Thinking of trying Dry January? Here’s what you need to know.

Experts say taking a break from drinking can help your body and mind.

Are you thinking of giving up drinking in the new year for at least a month? Taking a break from alcohol can benefit the body, and the high-stress holiday season makes many people want to cut back on their alcohol intake.

This is where Dry January comes in.

If the popular sobriety challenge appears on your social media more than ever, you’re not alone. In 2022, 19% of adults aged 21 and older surveyed by Morning Consult said they participated in Dry January, up 6% from the previous year.

So what is behind all the hype? Experts say there is clear evidence that a booze break can help your body and mind.

What is Dry January?

Even though social media groups and even apps have sprung up around this task, its premise is quite simple. To participate in Dry January, you decide not to drink for the entire month.

“Getting away from alcohol for 31 days shows us that we don’t need alcohol to have fun, relax or socialize,” says Alcohol Change UK, who came up with Dry January in 2013. “It helps us learn the necessary skills. manage our drinking.”

While some contestants are signing up to fundraise for the contest, many others are hoping to improve their health—physical, mental, and financial.

Why do a dry month?

“It would be helpful to take a step back, look at our drinking habits, look at the impact alcohol has on our lives,” said Dr. Aaron White, senior scientific adviser to the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Participants can use this time to reflect on why they drink and whether they are happy with the role alcohol plays in their lives. In addition, they can practice ways to communicate, have fun, and deal with stress that don’t involve alcohol—habits that will remain beneficial after the problem is over.

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Dry January participants often report positive changes in their drinking habits. A University of Sussex study of more than 800 British participants found that six months after the 2018 contest, 80% said they were better in control of their drinking. Slightly more said they thought more deeply about their relationship with alcohol, and the majority—93%—felt a sense of accomplishment.

A break from alcohol is also good for your body. In this study, 71% said they slept better and 67% said they had more energy. A narrower majority, 58% and 54%, respectively, reported weight loss and improved skin condition.

Other benefits are more than superficial. In one small study, researchers recruited 94 men and women who had given up alcohol for one month and compared them to a control group of 47 who continued to drink. The results for the “dry” group were promising – their blood pressure dropped, they lost weight, and the researchers noted an improvement in insulin sensitivity and a reduction in cancer-related growth factors.

“It has been shown that if people experience physical effects from drinking alcohol, whether it be high blood pressure or effects on the liver, a month’s abstinence can help reduce some of those risks,” said Dr. Sarah Andrews, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Dry January for me?

Problems with sobriety can be helpful for those who drink little or moderately and want to think more deeply about the role of alcohol in their lives.

However, dry January is not for everyone. Heavy drinkers, who may experience dangerous or even fatal alcohol withdrawal symptoms, may need the help of a professional to safely stop drinking.

There are a few more caveats to keep in mind. Some people who take a break from alcohol later find themselves overdoing it – much like what can happen after you end a strict diet.

“If we are deprived of something for a while, once we have access to it, we tend to overdo it,” White said. “It could be going out of your diet and eating a lot of calories. With alcohol, it can be a celebration of the achievement of Dry January, when it really intoxicates.

This should be avoided both for standard health reasons and because your alcohol tolerance decreases after a month of abstaining from alcohol.

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Many participants say that Dry January helped them drink less, and periods of sobriety can bring serious health benefits. But to get the most out of the problem, experts say you should think about why and how you drink.

“We hope this month is not just a break for your liver to heal, it’s a real opportunity to change how you see the role of this drug in your life and that you continue to drink mindfully,” White said.

For example, someone who drinks to unwind after a hard day may find that they can also relieve stress with a good book or a quick workout. Another person who drinks to have fun and socialize might have a good time with a soft drink.

A dry January should not be just a test. This can be an opportunity to try new activities and have fun while sober.

“There’s still a lot of fun in the world,” said Dr. Thomas Cash, a professor at the Bowles Center for the Study of Alcohol at the University of North Carolina. “You don’t need alcohol to have a good time. And I think that’s the key point to understand.”

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