purse strings, plus the cold weather makes it easier to stay in and avoid booze-fuelled social situations.
But the benefits of participating in Dry January are the same for any time of year. If you want to take a month off drinking to reassess your relationship with alcohol, or for any other reason at all, one month is as good as another.
To find out more call us on 0808 101 0337
or make an online enquiry.